Why is it always about women’s bodies?

I’m not even talking about the cr@p that the president—the president of the United Freaking States—has said about women’s bodies.

Yes, it’s vile—pick your incident, it’s all vile. It’s also a distraction from the much more important stuff going on behind the scenes. Like the effort to turn us into Amerikaslovakia, the easternmost outpost of Putin’s evil empire. Or  the attempt to hijack voter rolls and suppress votes, since surely the Republicans can’t win a fair election with their new tax “health care” bill as Exhibit A. Or the “health care” bill itself, designed to kill and/or impoverish millions of people while giving the super-rich enough money to keep buying elections for the Republicans as long as they permit us to keep having elections.

The media mentions these things, of course. But healthcare, as the president noted, is hard; you have to think. You have to argue positions. Focusing on insults requires only heightened indignation. It’s much more fun.

I saw the tension between these two positions played out live on MSNBC last Friday. Rachel Maddow signed off her show by reminding us not to take the bait of Trump’s tweets and to focus on the real issues he was trying to obfuscate.

And then the Ken Doll filling in for Laurence O’Donnell opened the next show—in split-screen with Maddow—by talking about…the tweets.


women's bodies

Maddow in real life. Photo by Paul Schultz from Kenmore, Washington, USA derivative work: upstateNYer – Rachel_Maddow_in_Seattle.jpg

So many things about this infuriate me. Besides the fact that Trump’s misogyny is a) not news and b) a smoke screen, it’s not like media companies have a leg to stand on when it comes to how they view women’s bodies.

And I’m not just talking about Roger Ailes or Bill O’Reilly playing grab-ass at Fox News. As brilliant as Rachel Maddow is, as good as her ratings are, does anyone believe MSNBC would let her anywhere near an anchor desk without the false eyelashes and perfectly contoured eye makeup?

Media companies still boot women off camera the minute they start to wrinkle or sag. And who wouldn’t sag, what with the weight of expectations we heap on women in highly visible positions?

But those aren’t the women’s bodies I’m talking about.

No, the women’s bodies I’m focusing on today are women writers’ bodies.

Writers? You may ask, Who cares what a writer looks like? How is that even a thing?

But there it is, an article The Guardian published last week:

Is there any way to avoid writer’s butt?

“Writer’s butt”? I told a friend about it and she immediately said, “That article was written by a man, wasn’t it.”

Reader, it was not.

The roundup of “authors’ best tips for keeping trim” was written by a woman, a freelance journalist. On the off-chance that she just needed a quick buck and latched onto an idea some male editor assigned to her, I will not mention her name. But sheesh, sister.

After moaning about her own body image, she rounds up a number of other women writers to lend credibility to her thesis:

“Half a stone per novel over here,” wailed Sinéad Cowley, author of One Bad Turn. Catherine Ryan Howard, author of Distress Signals, agreed: “Since writing full-time, I’m in a constant state of exponential arse expansion.”

The article doesn’t focus entirely on women, though. Michael Connolly gets a mention because he uses a standing desk. The author also quotes another male writer. He walks his dog for exercise and to think things through. If either of these men is concerned about widening “arses,” they don’t say.

Stop the inanity

Not all women writers look at their sisters through such a body-centric lens. I found a lovely roundup of quotes in an article on Bustle called:

15 Writers On Beauty And Body Image, Because, Yes, You Look Hot Today

Thank you, Bustle. I happen to agree.

So here’s Jessica Valenti, author of Full Frontal Feminism:

“Value yourself for what the media doesn’t — your intelligence, your street smarts, your ability to play a kick-ass game of pool, whatever. So long as it’s not just valuing yourself for your ability to look hot in a bikini and be available to men, it’s an improvement.”

If Valenti read the ridiculous article in The Guardian, I feel sure she would add:

And your ass. Value your damn ass. Especially when it’s in the chair, because that means you’re writing.

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