If someone’s distinct enough to merit a profile or a Q-and-A, they’re distinct enough to merit some thought about what kind of portrait best communicates what made them a worthy subject in the first place. If these magazines think Brzezinski or Kelly are only interesting because of how hot they are, they haven’t been watching much TV news.
—”Do We Really Need To See Sexy Mika in Vanity Fair?” Alyssa Rosenberg, Slate
The pornification of political culture (a process in which some women participate willingly and others have foisted upon them after their image is conscripted) has depicted political candidates (e.g., Sarah Palin and Janice Hahn) and women voters (in viral videos like this one and this one from the 2008 campaign) as strippers.
Looks like it’s Mika’s turn. Not a stripper, you say? Well, what else do we call women who dance on tables for men’s spectatorial enjoyment?
Strippers don’t really dance on tables anymore. Hardly anywhere, save the Cheetah in Atlanta. So the answer to Anderson’s question would just be “floozy” or whatever other pejorative you want to apply to someone showing more leg than you deem acceptable, and whose showing, in your mind, diminishes her ability to be taken seriously. But how else do you expect to get written about in VF if you’re a woman and not tragically dead or magnificently wealthy or extravagantly scandalous? They made Tina Fey suck on her glasses stems (in the same story where she bashed strippers).
This line of thinking insults Brzezinski, as if she was manipulated into the pose. Is it really possible that a woman in her position is ever not conscious of how she is physically presented to the world? Rather, she’s likely doing what she wants and alternately enjoying herself and hoping, like many of us, that the world catches the fuck up. How tiring it must be, to have Peggy Noonan call your shoes “a mortal sin on her feet” or have your co-hosts overreact like teenaged boys when you wear a leather dress.
Anderson wrote, “When women accessorize men in this fashion, it diminishes women’s credibility while simultaneously bolstering men’s heterosexual virility and strength.” The expression of a seemingly feminist idea—women shouldn’t be reduced to their sexual appeal!—that, applied in this context—her display of sexual appeal diminishes my ability to take her seriously!—only serves to reinforce the cultural assumption that women must choose between presenting themselves as smart or pretty, but not both.
Someday we’ll be past the hoary old idea that a woman’s intellectual capability is diminished when she does a high kick in high heels. A demonstration of playful sexuality or physical appeal won’t be taken as evidence of a low IQ. We’re talking about a woman who made a huge deal of refusing to treat stories about Paris Hilton as news—if her status as a reporter is trivialized by a photo of her body in movement, the problem lies with the failure of imagination of the observer to understand that a sex object is also a person entire. Like strippers enjoy saying, our brain functioning doesn’t suffer when we dance, but yours might.
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