Nice girls don't have boobs

Why don’t young women want to be feminists? I’ll tell you why not: they think feminists have to be ugly. To put it less crudely, they think that the feminist movement has no place for a woman who cares — as many women do — about being attractive. I always thought those young women were wrong. Then I read about this:

Feminist blogger Jessica Valenti was part of a group of bloggers photographed with Bill Clinton. She stands in front of Bill in the photograph. This placement, along with her youth, reasonably good looks, and camera-ready pose, caused law blogger Ann Althouse to accuse her, on the basis of the “three-quarter pose and related posturing” of arriving at the luncheon “in the guise of Monica Lewinsky.” Althouse then directs her readers to her comments section, which includes such choice tidbits as this:

Notice Clinton: Can’t see his hands and he’s checking out the profile like a coyote looking at a pork chop! For appearance sake she should have stood anywhere but directly in front of the lech in Chief.

This intern has her line in the water and is trolling for Clinton saying “you can look, but don’t touch the bait!”

Maybe she thinks she really can have it all!

The post and comments serve as a depressing reminder that a woman’s looks are part of her resume. If she’s pretty — or, horror of horrors, if she looks like she’s trying to look pretty — she must be a slutty intern. Notice how the sins of the man standing behind Valenti neatly get transposed onto her? The girl is standing nicely, so she’s a temptress and a climber. Not only that, Althouse makes the classic mistake of assuming that a woman is wholly responsible for the way she is perceived. Because we can see her breasts, she must be begging us to look at them. It’s precious close to that common refrain: a girl who looks sexy is “asking for it.”

The real tragedy is that, amid all the scrutiny of Valenti’s breasts, the real issue gets short shrift. It doesn’t matter what she looks like in the photo — it matters that she’s there in the first place. It matters, as one commenter (Freeman Hunt) points out, that feminists have seen fit to embrace Bill Clinton. It matters that they have forgotten his inappropriate sexual relationship with a much younger and much less powerful woman, and chosen to throw their support behind him because he’s become a liberal icon. If Althouse had written about this — and, to be fair, I’m sure it was on her mind — I would have been behind her. But instead she took the low road.

Feminism today can’t be all about male oppression anymore; it has to be about how women treat each other too. And when it comes to judging women by appearance, women themselves are often worse than men. If we’re ever going to band together on issues that matter — equal pay, rights for mothers in the workplace, reproductive freedom, and, yes, the right to be judged by our actions rather than our breasts — we need to quit sniping about each other’s looks.


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