Wednesday 12 December 2007

You say 'tomato', I say 'fuck off, fascist scum, before I stomp all over your entitlement-swollen yankee gonads'.

Right chaps, my attack-womb is primed and ready for launch. This makes sick. I wish it were satire, I really do, but I fear it's unlikely. The article damns itself more convincingly than any summary could; essentially, it's an expat American telling the British why our women aren't up to standard - apparently, this is because we don't starve ourselves quite so consistently, our 'grooming' isn't rigorous enough and we are, hence, not 'good enough' for him. This is borne out with dire enthusiasm by a sickening little trot out of misogynist anecdotes, including one date where the writer could hardly contain his disgust at his partner eating shepherd's pie. 'This is why no self-respecting American woman consumes carbohydrates after 2pm.'

I'm sorry. What.


It's not the semi tongue-in-cheek reduction of women's comparative worth across continents entirely on their physical appearance and nothing else that bugs me most. It's not even the casual, flippant reduction of even this to a measurement of body weight and food consumption - at one point he actually talks about measuring the difference between British and American women with 'calipers'. He doesn't need to come out and say 'women are pieces of meat'; it's written in every hate-filled line of this piece of slanderous filth. That just pisses me off. No, what really, really makes me goddamn furious is the casual assumption that women are, at baseline, an inferior species: a breed of humanity who are defective unless thousands are regularly spent on their 'upkeep' and 'grooming', who do not deserve the things like freedom, relaxation or a healthy, normal 2000-calorie-a-day diet that proper people deserve - and that if they indulge their wicked habits, they are not good enough for him, Tad Safran, the writer of this article, who self-describes as 'not the greatest prize out there.'

In case you were wondering, Safran is single.

Moreover, the kind of 'superiority' he's talking about is one which affects only the wealthiest and most socially 'grabby' of Americans - the women of New York or LA, whence all of his examples are drawn. For example: although the average US citizen is heavier than the average Brit (gender notwithstanding), there exists within American culture a paradigm by which wealth is displayed via the physical thinness of women , where cultivated thinness demonstrates exactly what Safran calls 'necessary upkeep' : vast amounts of money, effort, self-punishment and available leisure time are spent on dieting, personal training, 'bikini boot camps', as they are on waxing, tanning, dental work and cosmetic surgery, a lifestyle available only to the wealthy few, mostly white upper middle classes in either nation. I'm preared to bet that $800 on beauty treatments per month isn't the outlay of the average American family.

Although this culture of thinness and beauty is gradually spreading across the pond to Europe, no, you're right, Tad - we don't care quite so much. Yet. It's changing: my kid sisters own far more make-up than I do and spend time straightening their hair and saving their pocket money for eyebrow waxes that I would never even have heard of at fourteen. But our standards haven't quite been warped so far that the average UK citizen really believes that thinness is equivalent to beauty: over here, the photo comparison between plump, pretty Charlotte Church and twiglike, tangerine-toned Paris Hilton seems to show Church as the much more effortless beauty. Hilton looks pretty damn scary as far as I'm concerned; what frightens me is that my sisters might not be able to see the difference.

Unethical journalism.

Yes, this article is deliberately provocative in places, and through the glowing red mist I can, of course, concede some of Safran's phraseology to satire. But why was such an ugly, misogynist piece ever published? Of course, the beauty editors at the Times knew that Safran's article would draw attention -as indeed it has, given the number of online comments, many of which make excellent reading. But that's nto a good enough reason for publishing something which, part-satirical or not, is so amazingly hate-filled towards women.
This is a hackneyed comparison, but consider what the response would be if Safran had published a (half-satirical) article attacking the relative deportment of ethnic minorities rather than gender differences. With equivalent sentiments, it would run something like: 'golly, you British, you just don't know how to train your blacks, do you? Over here they'd never leave the house without all that nasty kinky hair properly straightened out, and they all spend thousands per month on dangerous skin-lightening treatments - it's just upkeep, you know, I mean, we wouldn't want them going au naturel! Of course, ours tend toget a little pushy - your blacks are much more polite and obedient, will think twice before just jumping into bed with a white person. Well, I suppose that's what you get if you let them get ideas. Land of the free!'

I'm sorry. That was a comparison that needed to be made, but writing it has made me feel soiled and disgusted, so I'm going to have a cup of tea, check my emails and come back in 5 minutes .....

[later] It actually makes me feel uncomfortable to even think statements like that through grammatically. Certainly no editor would ever publish racist hate-speech along these lines, but this is exactly the argument of Tad Safran's article. It's incredibly distressing, and the decision to publish sexist propaganda like this - tounge -in-cheek or no - is frighteningly disrespectful to women and, indeed, to all of us who see both men and women as complete human beings.

What makes me spit is that I know that this article was partly published in order to make me, and people like me, angry, and that makes me even angrier. So it's okay to publish wildly disrespectful hate-speech as long as we can wind the feminists up and watch them go, is it? Bollocks to that. There has to be a sense of media responsibility - in Britain, of all places, we have a national press that the world relies on for objective journalism relatively unmarred by sensationalism.

Yes, I'm rising by even blogging about this article. Yes, I probably shouldn't even give it my attention: it's bilge, and whichever (probably female, British) beauty editor at the Times allowed it through subbing probably recognised it for bilge. But ignoring them isn't going to make misogynist filth like this roll over and go back to chewing on the bones of nubile anorexics. There has to be outcry, and it has to be loud. This sort of derision, dissection and mockery of women is unjust and deeply unethical. We will not stand for this. We will not stand for this.


  1. I notice he concludes about British women:

    They are the most self-reliant, uncomplicated and unflappable. That they are neither obsessed with their looks, nor insecurely competitive, are wonderful qualities.

    Maybe he never stopped to consider that those 5 qualities could be qualities that make someone appear sexy.

    He seems totally obsessed with appearance (and in particular, with a very narrow cultural standard of beauty), to the detriment of all else.

    The most important sexual organ is the brain. Although I wouldn't have thought there was that much evidence for it, just possibly British people (women and men both) have a slightly healthier attitude to sex, beauty and sexuality, than this jerk does.

  2. From TFA:

    In the iconic chick-flick Bridget Jones’s Diary, the title character is a sad, lonely, overweight, posh-sounding chain-smoker in her thirties with a drinking problem and no dating prospects.

    Um, no. Actually, she's a perfectly healthy weight (a bit on the thin side, if anything), and has a fairly reasonable (if inconsistent) nicotine and alcohol intake. Her most irritating characteristic is the way she constantly worries that she's an overweight chain-smoker with a drinking problem and will consequently never get a boyfriend - exactly what Mr Safran thinks she ought to be doing.

    Great, he's lost me in the first sentence. And while I can't summon up the incandescent rage in PR's post, he irritates me more and more as the article goes on. Gimp.

    PR: Do you recall a conversation we had a couple of years ago about make-up and my general distaste for it? You've just perfectly articulated what I was trying to say.

  3. It is satire. He's having fun. You gotta have fun with something.

    "I’m not saying that I’m the greatest prize out there, but at least I’d put on a clean shirt, shaved and brushed my teeth." -Safran

    Making fun of black men who are obsessed with looking good would likely bring more objections than making fun of rich women, but it could be just as funny.

  4. pornstudent:

    I don't see what is being satirised by Safran. I mean, is the idea to make British women laugh and say, "it's funny because it's true - we DO look like orcs!" or something?

    There's nothing in the article to say that it's "poking fun at rich women" (and even if there were, there are far better ways of doing so, some of which might actually be funny, if they focus on "rich" as opposed to "woman"). What it is poking fun at, is women who don't match up to a certain narrowly-defined cultural standard of beauty that happens to satisfy the author's tastes.

    It occurs to me that there could easily be a satire of Safran's article, written from the point of view of an African or South American tribesman, suggesting that British women (or better yet, American women) just don't put enough work into matching the cultural standards of his people. If I thought it would be understood as a satire of Western beauty standards and woman-shaming, I'd write it myself - but of course, it wouldn't be seen that way, it would be seen as a racist slur. Which in turn, brings us back to why, even if it was meant as a satirical piece, Safran's writing was not funny, and was not good satire. Because, whatever it might have been satirising, it just comes across as an aggressive, sexist, attempt to shame women into complying with the beauty myth.

  5. Speaking as a British woman, I view Safran's piece as a) A stinking piece of ludicrous comment and b) a great warning to women not to go out with this self-satisfied piece of toot. What's worse is that this week's Sunday Times has YET ANOTHER piece by him saying that he wasn't hard enough on us Brits. Now, no doubt, some smartarsed Hollywood producer will get him to pen an 'hilarious' battle-of-the-sexes screenplay in which our rather average, nerdy hero gets to wed a tight-bodied, blonde, perfectly-groomed hottie. Grr.

  6. Nicely said! I couldn't agree more.. I just wrote a blog post on the same subject.. Here's part of it:

    Mr. Safran looks and sounds like a typical, smug and conceited American male who is no great shakes himself (do I detect the beginnings of a double chin and receding hair line?) and besides what is he doing in England as a single person if he finds women here so ugly? Perhaps he is relying on the high speed train link to Paris.

    I have a theory that men like Safran have a preference for trophy women in order to make themselves look good and cover up for their own personality/physical inadequacies. Women in America like everything else are a commodity that can enhance your social standing. It's a real tragedy that women collude with men and spend thousands of dollars on trying to compete with each other in order to live up to an impossible ideal created by the media in order to sell goods and services.

    In England it is actually refreshing to see that men have more discerning tastes than the average American male by being attracted to more than merely the external. If supposedly intelligent, urban males like Mr. Safran's tastes in women are so closely aligned with media ideals it really doesn't say much about their ability to think for themselves now does it?

  7. This is such a spot on reaction to his bile-filled diatribe. I was seething too much to write anything sensible. The most worrying thing about it is the people (men) who read it and thought nothing of it.

  8. I agree! I gues he cant get enough of the best beauty tips.

  9. Got here searching for "Fuck your fascist beauty standards". I'll be back!

  10. I don't know what men this man was talking about, but I'd have to say there are plenty of American men who are repulsed by skinny, overly-groomed, manicured, prescription drug addicted rich women. In fact some of us are socialists and don't really care much for those sorts of people in any case. In the states one is constantly bombarded with the idea that working class people are morally, physically and intellectually deficient and therefore they deserve to be exploited, imprisoned and sold cheap corporate processed food because real food is for wealthy types who can afford to shop "organic". It is as if the only legitimate aspiration for a worker is to not be a worker, as if it were something to be ashamed of. When workers vote in elections for republicans they are derided as stupid, when they vote for democrats they are ignored and stabbed in the back Obama style(so far he's killed EFCA, National Health Insurance, and any hope that the wars will ever end). The capitalist class is culturally disgusting, morally empty and intellectually bankrupt. Feed lunch to two hundred rich people a day for three years and you start to realize that they are all vile repulsive arrogant swine who should get sent to the slaughterhouse I grew up next to.

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