Thursday, May 31, 2007

Beth Ditto: Right Or Wrong

Sometimes I post about a story the minute I read it; it's the closest one gets to a scoop in these days of world-wide 24/7 media. I love seeing a story on my blog that hasn't yet made it onto any of the other blogs I normally read, especially when those stories appear later. Other times, I like to see what reaction a story is getting so I can write about it from an angle that isn't being covered. (It's a fetish of mine, this always having to be different.)

One example of the former is the story below, which I learned of about twenty minutes before I posted; an example of the latter is this one, which I first read about a couple of days ago. Since then I've gone to a couple of other blogs, read all the comments, and searched inside me for what I feel about it.

As is usual in the genre of "mouthy celebrity" stories, the opinions being stated are reductive, outrageous, and contain just enough truth to seem true while still remaining firmly specious.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketLast week, I had never heard of Beth Ditto. Now, thanks to a bout of verbal dysentery on her part it seems I know more about her than I do about my own mother. So, from her standpoint, objective #1 has been satisfied. A niche celebrity finds wider fame at the expense of a controversial minority; while it may not move more copies of her new album, it may sell magazines, and may even draw more people to her concerts, which is more lucrative from her standpoint than album sales anyway.

And what did Beth Ditto say that's so outrageous anyway? She said that gay men in the fashion industry are responsible for eating disorders by promoting stick-thin models in fashion magazines.

There are several things in play here which, in typical mouthy celebrity style, have been lumped together into one big quip grenade.

I will be the first to admit that there are some gay men who are vicious bitches when it comes to fat cells, and I have met almost all of them. But there are women in the fashion industry as well, some of whom wield major editorial control. Designers, stylists, and photographers also share some of the blame for the state of the fashion industry.

Then, of course, there are those who buy the magazines, who are paying money to be sold this bill of goods.

Now I, as a gay man, would rather be scolded by a lesbian than any straight person, which is part of the reason I'm not furious right now. Mainly though, I'm not mad because there is a grain of truth in it. Okay, maybe a pebble. Alright, there's a boulder of truth in what she says.

For my sake, I don't care what size anyone is but me.

Ever since 1991, when it began to look like my boyish figure was not going to last, I have fought a war within myself. It's clear that I blame my appearance for my lack of success, as much as (if not more than) my lack of formal education. These days even authors have to be hot, not just for jacket photos but for the numerous public appearances it takes to move even a single copy of a novel. For every Alexander McCall Smith there's half a dozen Jonathan Safran Foers, and whatever my talents as a writer, I can never hope to compete with the willowy twinkishness of Mr. Foer.

I fight back with all I've got, but all I've got isn't very much, or at least it's never enough. I've lost count of the number of times I've stood staring at the pain reliever section of the drugstore, wondering whether it would take two bottles of Advil to take this particular pain away, or whether one would do it.

So I do not buy certain magazines because I know to do so would be masochistic. I do buy men's fashion magazines, but never the gayer ones (Genre, Instinct, Out) for this very reason. Women who are neurotic about their weight, yet spend every waking minute poring over Vogue magazine and watching America's Next Top Model have far greater problems than being a size 12. They are masochists, and should be treated by psychiatry before they are treated by TrimSpa.

Nobody ever makes you feel bad about yourself without your permission. I say it to myself twenty times a day. Maybe one day, a couple of years from now, it's message will start to sink in.

Some people are thin but unhealthy, others are fat and fit. Thin people have subjected fat people (and me) to their tyranny for most of my life, and now, fat people are returning the favour. This is progress?

Whatever happened to being the best possible you, whether fat or thin?
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