Friday, June 10, 2005

Asexual is the New Black!

They say you shouldn't believe everything you read, but the New York Times is pretty much my bible. Everything Frank Rich speaketh I believeth. Manohla Dargis says don't see Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Ye olde Cortlandt Town Center ain't gettin' my $9.75. Except for that crap from Jennifer 8. Lee about "the man date," and pretty much everything David Brooks writes, the New York Times is, to my reared-Catholic-brain, like the pope speaking ex cathedra.

Um, until yesterday.

First, there was this gem. I was (for lack of a better phrase) totally stoked to see an article titled "Fashion, the Mirror, and Me" on the front page of the Style section. It's hopelessly passe to talk about body image any more--I blame The Biggest Loser and Oprah's Be Your Best Self! campaign--despite the fact that it's more prevalent an issue now than ever before. In the self-esteem revolution of the nineties, the waif look was vilified and Oprah was discussing books like Reviving Ophelia. Ten, fifteen years later, the waif look is back with a vengeance (cough, Paris fucking Hilton, cough, Lindsay Lohan is going to die shortly after her hair starts falling out, cough), and plus size models like Sophie Dahl are losing half their body weight and writing books about their former "gluttony" (not "weight", not "eating disorder", not "food issues", but one of the seven deadly sins). Every third show on TV is a competition to lose weight, which makes weight loss seem simpler than it is. When three weeks of weight loss at a jobless, NBC-funded retreat are compressed into half an hour's worth of TV, it makes a very time-consuming, very difficult, often very expensive, and most importantly a very slow process seem like nothing. Which, in turn, makes it easier to believe that people of a certain size are large simply because they're lazy. It's easy! Look at Oprah! She went into reruns for the summer, and now she's skinny! Why aren't you?

Okay, that was the preamble. Back to the article. I was excited to see a piece that seemed to deal with what it is like to enjoy high fashion, and even make your living off of reviewing fashion collections, but not be able to participate in it because of your size. It seemed like a great way to call attention to the issue of size bias in fashion from a powerful vantage point; when the fashion critic of the New York Times says "Hey, I'm heavy, and I love y'all, but this is kind of dumb...", designers would be more inclined to change the tropes of haute couture than if, say, a scientific editorial assistant rants on her blog about it. Which I believe I have admirably refrained from doing in most of my posts. Thank you, thank you.

I dug into this article with a spoon. Too bad it turned out to be a fifteen hundred word request for a pat on the back. The writer began her career at a size 14/16 and became the lead fashion writer for one of the country's biggest papers. Then she lost a bunch of weight. Now she can buy better clothes, she muses. She recounts a charming anecdote about standing in a department store modeling an off-price Balenciaga dress.

Great, I thought, waiting for the kicker. Now what does this have to do with bringing equality to the fashion industry? Cathy Horyn, you've seen the issue from both sides of the size 10 divide. How did it effect what you wrote? Give it to 'em, Cathy!

Narciso asked me if, knowing what I do now, I would revise some of my early reviews of designers. That's a good question, I said. But, no. I've always taken a big-picture view of fashion, working in elements of pop culture and whatever else interests me as a writer.

So, it didn't. This article has nothing to do with her experience of writing about fashion. Or body image. Or inequality. Or anything, really. Cathy Horyn used a full half-page of the New York Times to come out of the skinny closet.

Strike one.

Strike two against my beloved paper was this article on asexuality. It's an entertaining look at a growing community of people who choose to identify themselves as asexual. They highlight the difference between people who are celibate (desire sexual activity but choose to abstain from it) and those who have no sexual desire whatsoever. They are an orientation just like heterosexuality or homosexuality, they assert. They even have t-shirts to prove it.

It's all very interesting and makes for a nice, light human interest piece for a Thursday paper.

Except they're ripping off an article I've read twice already. Once here, in Salon a couple of weeks ago, and then also here in New York magazine. They've even got similar quotes from the same guy.

What does this prove, besides the fact that for someone who claims asexuality, David Jay is one hell of a publicity whore?

That Santa's not real, that's what. It's naive and stupid, and not entirely uncliche, but I grew up in a Daily News house and always conceived of the tiny print, no funnies Times as the newspaper you graduate to when you've reached adulthood, or Enlightenment, or something. I had this vision of the New York Times being oak-paneled and full of people in academic-looking glasses sitting around heavy mahogany tables arguing over Bush foreign policy. A librarian-like copy editor runs up from another floor. She's having a crisis! On Bullshit made it to the bestseller list! But she can't print that title in a family paper! What should she do! Oh, the fickle nature of English! They all put down their teacups and light their pipes, and negotiate a wise, New York Times solution.

And then they troll the internet for stories they can rewrite, and the fatty fat fatties purge in the bathroom. Then they sit around and watch Dr. Phil. He's great! they laugh, as they flip through the Post.

The New York Times killed Christmas.


Anonymous insane said...

i used to think michael jackson was asexual.

i know that's not really relevant.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

This isn't a good response to your post, but oh well. Today I watched Celebrity Poker Showdown, and Sara Rue was on. She was so skinny that I almost didn't recognize her. She's supposed to play the fat girl. Her entire plotline on that amazing show Popular was based on her being too fat to be a cheerleader. And now she's not just thin, but skinny.

I can't decide if that's more or less tragic than the Lindsay Lohan crap.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I enjoyed it immensely. Of course, I spent the majority of the time trying to decide who I wanted to bone more, Brad or Angelina.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Kunaxa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous brad said...


10:44 PM  
Blogger Kunaxa said...

sorry - earlier comment might have been inappropriate.

I do like Angelina though.

7:41 AM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

I feel the need to voice my extreme dislike of Angelina Jolie. That is all.

1:57 PM  

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