Former boy band-er and current Michael Jackson wannabe (hey, I love him, but he's no King of Pop) Justin Timberlake hosted Saturday Night Live over the weekend. While funny, a few of these JT SNL (omg acronyms!) sketches are crying out for a bit o' feminist analysis. Let's give it to them!
We've run articles on many a controversial subject here at Bitch, and readers have responded with appropriate ardor to such topics as fat suits, pro-porn theory, eating disorders, the "hasbian" phenomenon, and more. Yet some of the most impassioned letters we've gotten in the past year or so hinged on a short piece in issue #35 about the disturbing equine makeover of My Little Pony. (It's not archived on the site yet, unfortunately.) Responses to Jesse Rutherford's Love/Shove — which took a close look at the evolution of the 1980s toy-box staple and concluded that Hasbro's aesthetic tinkering has yielded an undeniably sexualized parade of ponies — ranged from assertions that it was "terrifically over the top" and "creepily overstated" to veiled accusations that Rutherford's interest in the redesign was "the kind of logic only someone who is unreasonably sexually obsessed with ponies would arrive at."
I was reminded of this the other day when I read a recent New York Times piece on the new makeover of Strawberry Shortcake, another classic of '80s playtime who continues to be a touchstone for girly nostalgia. It seems, according to the American Greetings company —Shortcake's sugar daddy — that today's girls weren't feeling the icon's Raggedy Anne styling, Calico-cat companion, and unhealthy preference for gumdrops over fresh fruit. (I was never a fan of the doll, so I can't verify personally whether I ever got the latter directive from Shortcake and her pals, but I will say that my childhood friend Pilar had the whole fruity family — Apple Dumplin', Huckleberry Pie, Orange Blossom — and the sickly, chemical scent of them emanated from her bedroom as a kind of pastel fog.)
This article doesn't exactly say anything we don't know—that women who get breast implants are signing up for a world of medical procedures that no one can predict—but it's nice to see a major newspaper reporting on it (though, of course, as with so many things relating to The Women, it's in the Styles section rather than where it belongs, in Health).
The SF Weekly's cover story this week is quite a departure. Rather than an exposé of city government shenanigans or a look at some local phenomenon gone national, it's a personal essay about gastric bypass surgery. The Weekly trying to get into the New Year's resolution swing of things by covering weight loss? Trying to capitalize on the bodies of its female staffers (albeit in an unusual and roundabout way)? Just filling a slow news week with a non-timely story? Though it's worth questioning why this is a story in the first place, I'm gonna go in another direction.
In many ways the piece is a standard narrative of self-improvement, complete with a badly lit, messy "before" snapshot paired with a professional "after" picture including careful makeup and styled hair. It would be all too easy to simply criticize author Katy St. Clair for caving in to cultural pressure, buying into the whole thin = hot bullshit she says she wants to be free from, and playing down the risks and sideeffects of weight-loss surgery—which she dismisses as "overblown" without any further information or comment; I know it's a personal essay and not a news article, but it's still on the cover of a newsweekly, so the omission seems pretty glaring—and move on.