She's a brick----house
She's the one, the only one,
who's built like a amazon
--Brick House, The Commodores
She was a fast machine. She kept her motor clean.
She was the best damn woman that I ever seen.
She had the sightless eyes, telling me no lies.
Knocking me out with those American thighs
--You Shook Me All Night Long, AC/DC
Girl, u got an ass like I never seen
And the ride…
I say the ride is so smooth
U must be a limousine
--Little Red Corvette, Prince
Wanna pull up tough
Cause you notice that butt was stuffed
Deep in the jeans she’s wearing.
I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring.
--Baby Got Back, Sir Mix-A-Lot
These hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man
and spin him like a top
--Homage to My Hips, Lucille Clifton
Today is International Women's Day (IWD), so it is only right to consider the status of the fairer sex.
Sometimes you have a day where everything coalesces into an answer you didn't know you were seeking. I recently had such a day. It may seem a disparate welter, but I promise I'll tie all this into the U.S. military policy at the end -- we have our editorial standards here at RAW.
I recently opened my AOL mail last week to find this breathy exaltation:
"Wow, that girl looks real ... she looks like we look in our undies." A thousand readers readers exulted: "I wanted to shout from the rooftops!" Others wrote, "the most amazing photograph I've ever seen in any women's magazine," and "Finally a woman who looks like most American women."
Well, if you are a 20-year-old, 5'11" professional model who spends the rest of her day playing soccer, then, yeah. Otherwise, not really. This "now-famous page 194 photo" of the woman with buffed skin, beautiful hair and nary a blemish is leaning forward, displaying an ever so-slight belly pooch which would be unnoticeable in clothes, or if she sat upright. Why the rave? Why the "joy at seeing a woman's body with all the curves and quirks and rolls found in nature" -- are our bodies "quirky"? Is that a healthy point of view?
I've seen my mother naked; I belong to community pool where naked women of every age, size and shape share their encouragement in the locker room. I've seen my nekkid body! Real women have stretch marks and cellulite, skin tags and discolorations, bumps and scars. Ms. Miller is not your average woman, and undoubtedly her flawless presentation was airbrushed, anyway.
Why are women (people) so easily swept along on the bandwagon? I would protest Glamour's effort to show a "real woman" as a disingenuous sop to their readers. Any woman who looks like Ms. Miller would be quite pleased; she is definitely not your average.
We are a culture that dines at "Hooters". Sex sells everything from car parts to liquor. Yet, we believe we have achieved parity, and some people say in good faith that we are in Afghanistan to better the plight of women by exporting our western understanding of respectfulness.
Take a look at this photo from an ad selling re-manufactured engine parts from a boating trade magazine (Trade Only):
Graffiti covers her body, and she wears only a chain -- a choke collar for her waist. Even more interesting was the text facing that ad concerning the fate of the luxury yacht trade today:
Writer Michel Weisz sadly notes, "I don't think there are going to be that many Rolex buyers for boats, meaning people are not going to buy boats anymore, especially large boats, which they simply dock and tell people they own. I think we are regressing to the point where people who buy these products actually use them and want them, and that's a much smaller segment than the group that had been buying these boats for the last eight to 10 years."
Tell me that's not sad -- the thought of actually only buying yachts that you use?
And from here, I took another leap, into the realm of film.
Now we have award nominees like the film "Precious," about a barely verbal 15-year-old incest survivor with two children by her father, who has given her the AIDS virus. This film earned a 15-minute standing ovation at Cannes. Then we have Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake in "Crazy Heart," an alcoholic down-and-outer who plays at dives you probably don't frequent.
These are depictions of two characters who do inhabit our world, but with whom most of the movie-going audience choose not to fraternize. This is not a new phenomenon -- it is the same genre as Mickey Rourke's "The Wrestler," Nicholas Cage's "Leaving Las Vegas," Jon Voight's "Midnight Cowboy" and Al Pacino's "Cruising". Most of us don't swim with these people, though they can be found in every town, yet we watch them with voyeuristic curiosity from afar, on screen.
It's like when we leer at the fatal luge accident at the Olympics, or car crashes at the Daytona 500. We get some kind of a kick out of it. Is it the vicarious adrenaline rush or the expiation of a collective sin?
This country was founded on guilt-producing behavior ("Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God") and injustice for many (Native Americans, slaves, women.) So we watch in awe, applaud for 15 minutes and feel the catharsis wash over us. We've rolled in the mud for a few minutes and feel much better, thanks. My church friends do a yearly mission and return with photos of smiling natives and some happy trinkets, grumbling about all the vaccinations they needed and why can't the people learn to get clean water after all these years.
Perhaps we watch as expiation of our collective guilt, and tell ourselves we go to war to impose our better way of life, starting them out anew, thereby "doing it right" this time. But the problem is we don't honestly know who we are, or the genesis of our actions. We are, therefore, disingenuous.
The nexus of these topics (models, excess buying, viewing on-screen crash-ups, missions) is, The Lie. The lie that we are honest and accepting, reasonable and compassionate. These are all ersatz representations of said qualities. We are deluded into thinking we are better, more compassionate, than we really are.
If we don't know who we are, if we can't reach out and touch someone here, why project our force across the miles and pretend we will touch someone there? A people, a nation, must be authentic and clear in their intention. Our posture towards women, and charity cases and the damaged and those who don't fit into the paradigm is ambiguous, at best.
Who are we to claim solidarity and the morality to export what we don't know? We don't call a spade a spade. We are deluded, and if we don't know who we are, how dare we think to export that which we don't understand?
As logician and mathematician Ludwig Wittgenstein said, "whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." He also said, "Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself." Both are pertinent to the discussion.
I'll bring it all together next week in a big roundup in a re-visitation of Susan Boyle mania. There's a connection, I promise.
[Cross-posted at Big Brass Blog.]