Naked Beth Ditto: Good or Bad?

NME has got a naked photo of Beth Ditto in its cover. Is this good or bad? The case for ‘good’: She looks great, and a naked photo of a great-looking woman with a bit of flesh helps to fight narrow conceptions of how women should look. The case against: Complex. As Ann at Feministing notes, female musicians shouldn’t have to strip off for music magazines. She also notes that with a more conventional choice of naked woman cover photo they would have been criticised as turning into a lad mag. This point is examined in more detail here. It certainly seems right that with a more typical skinny, big-breasted naked woman we’d easily see the cover as objectifying, rather than empowering. I wonder, though, whether it can be seen as both– as a positive, possibly empowering form of objectification. (I’m really not sure about this.) Positive objectification is interestingly explored in Nussbaum’s “Objectification”, and in Green’s “Pornographies”. The most relevant idea for our purposes here is that seeing someone as primarily a sex object or a body can sometimes be a good thing. (But that this has to be done in such a way as to be compatible with respecting them as people, makers of their own ends, rational agents, etc– obviously lots of difficult issues here.)

9 thoughts on “Naked Beth Ditto: Good or Bad?

  1. Its an interesting photograph, as it the current media attention on Beth Ditto (who the tabloids seem to think is called “Lesbian Beth Ditto”). However, Germain Greer makes an interesting point at the end of her little write up about the pic in the Guardian,
    ( http://music.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2091764,00.html ).

    which is that, although there is something arguably positive about a 5ft 15stone cover girl, some of the imagery is still “safe” and conventional. Her breast is still cupped and managed, no nipple, a tiny hint of underarm hair and no threat of pubic hair at all.

  2. I’m unsure about this thought… but I’ll air it anyway to see what you think(!):

    On the one hand, there’s something positive about a deviation from the all-pervasive stick-thin-woman pictures (and, v. relevantly, see this article for concerns about the impact of such images of women in music videos on girls and young women: http://www.guardian.co.uk/gender/story/0,,2091825,00.html )

    On the other hand, if the publishers of such pictures are supposed to be doing something responsible in terms of putting out there a more healthy body image, then surely this isn’t it… being 15st at 5ft isn’t healthy, but overweight, right?

    This struck me because I’ve been reading a fair bit recently about the way that gender norms (in terms of attire, usual playground activity, and so on) seem to lead young girls towards inactivity, and the subsequent health problems faced – I’ll post when I’ve surveyed the literature in more detail, but for now see this: http://www.wsf.org.uk/media/professionals.php?param=Press_release_-_Active_people_survey

    Perhaps it takes extremes (overweight women pictures) to counter extremes (pervasive underweight women pictures), but I can help feeling it smacks of publicity seeking front-pagers, rather than anything that might be good for feminists!

  3. Actually, there were some interesting posts on WMST-L a few years ago arguing that it’s a real mistake to view fatness as a health problem. Unhealthy diets, sedentary lifestyles, etc are indeed health problems. But apparently (if these posts were right) there are some people who are very healthy but nonetheless very fat. Posters argued that the focus of health campaigns should be diet and exercise rather than fat, as focussing on fat promotes eating disorders and discrimination against fat people. (The term ‘fat’ is being reclaimed, as I understand it.)

  4. Good or bad? As I was saying to a friend today, sometimes abusers don’t leave one with any good alternatives. Arguably, women lives in an abusive culture, and it doesn’t leave one with good alternatives on a whole wide range of things.

    I think that, from this perspective, I’d love to see whether the picture and/or Beth Ditto herself reclaim some of the tools of oppression (sorry for the cliche) from the culture and put them to a different use. Given that, I think I might argue that the picture is not (I woudl guess) sexy to men, but it fails to be sexy in a way that highlights biases in the media, biases in ways of looking at women, etc.

    I actually don’t know that it’s true, and my ‘defense’ also suggests it might make men a bit more reflective, which is on general grounds probably unlikely.

    It’s been one of those days…

  5. I don’t think it has anything to do with her wanting to promote her music, I think that she has alredy used her appearance to get where she is today. As she is known as the fat lesibian musician. She has used her unhealthy image to promote a type of music that suits her look, loud, fierce and big. I don’t think it’s a good thing to do, because if it was a skinney model on the front cover, she would probably be shown in a more modest way, as it would be seen as indecent, but because of her large frame, I belive that if any one were to protet against it they would be scrutinized for being “fatest!”

  6. While I fully support challenging conceptions of attractiveness in media, I’m nervous when I see displays like this because I wonder if it means we’re trying to change these ideas within a system predominantly designed by men (and perpetuated by women) as opposed to changing them.

  7. FATTEST.UGLIEST.OVERCONFIDENT.TROLLOP.EVER.

    There, I said it. 90% of people would think it.

    She offends my eyes…to be honesti’d like her more if she covered up and was more reserved.

    It’s like someone with spots deliberately squeezing them all over the audience. Or someone with a BO problem rubbing their armpit in your face.

    It’s gross and NOT WITH A 10 FOOT BARGE POLE.

    To be honest, I dont mind overweight people. Most of my friends are ‘overweight’. WHAT REALLY PISSES ME OFF, is when people who are, how might we say, not very pleasing on the eye…try to make out that theyre good to watch/have their fat jiggle etc. Not everyone agrees and some people actually get offended or feel sick.

    I think people like Beth have an image complex, in the sense that they think its ok to look any way, to be as sweaty as you like, to smell, to be repugnant to most of the opposite sex.

    Why should that be ok?

    It’s a shame that shes probably alienating many more people to not ‘being a fan’ as the gossip’s music is cool, but those in question would not attend a gig for fear of seeing the above….I know I wouldnt.

    Beth, put ome clothes on and stop trying to blame portions of society for an enitre genders problem. You are the problem for many others.

    Mind you on the plus side, think of all the anorexics shes going to cure by parading her fat ass about on television.

    She could do some good yet.

  8. I just posted this picture of Ditto on my blog. It is my contention that ultimately helping women feel good about themselves is important. Ditto’s health is her own issue, don’t you think. Admittedly, I am not that familiar with her but I want to belive that we can love all women big, small, scared, smart etc. and let them deal with there issues on their own time.

    Sure, ditto’s fat and sure, fat is not the excepted beauty norm but if she feels confident – then good for her. My she share her confidence with others.

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