De Beauvoir’s Style: What may we say?

The new edition of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex is out; it’s a new translation by  Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier.   And one could get worked up over what the New York Times has done about it.  But I am not sure whether we should.  See below.

The story so far:

In the US The Second Sex  was released by Random House on April 13 of this year.  Reviews are just starting to come in; perhaps because of an earlier release, the British are ahead:  the Time’s Higher Ed suppl has a short piece; a fuller piece can be found in the Independent.  These do not undertake the task of full scholarly assessment.   Toril Moi does provide such an assessment in the London Review of Books, and it is decidedly a hatchet job.   (The comments are worth reading.)

In contrast, the reviews haven’t started to appear yet in comparable US intellectual magazines, such as the New York Reivew of Books or the NY Times Sunday Book Review.  Or the  New Yorker.  Salon does report on the Moi review, and Slate has a bit by Katie Roiphe, which pronounces it an improved translation of a classic work by an ambiguous feminist heroine.  (Roiphe, we should point out, is an expert on ambiguous feminism, at least as a practice.)   The ambiguity is  due to features of her life, her scandalous life, which includes the presence of pictures of her bum!!

Here’s where it starts to get, well, dialectical.  Can we really as feminists approve of talking about de Beauvoir’s fashion style and body bits?

Enter the New York Times.  Not its more serious review sections, but its Style Magazine, T, which must be the only part of the Times I never read.  Too, too depressing unless one wants to be 21  and a size 0.   Or at least could reasonably hope to pass oneself off as something similar.

And Style does pick up on such things as the bum and the hotness issue.  I mean, it is Style.   To be fair to them, they do see it’s a bit odd and remark that they’ve done such style assessements of a dictator and a literary lion.  And they have. takes them  to task for this, saying, I  think incorrectly, that they sidestep the question of  whether  a male philosophy would get the same treatment.  Nonetheless, there  are very serious general concerns, ones familiar to feminists, and Monkey raised them here with regard to the bum controversy.  Can’t we discuss a female  philosopher without these reductive comments taking over? says that it would be nice if we could evaluate Beauvoir the intellectual without also talking about her naked ass.  That seems exactly right.  And the British publications do that.  However, is it a fair criticism of Style that it does not?

Thanks to SG, who alerted us to the issues!

Photoshopped porn and labiaplasty

We’ve mentioned the policies of the Australian Classificatory Board before (there in relation to films). And we’ve mentioned (thanks Monkey!) Betty Dodson’s online Genital Art Gallery.

There’s an interesting and depressing video here, which suggests that the classificatory board’s requirement for any genitals shown (in magazines at least) to be ‘neat and tidy’ is partly responsible for the photoshopping of pictures of labia, which in turn creates the strong and unrealistic norms of appearance – in this video a connection is suggested with increasing requests for labiaplasty surgery.

Also, it seems that new restrictions on genital images have lead to a temporary suspension of Betty Dodson’s Genital Art gallery. More details here.

Salma Yaqoob

Salma Yaqoob is the candidate of a very small, leftist party. Yet she’s considered quite likely to win her constituency, once considered very safe for Labour. And she’s already a major media figure (who was apparently courted by all three major political parties.) She’s anti-war and pro gay rights. And if she wins, she’ll be the first Muslim woman MP in Britain (though there may be others coming in with her)!

She’s faced some enormous hostility, but is doing a stunning job of winning people over, on all sides.

“I’ve had death threats and criticism that I support gays – because I have a clear anti-discrimination position – and there have been claims that it is haram [forbidden in Islam] to vote for women. People say to me, ‘Have you no shame?’ and they accuse me of immodesty and ask my husband why he lets me speak in public. It’s still an uphill struggle.”

But she has been winning even her fiercest critics round. “Some people who made out fatwas against voting for a woman have now been saying that I’m the right candidate. I have been invited into mosques – some of which don’t even have facilities for women to pray – to give the Friday sermons.”…

She recognises that many non-Muslim voters can feel threatened by her as a Muslim. “I’m between a rock and a hard place,” she says. “I have to jump hurdles because of the way I look. Firstly, I have to make it clear that I don’t support terrorism, secondly, that I’m British, thirdly, that I don’t just lobby for Muslims and lastly, that I’m not a Trojan horse for sinister Islamist plots.

“People still question me about the hijab as a symbol of oppression. I try to stay patient and build a relationship of trust. For a real discussion, people have to be able to hear each other: someone has to pull the barriers down. People have a genuine fear, and you need to deal with it or you are dehumanising them – it won’t just go away.”

Women are pollution’s top victims

According to this article.

Hazardous chemicals pose myriad risks to people of all age groups, especially infants and the elderly. But women face a disproportionate brunt of the problem because of their extra susceptibility during child-bearing and lactation years, she said.
In a phone interview yesterday, Ms. Steingraber said the time has come for women to rise up against pollution as a human-rights issue. “We’re inherently exposed to toxic chemicals without our consent,” said Ms. Steingraber

(Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

Penelope Cruz promotes use of larger models

From The Guardian:

In the heady world of high fashion, few issues have ruffled feathers as much in recent months as that of size. And now further fuel has been added to the debate about the use of larger models thanks to an edition of Vogue edited by the actor Penelope Cruz.

Cruz was chosen to edit the French edition of the title and has promptly waded in with a provocative shoot that stars the size 12 [US size 8] model Crystal Renn in photographs styled by the magazine’s influential editor, Carine Roitfeld.

Cruz’s intervention comes at a key moment within the industry for models with body shapes more akin to those of the majority of women. Last month, a special “curvy” edition of French Elle lavished praise on cover girl Tara Lynn’s “adorable belly fat”…

Vogue’s images of Renn – who is almost naked in some shots, and clad in tight leather in others – seemed proof that the campaign to broaden definitions of beauty, spearheaded by British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman among others, is gaining ground even among the famously slender Parisiennes.

But then came comments attributed to the highly influential fashion blogger Garance Doré that cast doubt over whether the Paris fashion world was ready to endorse women who do not fit the catwalk samples, which are now usually a British size six. Doré told Sky News: “it’s not such a good thing to show plus-size because it’s not really physically healthy and not always flattering to fashion.”

Wow– I never knew that stick-thin models were there as exemplars of health. Dore’s comment changes my view totally. (The good news is that Dore has been frantically backpedaling, apparently.)