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Feb 08 2007

Fashion Week: Presidential candidate division

donatella.jpg
Would you let this trainwreck dress you?

I have written extensively about misogynist couturiers who get rich fetishizing femininity. But in case you missed it, my position is this: fashion designers hate women, from Gaultier to Nike. It makes no difference if they’re gay men or the sisters of gay men. To wit:

Donatella Versace, the yellow-haired, football-faced misogynist designer sibling of murdered misogynist designer Gianni Versace, whose current runway video features blank-faced skeletons doing the sex-lurch mambo in 4″ heels, has some helpful fashion advice for Hillary.

“She should treat femininity as an opportunity and not try to emulate masculinity in politics,” said the enlightened genius, who deeply gives a crap about Hillary’s future career as a spokesmodel, which evidently cannot flourish if the Senator wears pants.

And thus is illustrated the neurotic, patriarchy-induced compulsion to enforce the sexbot/powerbot dichotomy, handed down as edict by one of pop culture’s high priestesses.

[Thanks Amanda]

56 comments

2 pings

  1. GenderBlank

    “sex-lurch mambo”

    Good Goddess, Twisty, you are priceless.

  2. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    aaaAAAHHH! That picture scared the living cornchips outta me.

    This is the second time today my reaction to your blog has seriously disturbed my office-mates, two born-again little old ladies. The first was when I checked out the link to that doofus with the $25 consensual sex contract. I laughed until my eyes were streaming. I’d die of horniness or have a serious affair with my right hand before I’d let that guy within shouting distance of even thinking about sex with me. There ain’t enough alcohol in the world.

    Re: the whole fashion thing. Reading Vogue when I was 17 part of what convinced me that some segments of our culture seriously hate women.

  3. SneakySnu

    Donatella Versace is symptomatic of the very thing that makes Italian women worse off than all other European women. Aesthetics are always wrapped in gender for them, whether discussing objects or people. Their particular insistence on femininity is why feminism never made great inroads there, in my opinion.

  4. Amy Guth

    Indeed! You are queen of all you survey. Great post!

  5. Lisa

    I would love to hear what Hillary thinks of Donatella’s advice.

  6. CafeSiren

    I’m with antoinette: that’s one scary picture to be staring you right in the face when the page opens. (Sadly, it’s also a look that’s far too common here in SoCal). It’s not even a face anymore, for chrissakes.

    But I think the image alone is pretty effective as an avatar of “femininity.” If I could get this out to my 20-something students, and convince them that this is the logical conclusion of drinking the patriarchal kool-aid, it might give some of them pause.

  7. butter

    SneakySnu sez:
    Donatella Versace is symptomatic of the very thing that makes Italian women worse off than all other European women. Aesthetics are always wrapped in gender for them, whether discussing objects or people. Their particular insistence on femininity is why feminism never made great inroads there, in my opinion.

    I have no idea whether Italian women are waaay more Feminine (= “worse off”) than other European women, having spent almost zero time there. In France, however, I have found teh Femininity even more cloying and imperative than here in the States. Not to say there haven’t been amazing actions by European feminists, but yes, it’s harder to march in strappy heels.

    My theory? While taking over healthcare during the “Enlightenment”, men burned the non-compliant women at the stake, allowing only the purty ones to reproduce. And to train their daughters in survival under the patriarchy.

  8. yankee transplant

    Grab the barf bag. Quick.

  9. Hattie

    Eurotrash!

  10. pheeno

    Let her dress me? In a heartbeat. That Best Costume Halloween prize would be MINE!!

  11. norbizness

    How did the lead guitar player from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem end up becoming a fashion consultant to our boring political stars?

  12. Catherine Martell

    SneakySnu: “Their particular insistence on femininity is why feminism never made great inroads there, in my opinion.”

    Most unfair! http://web.utk.edu/~brizio/htm/specwmn.htm (has a decent bibliography if you scroll down)

    Also, one of my all-time feminist heroines was an Italian: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_de_Pizan

    Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton hasn’t been entirely immune to the femininity-as-an-opportunity makeover. There was a time before contact lenses, stylist and feathery blonde blowdry. Donatella Versace is a misogynist loon, but all she’s pushing at Hillary is a more extreme version of what Hillary’s already had to do. Dress up like a “lady” so as to make people accept her.

  13. Jess2

    “She should treat femininity as an opportunity and not try to emulate masculinity in politics,”

    And what, pray tell, is feminity an opportunity for? The whole comment just is such a weird non-sequitir, apropos of nothing. Oh, I forgot: a woman has to be ‘sexy’ at all times, whether she’s running for president, giving birth, curing cancer, what have you.

    Twisty, right on re: fashion designers hate women. Especially *shoe* designers. Explain to me again why women love Manolo Blahnik? I seem to be the lone young female in Manhattan who loves my own tender feet more than I love the acoutrements of fashionable 20th century foot binding. IBtP.

  14. Helen

    Isn’t it mysoginistic to attack Donatella’s appearance and not the results of her work?

  15. cycles

    Yes, but are they also going interview Hillary, and ask her whom Donatella Versace should vote for, and which PACs she should contribute to?

    Or are random women allowed to publicly stick their noses in others’ lives only when it involves fashion and relationship advice?

  16. Jess2

    Norbizness: ha! Spot on!

    Of course, Donatella V. is not nearly as cute as the muppet.

  17. Twisty

    Her appearance IS the result of her “work”.

  18. S.C.U.M

    If the idea of “femininity” is to look like you sucked a quarter pound of gristle into your upper lip, there are some series physical limitations. I suppose the idea of health, or competence, or humanness is exclusively out of bounds, in these waters. We are looking at women and men who hate themselves and are hence projecting those repulsions and self loathing onto the rest of us. I was at a fashion show on Saturday in New York, where the two main designers were a gay male couple. They are also friends of mine, and yes, I am ever tolerant, because frankly, I’m not a separtist, and I’m always subtly (although perhaps naively) trying to influence culture makers to make different choices, but yes, their issues surrounding female bodies are horrendous. They, like so many designers are gay. They do not find women appealing sexually, physically and except for myself (I am their only female friend) intellectually. They live in a world of gay men replicating the air of femininity in a truly perverse quazi simulation, whereby female bodies are whithered down to become simularcrum of femininity, not truly representing anything but as Lacan would say, “LACK.” Seeing the “women” backstage after the event and looking at their naked bodies (they strip down, uncaring who sees them, as they no longer own their own bodies) it was looking at a scene from the Holocaust. Absolute ribs and bones. Horror. Real horror. Easy to control. Easy to dismiss. We fetishize weakness in women because power is far too terrifying.

  19. cycles

    (My “yes” was a general “yes,” not a reply to anything specific)

    The “results of her work” include “work” done in the plastic surgeon’s office, the tanning booth, the hair-bleaching salon, and other patriarchy-enforcement venues. Her looks are most certainly fair game. Especially when she, and others like her, go to such extensive lengths to look “feminine.”

  20. JaneDoe

    There is something just over-the-top infuriating about someone telling a woman as accomplished and intelligent as Hillary Clinton that she should change her clothes. Who the fuck cares what she’s wearing? We’ve had the same phenomenia here in Canada with the MP Belinda Stronach. Despite her political skills all the media ever discusses is her appearance.

  21. donna

    Why oh why oh WHY do women do this to their lips? It is disgusting and gross – stop it.

  22. coathangrrr

    I have met two Italian women in the last week and neither of them we’re any more of a sexbot paradigm of feminity than most ammerican women I see around. In fact, they are probably less so. One can hardly judge a country by one horrible representative.

  23. DrSue

    Wait a minute. The fashion industry is evil, but I fail to see how the sexual orientation of the designers factors in. Is it that wanting to have sex with someone is a prerequisite for knowing what will look good on them? Does this mean that all children’s clothing designers ought to be pedophiles? I’m confused.

  24. Betsy

    Her outward appearance is a legitimate target for criticism, at least in one way:

    Her face could be a strong, forward, powerful, intelligent face — were it not mutilated and disfigured by all the fembotizing techniques that she has agreed to apply to it (the most obvious of which are tanning liquid, hair straightening and bleaching, false eyelashes, and lip injections).

    The outward manifestation of what happens when a woman gives her existence over to the service of femininity is more obvious, but perhaps the real tragedy is the loss of all the strong, forward, powerful, intelligent things she could do with herself and her talents, if she weren’t spending her life policing her own and others’ femininity.

  25. Keeshond

    You’ve crafted another masterwork, Twisty. “[T]he yellow-haired, football-faced misogynist designer sibling of murdered misogynist designer Gianni Versace” made me laugh out loud. Donnatella Versace’s brand of pushy, agressive feminity has always been a little scary to me. She’s like the host of a party who keeps insisting you have a good time, only in her case she keeps insisting you have a good time being feminine.

  26. Twisty

    I mention the sexual orientation of fashion designers because women are sometimes deluded by the wacky idea that gay men are somehow inherently well-disposed towards them. It is possible to infer from this delusion that corsets and skin-tight pencil skirts and stiletto shoes that are designed by gay men do not, somehow, flow from a pathology of dominance and submission. But alas, this view is in error. In other words, men are not automatically excused from patriarchy just because they’re gay.

  27. Scott

    I thought we were trying to get past the looks thing around here, but if I must, then yeah, she does look a little scary.

    But screw that! Twisty, your gift for fetching turns of phrase dumped a hot pizza in the Edwards Campaign’s lap!

    Godbags! Hell yes!

  28. mearl

    Man, I thought Robert Blake was scary in “Lost Highway;” that was until I saw him in this photo in drag.

  29. kate

    “I can understand (trousers) are comfortable but she’s a woman and she is allowed to show that,”

    Would Ms. Versace be pleased if Hillary wore nothing to her speaking engagements? I mean, its important that everyone be shown her womanhood, ala breasts and all, just in case we might forget.

    And we all know what happens when women go around disguising themselves as men don’t we? They leave the dishes undone, the kids unwashed and start thinking they can run things and get paid money to do it!

    In fact, I think I’ll go in my closet and put a skirt on right now, because its been awhile and I’m sure I need to go out and reaffirm my womanhood to everyone I know, as they certainly have by now concluded that I am a man.

  30. Clio Bluestocking

    What’s wrong with her face?

  31. kathy a

    ack. that is all.

  32. thatfarmgirl

    I think Donatella and Jim Plunkett might have been separated at birth.

  33. KMTberry

    1) Hell yeah, I was WONDERING if credit would go where it is due: to Twisty for “GODBAG”!

    2)L*O*V*E “football-faced”

    3)Calling the death-inducing starvation of runway models “fetishization of weakness” is brilliant. I always thought it was merely taking something (“slimness”) to an illogical extreme (“You can’t be too thin or too rich”); but it is MORE than that, and I appreciate the naming.

  34. bone fey

    I can’t believe people here are making of fun of DV for looking like a man.Presumably a man in drag?

    I can’t get behind making fun of what some woman looks like because it is so obvious, in light of the extent to which she’s gone to adhere to femininity by deforming herself, that she’s probably incredibly insecure, and I would venture to add self-loathing.Just why, why do we need to do that?Her appearance being ‘fair game’, I mean.Very counter-productive.Sorry for being touchy, but this totally bothers me.And I’m not trying to hold feminists to a stereotypically feminine higher standard of compassion, just saying we should spare her some dignity, even if she doesn’t do the same for Clinton, or for her own body for that matter.

    Sorry if my grammar’s below par (and for being sorry so much), just sharing my opinion.
    Blame on.

  35. Bitey

    Regarding the vagina vs. vulva question, maybe we should be glad when the patriarchy’s agents use something in the neighborhood the correct word. It could be worse:

    http://www.news4jax.com/entertainment/10948346/detail.html

    Gah. Idiots.

  36. Bitey

    Shoot! Meant to post that in another thread. Sorry, y’all!

  37. thebewilderness

    The fact that she has a wonderful face that she has done very unkind things to, in an effort to achieve whatever sense of security a mask provides, is not the basis of criticism. It is that after doing such unkind things to herself she would then attempt to persuade others to do the same. To make of it her lifes work is a tragedy.

    I can see her down under there, the bones of her character, and how warm and strong she would look without the mask. She made me think of this Rodin sculpture.
    http://www.rodin-web.org/imagebase/default.htm

  38. edith

    Why do I think that somewhere, somehow, Naomi Wolf is going, “You tell her, girl”?

  39. Betsy

    Bone fey said, “I can’t get behind making fun of what some woman looks like … Just why, why do we need to do that?Her appearance being ‘fair game’, I mean.Very counter-productive.Sorry for being touchy, but this totally bothers me.”

    I agree, we have to have compassion and understanding for women who adopt various levels of feminity — for survival, for adaptation, for economic reasons, to avoid violence or discrimination, or any of the other all-permeating reasons that the patriarchy provides. I guess almost no one avoids it entirely, and I know I’ve made my own accommodations — which can hardly be justified — just excused, perhaps, to a greater or lesser degree.

    So a result like what Donatella has done to herself should inspire a certain degree of empathy or pity or compassion or whatever kind feeling you want to call it. Or just a sense that appearance is off-limits, because it’s most often irrelevant to the real issue at hand.

    At the same time, there comes a point when appearance is not irrelevant. Could the line be drawn when the person makes their living imposing their standards of appearance on other people?

    It’s a gray area, I guess. But I know that imposing femininity on yourself eventually and inevitably leads to wanting to impose it on others, as well. You buy into what you buy into, and it doesn’t occur in isolation. And your appearance (to the extent that you have created it) is evidence of what you’ve bought into.

  40. figleaf

    Football-faced? I dunno. Peroxided, pucker-lipped, war-paint-spattered, eyebrow-plucked are aspersions I could get behind because those are things she’s chosen to do. Her face with its big pores, wrinkles, and receding hairline is just whatever she was born with and/or aged into.

    Unless (as usual) there’s something I’m missing.

    But all that seems sort of beside the point since she’d be just as much a member of the patriarchy if she had buck teeth and no chin. So what do looks have to do with it?

    figleaf

  41. justtesting

    Have you all seen this bit of lookist propaganda yet ?

    http://womensspace.wordpress.com/2007/02/08/republicans-as-misogynists-todays-award/

  42. Twisty

    figleaf, I use an Austin expression that describes someone who has spent a bit too much time in the tanning booth and cosmetic surgery to beautify the result. Looks have to do with it because, as I mentioned, looks are what she sells.

  43. Sara

    Not to do a meanness pile-on (even though people who make their living encouraging other people to dress nonsensically kind of open themselves up for that), but the first thing I thought when I saw this photo was that this was a drag queen. Shaved eyebrows repencilled on? Plasticky blond wig? Wait, this is a woman? WTF?

    I think she is wearing more money in cosmetics on her face than I spend on food for two people in a whole day. It’s very sad. She has such beautiful eyes, but they are hidden by all that artifice trying to make her look “pretty.”

    What would our world be like if people like this urged male politicians to embrace the opportunities presented by such stylistic ideals? And what if male politicians actually took them seriously and did embrace those opportunities? Heh — it would be one way to keep ‘em too busy to do any real harm, I guess.

  44. teffie-phd

    “In other words, men are not automatically excused from patriarchy just because they’re gay. ”

    Some of the most misogynist men I’ve met are gay. When you don’t need women for anything (sex, babies etc.) you can be fully engaged in the patriarchy.

    And I’m not saying all gay men are like this, but there’s nothing about gayness that automatically provides solidarity with women or feminism. They’re still men after all and can have all the benefits of the patriarchy.

  45. Spinning Liz

    Hmmm. Penciled in eyebrows, plasticky wig, fake eyelashes, thick pancake makeup, puffy face. Whenever I run into somebody who looks like this, I sidle over and give them the secret cancer handshake. Odds are it’s a fellow stage IV train wreck.

  46. Bitey

    What she’s done to her beautiful, natural face inspires in me a combination of sadness and anger. I am sad for her, that she feels that this expensive, uncomfortable, and, most significantly, entirely fake, faux, false, fake visage. What she’s striving for, of course, is not just beauty, but youthful beauty. There’s no such thing as mature beauty. If I believed that, I’d hate myself, too.

    Honestly, though, I think that what is even sadder than what she’s done to her face is the expression on it. Head tilted back and up, eyes wide, lips curved and parted–what we have here is your classic sex-kitten countenance. Is there any age or station at which it’s unnecessary to be a sexy little daddy’s girl?

  47. jami

    my boyfriend cleverly evaded my question, “do you think hillary clinton wears too much makeup?” by positing that all politicians wear makeup. i still think that senator clinton and ms. versace share in common the unfortunate fact that a close-up says more about mr. max factor than the gal herself.

  48. anna

    I shared that pic with a friend who knows more about fashion that I. She asked if DV was born male, and I did not know the answer.

    Those pointy toed shoes mentioned above are very scary on so many levels. I was once told how unfashionable and unfeminine I am by a gay man critiquing my choice of footwear. He heartily approved of the pointy toed shoes of the above mentioned friend, but rudely critqued my shoes in the midst of a party.

    Although it may not be pc to talk about the connection between gay men and the misogyny of women’s fashion, a connection exists nonetheless.

  49. mearl

    I can’t remember who said this, but someone (Germaine?) said something along the lines of, “The problem is not that women have such a narrow definition of beauty to aspire to, but that women have to be beautiful AT ALL.”

    My point about Donatella looking like Robert Blake, or vice versa, is that in a world where women were not held up to a “standard of femininity,” this resemblence would not be anything to critique. Women could look like men (as many of us do without all the glop and fluffy skirts and heels) and vice versa. Human beings would look like THEMSELVES. And someone who looks like Donatella would not go to such an extent to alter herself or spend her life chastising women who don’t do what she does. She would be happy running a billion-dollar business and wouldn’t feel like she had to answer to anyone about how she looked, a la grizzled white tycoons of all shapes, sizes, and levels of grizzlediness who sit on most of the gold eggs in the world. It’s just that looks, mainly women’s looks, are a commodity because women can’t be comfortable being powerful, “unfeminine”, or both.

  50. Uccellina

    I find it appalling that Clinton would feel she needs advice from DV. I cannot, however, find it in me to be surprised. That is not a reflection on Clinton, but on teh patriarchy and its kudzu-like invasion of all things.

  51. Spit The Dummy

    mearl says:

    “My point about Donatella looking like Robert Blake, or vice versa, is that in a world where women were not held up to a “standard of femininity,” this resemblence would not be anything to critique. Women could look like men (as many of us do without all the glop and fluffy skirts and heels) and vice versa. Human beings would look like THEMSELVES.”

    Well said, mearl. Patriarchal standards of female beauty are an artificial standard that may just as well have been effectively plucked out of the air for us all to either achieve or be considered failures by society. We’re all victims but Donatella is actively joining the oppressor to make a buck and trying to put added pressure on other women to kow tow to the Beauty Myth. Even powerful, successful women like Hilary Clinton aren’t exempt from this crap, which is especially annoying IMO.

    Frankly, Donatella Versace has always struck me as extremely odd looking, even for somone in the fashion industry, but what do I know? Most people think I look odd since I make no attempt to conform to so-called “femininity” and I’ve had plenty of pitying looks from women like Donatella, not to mention men who think they can say what they like about women who don’t comform to society’s expectations.

    I’ve moved so far from being in alignment with society on these sort of issues that I no longer can tell what a so called “normal” person would think about such a thing. All I know is that when I see pictures of women that are supposed to represent an image to which I am supposed to want to aspire to in our culture, I feel deeply alienated. And Donatella, to me, is a little scary looking. Is she really supposed to be attractive?

    That’s not to say I think I have the right to pass judgement on the way anybody ought to dress or look, I just think it should be a two-way street and that our society and women like Donatella should allow for the fact that other women don’t want to make the same sartorial statements they do. Live and let live, I say, and everybody do their own thing in peace.

    And could it just for once not be about a female politician’s APPEARANCE?

    julybirthday says:

    “I have an anecdote that will surprise no one: I’m pregnant with my second kid, and will likely develop gestational diabetes since I had it with kiddo #1. This means I’ll be forced onto an all protein & veggie, no sugar-starch diet, and will lose a lot of my own body fat. One of my close friends recently cooed, “Oh, I hope you get it! Won’t that be awesome?”

    Well, it surprised me! What on earth do you say to something like that?

  52. Amanda

    Uccellina,

    I believe the advice was unsolicited.

  53. brat

    Football faced??? Loved it.

    But you forgot bat-eared. Check out her left ear poking out from the neon blond job. (Hair by Con Edison???).

  54. Banshee

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwDlTkWtJZ4

    Apparently the criticism about “what to wear” applies to Obama, too. I’m kind of surprised.

  55. Scratchy888

    This is a true story. When I first came from Africa to Australia, I had a really difficult time (not that I knew it) recognising the new standards for female attractiveness. I already had some notions of my own — for example, that tanned legs without any freckles or discolorations on them looked (to me) very attractive. I also had some other notions, more vague, that some people could do some very subtle things to themselves to make themselves look much more interesting to look at. This greater interestingness I classed as attractive. It was still a nebulous notion for my 15 year old self. It was a combination of what the person was doing and what they looked like which made them appear somehow more lofty and graced with the ambrosium of culture, as compared to–say–myself. I was unbothered by others’ greater graces for the most part, in those rare instances when I encountered them. I hadn’t got around to seeing myself as an object to be gazed upon, but was rather a spectator, just looking around.

    And then, and then: I moved to Australia and found my female schoolmates impossible to understand. They were driven towards making themselves ugly, it seemed. They all wore these school uniform skirts which were so figure-hugging you could see their pelvic bones through them. Their hair was overdone, unnatural looking.

    I remember seeing a woman go by in a car, with highly artificial, laquered hair, thick makeup and middle-aged skin. I was shocked at the sight of this non-person, this puppet on a string.

    The urge to find beauty in things may be natural and quite human, but that which we ultimately perceive as beautiful is very much a feature of the cultures in which we live.

  56. figleaf

    “I use an Austin expression… for too much time in the tanning booth”

    Figured I was missing something. In my list of things I think it’s ok to kick someone for I almost added “coffin-tanned” but that’s always tricky because she looks old as we are and you know when we were growing up nobody cared how sunburned we got… or thought about how lizarded-up it would make our skin when we made it to our 40′s and 50′s.

    Anyway, I wasn’t trying to out-PC you or anything. I knew looks was exactly why you were picking on Versace, I just thought you were hitting on the unfortunate shape of her head and my mom always said don’t pick on people for what they can’t change. (Or in Vercace’s case maybe just “hasn’t gotten around to changing yet.”)

    I have been getting a little weirded out lately about how when people get ticked off about someone else’s politics they start dumping on their looks too. Ok, I’m lying. Nobody seems to care what Ezra Klein or Jonah Goldberg’s look like even though they tick people off left (Goldberg) and right (Klein.) They do get all bunched up about what people are saying about women like Amanda Marcotte (from the right) or Anne Coulter (from the left.) Though. I mean, it’s like, would it make a bit of difference if Coulter *didn’t* have a big adam’s apple? No, she’d still be a hateful jerk. So why bring it up (and an even better question, why pile on?)

    Take care,

    figleaf

  1. Femininity kills at I Blame The Patriarchy

    [...] Twisty Photo Lab « Fashion Week: Presidential candidate division [...]

  2. The American Street » Blog Archive » The One That’s Getting Away

    [...] Twisty at I Blame The Patriarchy notes sideline carping at Fashion Week: Presidential candidate division: Donatella Versace, the yellow-haired, football-faced misogynist designer sibling of murdered misogynist designer Gianni Versace, whose current runway video features blank-faced skeletons doing the sex-lurch mambo in 4″ heels, has some helpful fashion advice for Hillary. [...]

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