If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I’ve no love lost for Tanya Gold’s recent writing on the Guardian. First she labels all beauty contestants as stupid slags who should be used as battering rams and tampons, and now she has decided to compliment the lovely Susan Boyle by calling her a “sad little Scottish spinster.”
It’s odd, because on one level, I want to agree with Tanya Gold. I modeled a few times when I was younger and thinner; I like to think I’ve no illusions about industries and businesses that trade in looks, particularly women’s looks. Of course, I’m just another piece of blood-soaked cotton for having done it, I ought to just shut up and let the Tanya Golds of the world speak on my behalf.
I agree with Tanya Gold that beauty standards in general are harshly applied to women, and that we are more forgiving of wrinkles and paunches and unremarkable facial features on men. It’s too bad that Gold’s own vicious language against Susan Boyle does nothing but prop up this ridiculous rule.
There was nothing “sad” about Susan. She seemed like a nice, cheerful person. She was excited to prove herself. Yeah, they rolled their eyes at her, but they also rolled their eyes at Paul Potts (Gold erroneously states that they did not; did she see the look on Simon Cowell’s face? Cowell, if anyone needs reminding, is the harshest of the lot!). Potts, by the way, did not have Boyle’s effervescent enthusiasm, he was clearly terrified as he faced the reckoning (and with good reason, considering the harsh criticism often leveled at contestants – I am not saying this to paint Potts a coward, he is the farthest thing from it). By contrast, Boyle went out there with the spirit of “I am going to rock their heads off.” And did.
I don’t understand Gold’s claims that Boyle is hideously ugly. Were we watching the same woman? Boyle may not be a babe, but her charm is undeniable. She’s hilarious and self-deprecating, and I dig the clothes. She slays you precisely because she’s not trying hard to be anything she’s not.
I cried into my sleeve the first time I watched Susan Boyle. I did not cry because she is a “sad” person. I cried because she is a lovely, rare, genuine person. I cried because this giddy woman can sing with a turbulent passion that feels like the hand of an angel closing over your heart.
Susan Boyle deserves to be celebrated, as opposed to taken down a notch by well-meaning culture critics such as Tanya Gold.
Octogalore has already done a brilliant job of responding to Gold’s false dichotomy of “ugly spinster” and “empty toy.” Gold could have easily made her point about the way in which women are examined with a microscope without bashing the way judge Amanda Holden looks. Holden herself readily admitted the appalling cynicism of judging Susan Boyle based on her lack of a pop-star-perfect outer shell. The pressure that women like Holden must put up with is equally appalling, but Gold can afford not to see it. I’m sure Holden’s just another slag, anyway, so who cares if she has, like, feelings and stuff?
We all judge each other on our looks, and Tanya Gold’s writing is actually the perfect example of this judgment. It’s petty and mean and, the sharpness of Gold’s wit notwithstanding, completely gratuitous. Gold criticizes the viciousness of Susan Boyle’s audience and proceeds to effortlessly adopt their style.
We live in a world that is, primarily, run by men. Men make the most money. Men own most raw resources. Men own the most land. Men make wars on this land. Men are used to regarding women as the trophies in the cock-fights, or else non-entities that get to follow the male gender around with bucket and mop. Men even have the distinct privilege of putting words in the mouths of gods who are on hand to explain to us that hey, quit your bitching, this is they way things should be.
Throughout world history, women have done what they could to survive alongside men. We got to scheme, manipulate, work behind the scenes. We attached ourselves to powerful men. We produced heirs to fortunes we could rarely claim as our own. We displayed our bodies. We covered our bodies. Where we could, we survived on wit and wits. And we pointed our fingers at other women and said “whores,” because if we did not, we would be the whores.
And now we have yet another female journalist who professes to care about modern misogyny and then apes it; instead of making vicious fun of conventionally unattractive women, we ought to make vicious fun of the conventionally attractive ones. How innovative and daring!
What can I say? This profound wisdom has opened my empty, mascara-lined eyes. I weep, and the make-up pools on my cheeks, and I wipe it away with my sackcloth (having throw out the slutty wardrobe in favour of something a little more becoming of a human battering ram).