Maybe Elizabeth Wurtzel is not OK after all

Or maybe she’s just being consistent with her role as a “everyone’s favorite beautiful mess.”

Really now.

She thinks she’s bashing “slovenly” people (which is kind of silly in and of itself, unless said “people” are actually your brother, who just showed up to your black-tie wedding with beer-breath and flip-flops), but she’s just bashing the underprivileged, a.k.a. women who can’t afford weekly Gyrotronic sessions and lip balm that costs over 20 bucks a pop (Because I’m a real journalist, I’ve checked). Women who are working three jobs and, when they have time to eat, must eat burritos on the smelly bus that ferries them between said three jobs. Women whose evening yoga sessions are interrupted by a screaming kid who would love nothing more than to bash them with his toy airplane while they’re trying to do the goddamn dolphin pose (ahem).

Long-time readers of this blog know that I am not in favor of bashing The Pretty. I like The Pretty. I think it gets a bad rap in certain feminist circles. I’m also someone who enjoys performative femininity, sparkly charm bracelets and all (a predilection that often results in my husband, a scary-looking, bearded Russian guy with tattooed fingers, standing in some shop, picking between a Hello Kitty charm and a charm featuring a cartoon whale).

And then I go and read crap like this:

Obviously not everyone is born beautiful, but absolutely everybody can become so. I miss the un-Holy Trinity, meaning, of course, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell. I long for the impossible standard of female beauty as a daily chore for all, not because I want the world to look better — I want it to bebetter. I want everyone to try as hard as I do to please be gorgeous, because it’s not that hard, girls. Looking great is a matter of feminism. No liberated woman would misrepresent the cause by appearing less than hale and happy.


What’s remains delightful about Wurtzel is how much of her writing is essentially a personal ad dressed up in whatever rhetoric is guaranteed to get her the most attention in a given week. As an editor concerned with circulation numbers and online hits, I bow down to this clever practice. As a woman and a feminist, I sneer at it.

Pretty women often do a fabulous job of “selling” the issue of women’s rights – or human rights in general. For many of the dudes, a pretty woman is a kind of “gateway drug” to srs feminist bsns.

I don’t really know how the hell any of that justifies compulsory femininity. Well, unless you couldn’t really give a crap about social justice to begin with. And hey, why should Elizabeth Wurtzel care about social justice? Unless it involves exciting causes such as Making Elizabeth Feel Good About Herself, that is.

I think she’s entitled to her views – God knows, I get tired of the “we are all beautiful as we are” crap from time to time (because let’s face it, a lot of the people who say it are practicing what is known as emotional populism) – but why tie it to feminism? To liberation? I mean, it doesn’t even fit in with the personal ad routine.

And then there’s also this,

Even with my Harvard degree, when I ran out of money while writing my first book, I was happier to serve cocktails in high heels than to get money from my mom. And now I walk miles in Marni’s five-inch platform T-straps.

Yeah, yeah, clothes are important:

But now, Elizabeth, you’re just showing off. And for someone of your stature and age and publishing experience, that just seems odd. Almost as if you have way too much to prove. At 45. While looking better than 25. And that sucks way more than “giving up” on your looks in your 20’s, I believe. These are not the words and actions of a woman “trying to be happy.” This is just dispiriting.

And now look what you’ve done. I has a sad now. Seriously.

12 thoughts on “Maybe Elizabeth Wurtzel is not OK after all

  1. That poor woman,to have to find all her satisfaction in how she looks. I’m 47, and don’t look a day over 45, what with the crows feet and silver streaks in my hair, and yet, do not bemoan the loss or feel any envy for a 20 year old, because been there-done that, and got over it.

  2. I’m not really sure what your self-righteous speel about “the underprivileged” is supposed to mean. Anyway, Lizzie Wurtzel is not for ordinary people. Just like an Armani haute couture dress is not for ordinary people.

    If you want to dress at the Gap and buy drugstore make-up, it’s up to you. Others have different standards they should be allowed to enjoy without being bashed. I believe in the power of beauty and sex, and yes, happiness. But someone like you will probably never understand…

  3. I’m sorry, but I think it’s KC who is right. Wurtzel is talking about personal standards. We may not like them, but if we don’t hold ourselves to at least some standard, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Think about the woman who lets herself go after having a kid (you don’t seem like you have, brava!), it’s unfortunate and sad if her marriage falls apart, but if you think her lack of standards has nothing to do with that then you are being foolish. Who’s more presentable and attractive? The woman who at least tries to do yoga – or the woman who no longer cares? Who is going to be more desirable? I think these questions are easy.

  4. The question of desirability is easy. You know what’s not so easy? Identifying *systemic* problems that mean that *most* women could *never* aspire to Wurtzel’s lifestyle. Not because they’re lazy. Not because they’re stupid. But because they are not economically priveleged or well-connected enough.

    To take it further – this is also an issue of priorities. I have an acquaintance devoted to hospice care in a country where hospice care is practically nonexistent and few people have even heard of good standards of pain relief for the dying. She doesn’t have time for fucking Gyrotronic sessions, mmmkay? Doesn’t mean that everyone who does have time for them is frivolous and stupid – but what’s important is recognizing that women may have other interests and commitments besides working to make themselves as sexxxay as possible.

    As the Jezebel link points out – how do you find out if a “requirement” for women is stupidly sexist? Why, just ask yourself if men get shamed nearly as much for, say, putting on the pounds as they age. Particularly if the men in question happen to be renowned scientists or dedicated social workers or doctors who are busy saving lives.

    *Think*. Think critically. And then get back to me.

  5. Sad when people become LESS self-aware as they age. Should be the other way around.

    Also, KC, you’re just fucking special, aren’t you? Yeah, haute couture is not for everyone – such piercing intelligence! Next thing you’ll be telling me that the rich have more money than the poor.

  6. Sometimes personal standards involve more than how one looks. My standards mean having and using my skills as a tailor (yes,I work with an award winning clothing designer, and no I am not telling who),cook, mentor, encourager, and friend. None of those things are related in any way to how glossy my lips are or whether I can compete on a fashion runway (well ok the sewing does, but not by how *I* look). My personal standards are VERY high, but I do not look down on people who do not have the skills I have, just as I think it is ridiculous for her (and you, KC) to disparage people who choose not to wear haute couture (even tho I actually MAKE it. It’s not practical.) or have glossy lips. I outgrew that in 7th grade.

  7. How far can one person go writing in “the confessional memoir genre” , unless you have, for example, lived through WWI and the Russian revolution?

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