All Articles Tagged "xo jane"
On Friday, xoJane, the irreverent women’s blog founded by Jane Pratt, posted the latest in its “It Happened to Me” series, first-person confessionals on topics that are sometimes whimsical (“My Toilet Exploded. Again.”), sometimes dark (“This is the First Time I’ve Written About My Rape, and I’m Doing it For You, Todd Akin”), sometimes awkward (“I Tried to Have Sex With My Gay Best Friend”), but nearly always shocking. Shock is what xoJane does best — it is, after all, the publication whose former beauty editor, Cat Marnell, wrote an essay about using Plan B as her preferred form of contraception, and posted regularly about her spiraling drug addiction until the site fired her for refusing rehab.
Shock draws attention. Shock generates pageviews. And this installment, by freelance writer Jenny An, seems poised to blow all of its predecessors out of the water. It’s been tweeted and Facebooked thousands of times and is now the most commented-on “It Happened to Me” story ever. It may yet end up as the most discussed piece in xoJane history; the editors are savvy — they’ve since given the story prime positioning as the main feature on the site’s home page. Which seems odd, given that the story is seemingly about as insider-y an inside-baseball piece as you might possibly imagine: Titled “I’m an Asian Woman and I Refuse to Date an Asian Man,” it’s an extended and somewhat bizarre diatribe in which An outlines the reasons why she finds dating someone of her own race to be anathema, and chooses to date white men instead.
“It has nothing to do with skin color,” the subtitle says. “It has everything to do with patriarchy.” An then goes on to write that she’s “one of those [Asian girls] that date lots and lots of (mostly, but not always) white guys. Why? It’s simple: I’m a racist.”
Now, to proudly out yourself as a “racist” in the second line of a first-person confessional takes a nearly terminal excess of chutzpah, blissful ignorance or both. It also serves as a smoking gun that something was up in the piece’s narrative — that maybe it shouldn’t be taken entirely at face value. Especially when An goes on to state bluntly that her “pale, white-bread boyfriend jokes that I’m one of the whitest people he’s ever met”; that “Dating white men means acceptance into American culture. White culture”; that she’s “drinking the same Kool-Aid as everyone else [of] white supremacy. The idea that white is still tops, SAT scores, corporate jobs and fancy degrees be damned” — all while simultaneously acknowledging that her “thinking is Fawked up.”
For me at least, it triggered the same instinctive reaction I had when I first encountered the now-infamous Wall Street Journal book excerpt, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” by Yale law professor and mother of two Amy Chua, now better known by the sobriquet Tiger Mom: These are ideas and phrases that have been consciously engineered and carefully chosen to generate maximum backlash.
Which is why, when I posted An’s piece to my Facebook circle for comment, I did so with the following message: “Oh, boy. Girlfriend is so totally trolling. But…thoughts? And by thoughts, I mean thoughts that aren’t a long string of expletives. Thank you.”
Trolling is the online term for — we’ll let Wikipedia chime in here — posting “inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.”
Trolling is often done merely to taunt or prank (especially as a kind of hazing to newcomers to an online community). With the rise of the clicks-for-cash business model in digital media, however, trolls have found a new place in the Internet ecosystem: As highly effective breadwinners for the sites in which they nest.
After reading Wendy Williams’ comments on why black women will never go for any kind of surgery and her subsequent explanation of wearing wigs, part of me didn’t know whether I wanted to smack Wendy or slap her a high-five. In her mini-rant, she makes a couple of decent points about some women’s aversion to fake hair, plastic surgery, and the like, but the underlying hypocrisy and her obvious issue with women who are actually comfortable walking around in the skin and hair they were born with, left me leaning more on the smack side
As part of XO Jane’s Makeunder series, Wendy Williams was toned down from fitted dresses and stilettos to a white crew neck and jeans to talk about what beauty is to her and be candid about the plastic surgeries she’s undergone and her own mane regimen but then she threw black women under the bus a little when she was asked why people are so judgmental about plastic surgery. She told the site:
“They are jealous. Because if I said to that person, ‘I got the doctor and I’m going to pay for it. Choose three things you want to do,’ believe me, they would get it done. They are very jealous and scared. Scared of what their other friends would say, or to break out of the box and be different. And being black? Ugh, please. My people will not go for any kind of surgery. We are supposed to be natural. Ugh, whatever.”
Then hen the interviewer asked Wendy whether she feels the same is true when it comes to hair, she said this:
“Its like a 50/50 thing with women. Some woman prefer natural and then the other 50 percent prefer something fake going on. And for me, fake includes a color. Blonde is not natural in most of our background’s rainbow.
“Full blown wigs are looked at as the worst, in terms of hair type fakery. Getting pieces is the first line of acceptability. Then getting a full weave is a second line of acceptability. Then a wig is something that is acceptable for your old aunt, but not for a modern girl. If you do wear a wig, everybody wants you to take off the wig and show your hair. That’s what Tyra did on her show years ago. She did it because she was running out of ideas trying to shock her audience. They always ask me that, too.
“The reason I wear the wigs is because my hair is naturally thin. And I have thyroid disease which I was diagnosed with 12 years ago. And thyroid disease thins your natural hair and your eyebrows. It thins all of the hair on your body, along with giving you the eye pop and the scary stare. That’s why I wear wigs. Because the hair I would want is just not what is growing out of my head. If I was a librarian with a smaller personality, then I would keep the hair that I have.”
Did she just backtrack there? Wendy wears wigs because of thyroid disease? Sounds like she’s saying she’d rock her natural hair otherwise (maybe not in texture but at least free of extensions). It’s interesting she feels the need to explain that when she’s such a proponent of so-called fake beauty. I also think it’s funny she’s disgusted that black women prefer “natural beauty”—although I can’t say I ever knew that. I mean she can’t be talking about the largest consumers of hair weave, probably around the entire globe, can she? I personally never saw black women as a whole being against plastic surgery, what I did observe was women of color being more comfortable with their features and not feeling the need to go under the knife and “correct” things the way white women do (as much). Plus, we have to shout out those black women don’t crack genetics that don’t make botox such a necessity, as least quite as early. Truthfully I didn’t see the need to even make a distinction between black women and the rest of the world anyway. We’re hardly without physical image issues, I’ve just always looked at hair and skin tone as the main struggles we battle and there’s nothing going under the knife can do about either one of those. That’s why the weave is bought and sewn in and bleaching creams are still lucrative products.
Maybe Wendy was speaking more to the policing of other women’s beauty choices when she made her comments but they came off as pretty defensive to me, as if people should applaud her for going under the knife whenever she chooses and wearing overpowering and terribly groomed weaves every day. I also couldn’t help but remember the comment she made about Viola Davis and her natural hair that didn’t belong on the red carpet and feel some sort of way about her plastic surgeries and her wigs being a little bit deeper than thyroid disease and having cash to blow.
At the end of the day, I don’t think worrying about who has or hasn’t had plastic surgery is at the top of black women’s concerns but when it comes to why they don’t do it, I think the reasons that are a bit deeper than what Wendy would let on. As most studies show, we have healthier body images all around; but there’s also the issue of cost and a lot of black women simply not having discretionary cash to blow on a cosmetic procedure; there’s also distrust of medical professionals. If we won’t see a doctor about our reproductive or mental health, I don’t think we’ll be lined up to have someone cut us open for an optional surgery. Plus there are issues of scarring and contouring and keloids that just aren’t worth the risk for many of us. If getting chopped and screwed is Wendy’s forte I don’t think anyone is really mad at her. But she also shouldn’t be mad at black women who don’t want to do the same.
What do you think about Wendy’s comments? Is she right about black women and their feelings about plastic surgery?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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