Tag Archives: Vogue

Nigella, the antechinus family, and the West’s bulimia

30 Nov

I used to love watching acclaimed kitchen goddess the luscious Nigella Lawson, when she first appeared on the small screen as the West’s primary exponent of food porn. By God she was sexy I thought, and her defiance of the fashion imperative for women to starve ourselves so we’d look like  end-stage junkies was refreshing.

But lately it seems to me that Nigella’s spontaneity has waned, to be replaced by  rather more artifice: she is now imitating her original self, as if that original has lost interest in the proceedings and withdrawn, bored, to observe. Another aspect of Nigella’s personality hams it up until she’s almost a parody of herself. This may well be intentional, and if so, she needs to ham it up a little more to reassure us. I suspect, though, that Nigella really has lost interest in the character she created, but how does one discard such a popular and revenue-generating persona?

To be fair, I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with the plethora of food shows on the telly, and  food porn in print media. It’s not just Nigella. The neurotic inconsistency  of slavering over food to the point of self-disgust, and in the next instant whipping ourselves into rigorous weight loss programs as penance, seems to go largely unremarked in popular culture. This is perhaps understandable as between them the two conflicting passions generate billions of dollars in the global economy.

In the big picture the West is in the grip of a mass epidemic of bulimia, an eating disorder  in which the sufferer first gorges then, full of guilt and self-hatred at the loss of control, violently purges her or himself.

I’ve never once watched a cooking program without a psychic default button changing my channel to scenes of famine, starving children, and those in the West who do not have access to food and televisions. This doesn’t always stop me joining in the orgy, though as Mrs Chook will attest, never without the comment that it’s disgusting that we engage in these orgiastic events when there’s so many people in the world living off next to nothing, and all too often, absolutely nothing.

The concept of having so much food that we can eat ourselves into overweight and obesity, then literally or metaphorically stick our fingers down our throats to throw it all back up again is, quite frankly, vile. As is the fashion culture that demands healthy women starve ourselves to emulate the frail bodies of our sick and literally starving sisters who have no choice in the matter.

Last Christmas somebody gave us a subscription to a foodie magazine. I never look at it, except to make some scathing comment on a cover when it first arrives. Then I kick it under the couch where the pile grows until someone vacuums. This happened just the other day, and the glossies were hauled out when the vacuum cleaner jammed as a consequence of trying to suck them up. Upon inspection it became apparent that something had been feasting. Tiny teeth had shredded extravagant illustrations, taking  bites out of cakes, desserts, casseroles and roasted things. Mrs Chook held the shredded remnants up as if to shame me, but I remained defiant.

It turns out there’s a family of antechinus nesting under the couch and behind the bookcase. This presents us with something of a dilemma, as nobody wants to slaughter the sweet little native animals. Leave them alone and let them eat cake, I advised. I’ve become very cavalier about wildlife in the house since I was bailed up by a snake on my way to the bathroom. Then yesterday there was the green frog who hopped in the back door and hopped out just as fast when I bent to give it a kiss to see what might happen next. Fairy tales have been something of a theme this week, what with the Slipper and all.

I don’t know what we’ll do about the antechinus. I don’t want to think about it.

But whether I watch Nigella again or not, I do pay tribute to her beauty, and her courageous stand against the tyranny of a fashion world that would have us look like pre pubescent waifs, all heron-legged, hollow-cheeked and shockingly fragile. Nigella’s curves are superb, and the image of her wrapping her generous mouth around a wicked midnight snack wearing only her silk dressing gown and backlit by the fridge, will stay with me for a long time, far longer than any of those starved and haunted models on the cover of Vogue.

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Feminist Christian reproduces sexualised images of children on website.

15 Jan
Vogue magazine cover, May 1917

Image via Wikipedia

It’s a complete mystery to me how those demanding the removal of sexualised images of children from the media can justify reproducing those very images in their campaigns.

For example, on the website of Melinda Tankard Reist, Australian feminist Christian advocate for children and women, there’s a series of images reproduced from French Vogue depicting very young children wearing adult clothing, shoes and makeup. Some of them are suggestively posed in sexually suggestive environments.

The point of the post is to cause outrage in readers at these sexualised images of little girls. In order to do that, I suppose their argument goes, readers have to be able to see them.

But there’s something awry about this reasoning. You don’t want these images viewed, you think it’s wrong that they are readily available in the media, and yet you reproduce them on the Internet to make a point?

You disseminate these images yourself, while at the same time railing against their publication in other arenas?

What is going on here?

I wouldn’t like any little girls in our family to be in this Vogue photo shoot. Then again, I wouldn’t like the little girls in our family to be in any Vogue photo shoot, even if they were covered head to toe and clutching soft toys. I want our little girls to do what little girls enjoy doing, and not what adults enjoy little girls doing. From what I’ve heard about photo shoots, they’re no picnic.

My first thought on seeing these pictures was, what were their parents thinking? Surprisingly, nobody addresses this aspect on the MTR website. It’s all Vogue’s fault. Well, it certainly is Vogue’s fault, but some adult caretaker allowed these little girls to do this photo shoot. Some adult caretakers allowed their charges to be transformed into sexualised commodities by French Vogue. As long as parents are willing and eager to offer their children up, somebody will be willing and eager to provide them with the opportunity.

It comes down to the individual. It’s a very personal matter. It’s about morality on a very intimate level, and this is where it has to be addressed, as well as more broadly as a media responsibility.

Perhaps Tankard Reist could have set a personal example by declining to publish the children’s photos on her website?

It would have made her post less titillating, and readers would have had to go find the photos for themselves. But at least it would have been one less publication of those dreadfully sad pictures, and one less exploitation of those little girls.

Tankard Reist criticizes the media for sexualizing children. But what she fails to realize is that she is part of the media. Her blog is on the Internet. Anybody, even the pedophiles she fears will be drawn to these images, can access her blog and see the pictures of the children she has published there.

I don’t think you have to be a parent to feel anguish for these little girls, or to feel a desire to protect them by refusing to perpetuate the circulation of these photographs.

What has happened to feminism that the end now justifies the means?

And doesn’t publishing these photographs make a mockery of their protests against French Vogue?

On the same website there’s a post critical of those who’ve published the names of the women involved in the Assange sexual misconduct allegations. Yet Tankard Reist, apparently without any awareness of what she’s doing, publishes an article by another blogger, in which the women are named!

Tankard Reist has now added her own name to the long list of people who’ve targeted the women by outing them on the Internet.

Then there’s an article by Clive Hamilton, failed Greens federal candidate, and Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University. Under the heading: Dymocks Bookshop: Porn Merchants? Professor Hamilton gives Dymocks a good old telling off for stocking a boxed set containing the first ten years of Playboy.  I can’t imagine what’s in them, and neither, apparently, can Professor Hamilton.

Call me picky, but I always think it’s a good idea to personally acquaint yourself with something, before you go on a public campaign to ban it.

MTR has kindly furnished an email address where you can send your objections to Dymocks about them stocking Playboy and acting like porn merchants.

Clive Hamilton is also a mandatory Internet filtering advocate, whose position is that while some legitimate websites would probably face accidental blocking by a mandatory blacklist, that’s a necessary evil, and that the good outweighs the bad.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear phrases like the good outweighs the bad, I get edgy. It sounds as if someone hasn’t really thought things through and they want to shut me up with a phrase designed to repress and suppress.

And who is Hamilton to make decisions for the rest of us? We have to take his definition of the good as a universal and filter the Internet? Non, merci.

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