Is This Funny?

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Below are some photos and captions copied from the blog “Go Fug Yourself” which I learned of via the blog “Feministe,” see e.g. this and this.

“You’re at the Grammy Awards, honey, not the gynecologist. Put your peaches back in the can, stand up straight, and stop visually begging people to use their trophies as a speculum.”

“The Go Fug Yourself Celebrity Terror Watch squad is commencing a Sternum Watch for Sheryl Crow: It doesn’t help that this dress is enforcing a high waistline on her that gives her lower half a bizarre dumpyness, but that torso is a frightening thing. Dating a professional and highly competitive cyclist probably sent her over the fitness edge; now we’re worried that breaking up with said professional cyclist might have driven her away from the fridge. That’s not cleavage — that’s a cutting board.

“We consider this a high alert situation that needs to be monitored and, as quickly as possible, repaired. Somebody please make her some fried chicken, or take her to Jack In The Box for some meat and cheese between slices of butter-soaked sourdough. Britney? Where are you, dear? You’re needed. Sheryl can hold Sean Preston on her lap (if she has the strength) while you take her through the drive-thru.”

If you follow the first link to “Feministe” above and skim the comments, you will see that I had a brief exchange with “Feministe” blogger “Zuzu,” who says (about my reaction to yet another “Go Fug Yourself” post that troubled me), “Cripes, Ann. You’re taking this way too seriously… It’s supposed to be funny. And it is, if one unclenches one’s sphincter.”

One of the many reasons I’m glad that I am a law professor rather than an actor or musician is that I don’t have to worry much about my hair, make-up or clothes; I’d be unemployed if I did. I grieve for the talented performers who spend inordinate time and money on dieting, plastic surgery, hair styling, and cosmetics applications, and still fall short of “the celebrity look” that must be portrayed before their acting or musical abilities will even be considered by their industries. The most I have to fear is “feedback” on my appearance by students who make observations about my legs, hair and sartorial selections in their course evaluations. Occasionally harsh and inappropriate, none has risen to the level of abject meanness and misogyny I perceive at “Go Fug Yourself,” although the goal of putting the dumb girl in her place is probably the same. I just don’t understand how anyone who identified as a feminist could endorse “Go Fug Yourself” even as a “guilty pleasure.” Maybe this is evidence of my own internalized biases and intolerance, I don’t know. Has my sense of humor atrophied?

–Ann Bartow

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0 Responses to Is This Funny?

  1. Sour Duck says:

    “Has my sense of humor atrophied?”

    No, it hasn’t.

    Surprised to read Zuzu’s reaction.

  2. spotted elephant says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your sense of humor. I have to admit that I do have conflict over situations like these. On the one hand, I get angry seeing successful women helping to perpetuate the cookie-cutter, male-defined standard of beauty. Stop going along with it and fight against it, already!

    That said, I think that mocking these women is hateful. Do famous women dress in silly and/or unattractive ways? Yes. So do the men. But the scorn is reserved for the women.

  3. Cho says:

    Don’t think you’ve lost your sense of humour at all.
    Celebrity and fashion magazines constantly have sections where they rate a women’s apperance at some big event out of ten.
    When men dress weird, they very rarely get any seroius criticism. People accept them the way they are as weird dressers. They might even be admired for being a little different. But when women dress weird they get dissed, not just by magazines, but by commentators on the box. Men can just be individuals, but women always have to be pleasing, i.e. beautiful.

  4. Mrs. Coulter says:

    I’m with you on this. On the one hand, it is funny. But the premise of the humor is thoroughly misogynist. The focus on rating women’s appearance is distasteful. Lindsay Beyerstein, however, thinks you’re totally humorless, because the authors just want celebrities to “do it right”. Sigh.

  5. Yeah, well. each to her own. I didn’t even post the most egregious examples, like when they made fun of 12 year old Dakota Fanning. I didn’t want to compound the wrong. Thanks for commenting.

    –Ann Bartow

  6. Ann Bartow says:

    There is a short post about this at “” in the “Hit and Run” section, the text of which is:

    “Lindsay Beyerstein defends the right of every good feminist to enjoy Go Fug Yourself.”

    Jeepers, I had no idea that enjoying Go Fug Yourself was “a right” or that this post was putting that right in jeopardy, or that when I criticize something, this is completely identical to censorship, and “rights” are violated, and also I am opposed to sex. Whew.

  7. Mhairi says:

    I find it really surprising that everyone here’s lining up to say Go Fug Yourself is anti-feminist. I consider myself a feminist and one who’s frequently horrified by the stuff the glossy magazines peddle at women. However, I’ve never felt a second’s guilt at enjoying the Fugging, and this is why: go back over what they’ve written. They’re having a pop at what clothes rich people – both male and female – choose to put on and their vulgar behaviour, which is a matter of choice, not simply their physical appearance per se. Sheryl Crow above is being criticised for being ‘media standard’ thin, ie, worryingly so. There is *much* more insidious, dodgy stuff in the disingenuous ‘handwringing’ articles which purport not to have an opinion about a star but note how they’ve packed on a few pounds, or look older. And Go Fug is a healthy backlash against the way we have certain celebs constantly pushed in our faces as ideals of beauty and style by the fashion industry. Finally: Go Fug is really well written & funny. Women being allowed to be clever and funny is still a problematic thing for people – note the barbs on the site about how the Fuggers must’ve been ‘fat in high school’, ie, jealous – an accusation never levelled at a man who’s critical of a high profile male. You should be applauding them, not getting on the humourless high horse: feminism isn’t about never saying anything rude about women, up to and including Paris Hilton.

  8. Ann Bartow says:

    Funny you mention Sheryl Crow, since she was undergoing cancer treatments at the time, which certainly reduces the humor of the situation for most people.

    I don’t read or experience GFY the way you do, not even close. I don’t expect we’ll persuade each other; you might enjoy the recent comments thread on this topic at Pandagon.

  9. Mhairi says:

    That photo is from the 2006 Grammys at the start of February, Sheryl Crow made an announcement about having cancer at the end of that month. The spirit of Go Fug Yourself is a million miles from mocking people with serious illness, and I’d have checked my facts before I suggested otherwise.
    Thanks for the Pandagon tip!

  10. Ann Bartow says:

    If the facts are exactly as you report them, that is exactly what GFY did. Crow was ill with cancer at the time she was photographed, and GFY made fun of her weight loss. Perhaps the writers at GFY did not know she had cancer when they wrote the post, but they certainly knew by the end of the month. Did they take it down or modify it when they learned about the cancer? No, obviously not. Anytime someone loses a lot of weight, illness may be the cause: anorexia, bulemia and AIDS, diabetes and cancer are just a few of the illnesses that can cause weight loss, but GFY has a whole series of posts mocking celebs they view as “too thin” without any concern at all about the cause.

  11. Mhairi says:

    OK, but you implied they knowingly mocked a cancer sufferer, failure to modify the post later in the light of new evidence is a lesser crime, surely? And Sheryl Crow has been very thin for years, she didn’t suddenly lose a lot of weight from illness.
    The point is, there are an army of female celebrities who diet furiously to keep themselves stick thin, publicly insist they eat like horses and give ordinary women neuroses, while the fashion industry pats them on the back and hold them up as body ideals. Go Fug rails against that. And on the whole, except when a woman is parading painfully jutting collarbones, they discuss the fashion, not the figure.

  12. Ann Bartow says:

    GFY constantly mocks people for being too thin, too fat, too slutty, too old, etc. They also say cruel things about people who seem to have substance abuse problems and/or mental illnesses. They pander to very base instincts by nastily putting down celebrities, mostly women, who need to be perceived as beautiful to continue to work in their chosen careers. I guess reading GFY’s put downs makes some readers feel better about themselves. This is not feminism as I understand it.

  13. Mhairi says:

    I’ve never seen GFY mock people for being too fat or too old, and slutty is behaviour as much as appearance – from what you’ve said re: thinness, a journalist or commentator shouldn’t make a joke about any famous figure unless they’re au fait with all the details of their medical history, personal life and equipped with a crystal ball. I’m sure the celebs and their PRs would be right with you on that. You say the GFY creed is ‘putting the dumb girl in her place’, which apparently translates as: ‘Don’t say mean things about Paris Hilton even when she’s shoving her behind at the camera in minidress at the MTV Awards, because it’s a betrayal of the sisterhood.’ No it isn’t, in the face of a sexist media and those who play its game, GFY asserts the values of women who are humorous and intelligent & don’t want the likes of Paris as a role model. There is a power imbalance here – one independent website versus millionairesses in couture who otherwise get acres of fawning press – and you seem to have the David and Goliath mixed up.
    The type of feminism you espouse is the ivory tower sort – yes, in a perfect world, no-one would judge or comment on how anyone looked, and no-one would feel pressure to look a certain way, and in this utopian aesthetic democracy there would be no scathingly witty websites pulling apart people’s red carpet outfits. In the imperfect one we do live in, GFY are not the enemy, let alone misogynists. In the context of this thread, I find the Alice Walker quote at the top of this page extremely ironic!

  14. Ann Bartow says:

    You are intentionally mischaracterizing and exagerating what I have said, and the jibe about the Alice Walker quote is unfair and demonstrates a lack of good faith in this dialogue. Have I done anything to silence GFY? Anything at all? If criticism = silencing, aren’t you pretty much doing that to me?

    How familiar are you with GFY, exactly? Because there is an entire section called “celebrity bloat watch” that is all about celebs that have gained weight. And, all you have to do is read what is posted above to see a snide reference to Britney Spears’ weight. And if you want to see “slut” accusations, check out the section on Tara Reid, just for starters. Sheeesh.

    If GFY wanted to critique couture, it could do so without the misogynistic insults to the people wearing the clothes. Some of the actors and musicians that GFY mocks are people who, in my view, do very good work. I doubt they worry much about GFY and frankly neither do I, except when people try to characterize it as “feminist,” which, obviously, I powerfully take issue with. GFY doesn’t assert my values or those of anyone I respect. There are ways to be funny without pointing out big asses or droopy breasts; it just takes more effort and talent than the GFY bloggers seem to muster most of the time.

  15. Mhairi says:

    Sorry for long post, but:
    My point about the Alice Walker quote was: you don’t think they should say the things they say, which yes, is about silencing someone! But no, of course I’m not suggesting you’re actively trying to silence them…aren’t you being a bit literal here, deliberately?
    Funny you accuse me of intentionally mischaracterizing and exaggerating when I think that’s precisely what you’ve been doing to GFY. I’d honestly never read a ‘bloat watch’ post so I went back & checked. You’re absolutely right it exists – it’s one of the few taste issues where I do part company with GFY, actually – but one thing about you using this example rather rankles. *They’re all men*. According to this discussion, women are sole victims of GFY because the authors are such rabid haters of their own sex, and men don’t feature – see above, “the scorn is reserved for the women.” This is just plain wrong. As for Tara Reid and Britney Spears, they often attract derision for acting like idiots. Her physical features aside, if I criticised Tara purely for needlessly hanging out of a half-sewn together skimpy dress, seeming stoned at a premiere and generally letting herself down with both her sartorial choices and her behaviour, does that make me a misogynist, then? And would making fun of Will Smith’s tasteless tux make me racist? These are questions worth asking if anyone who criticises a woman for dressing/playing/being dumb can be accused not only of sexism, but the hyperbole of ‘misogyny.’ You say: ‘If GFY wanted to critique couture, it could do so without the misogynistic insults to the people wearing the clothes.’ I’d be interested to know exactly how this feminist version of a site like GFY would work then, because it seems to me that any form of fashion criticism by these measures is beyond the pail, as fashion choices = a woman’s physical appearance, so mocking/criticism of woman’s appearance = misogyny. Oh, and ‘Some of the actors and musicians that GFY mocks are people who, in my view, do very good work’. So let’s add the additional rule ‘once made a film/album i quite like = person who should not be laughed at, ever, even if they rock up at an event in a rhinestone sweatsuit.’

  16. Ann Bartow says:

    You are simply making things up, falsely attributing statements to me that I did not and would not make, and then arguing against them. Why you are doing this I have no idea.

    If you enjoy GFY, go ahead and read it, no one is stopping you.

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