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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kat Gets a Makeover Because Feminists Are Ugly

As some of you may know, I like trashy television -- especially trashy teen television. I have talked about the show 10 Things I Hate About You before in relation to how feminists are silenced in high school. So, I was watching 10 Things I Hate About You last night and wasn't very pleased with what I saw.

I love the character of Kat. She's a feminist who isn't afraid to speak her mind. But, as gnatalby at Booze.Tv.Food. points out, Kat has been getting the "ugly makeover." The actress who plays Kat is obviously a very beautiful young woman. But she's been made to look not ugly but as if she doesn't care about her looks.

First of all, I don't really there is such a thing as not caring about what you look like. Even if you try to put off that image, you care that you are putting off that image. But there's nothing wrong with not partaking in patriarchal and societal standards of beauty. But in last night's episode, Kat gets a makeover from her sister before the dance. While there's nothing wrong with wanting to look nice for the dance, I found some things about this plot line kind of troubling.

For the most part, this is the main thing that I had a problem with: when Bianca, her sister, is applying makeup on Kat, she starts complaining about why women would do this, that it is just a patriarchal standard of beauty. But she obviously wears makeup all the time on the show.

It's not so much that she wears makeup all the time and then complains about it, it's the reinforcement that feminists are ugly or hate making themselves look good that bothers me. By having Kat go from not conforming to societal standards of beauty to having this makeover to make her "pretty" just reinforces the idea that feminists are not attractive. Yes, Kat before the makeover was beautiful. But Bianca didn't see it that way. Bianca sees her sister as someone who doesn't care how she looks so she took it upon herself to pretty-up her sister...for the benefit of her date.

Probably not the biggest deal. But I've been very interested in how
10 Things I Hate About You is portraying their feminist heroine. By portraying her as someone in need of a makeover shows that her feminist values (and therefore the teens who watch this show will see feminist values as this) lie in not in presentation of self. While I don't think that you have to be preoccupied with your self-presentation, I think that everyone partakes in it. And by portraying feminists as "not pretty," it is just perpetuating stereotypes of feminists.


Whiner said...

First of all, I don't really there is such a thing as not caring about what you look like. Even if you try to put off that image, you care that you are putting off that image.

... Huh? Seriously, a big huge NO. Many people, on a daily basis, do not think about what they look like beyond the minimums required to not get arrested or otherwise barred from where they're going. (Can't go out naked. Can't go to school with a toothbrush stuck in your rat'snest of hair, you'll get picked on.)

A person who throws on jeans and a t-shirt because they're there is not necessarily thinking "Hmm, do I look casual and fancy-free?" but rather "Clothes. Are they clean? Good."

Laura said...

I believe in the sociological concept of impression management or presentation of the self. This is the idea that everybody is constantly controlling how they are perceived by society -- and it doesn't have to always be conscious. People who want to be seen as "not caring" have to manage that impression as well. Everyone, in some way or another, whether conscious or not, cares about their appearance.

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