Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ask a Feminist: Why Should I Listen to Feminists When You're All So Gosh Darn Ugly?

Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem, in her former days as a playboy bunny, is a prime
example of why feminists are too gosh-darn ugly to be taken seriously.
Alternatively, this week's question is also, "What's a pretty girl like you doing in an ugly movement like this?"

Of course, nobody actually asked me those questions - asking a question implies you want to hear an answer, and I'm apparently both too ugly and too pretty to be a voice worth listening to. Which is bad news to the hundreds - yes hundreds of writing students I've taught. The smart ones didn't waste their time listening to me, but for all the others, that's time they will never get back to listen to a proper authority: a man.

If you've been following my facebook rants, you probably know what inspired this post: basically, some anonymous reader was trolling through archive posts and when that reader encountered a group photo that included yours truly, the pompous ass diligent reader thought it his/her duty to mansplain explain why I'm too ugly to have any credibility. In his/her own words:

I think a lot of feminist arguments are discredited by the simple fact that most of them are ugly. Of course they will start pondering about power balances and stuff like that which most normal women couldn't care less about.

For example in that prom picture, it's quite easy to spot the ugliest person (no offense).

That "no offense" is definitely my favorite part, but I don't know which delights me more: seeing an anonymous troll add on "no offense" after calling me ugly or the fact that said troll only added on "no offense" after calling me ugly, not after stating that my ugliness discredited my entire argument. I guess I'm just not enough of a "normal" woman, or I'd only care about attacks on my appearance?

A lot of people would just dismiss or even delete a comment that's so clearly ignorant and antagonistic. But that comment isn't the first time I've heard similar sentiments about feminists in general, and there is just enough almost-eloquence in the writing to suggest that this person was sincere, not just looking to cause trouble. Plus, let's be honest: if you want to cause trouble, do you really post a comment on an archival post that's nearly two years old? If I hadn't been looking over the comments to search for blatant spam, I never would have noticed it.

The commenter seems just as sincere and unaware of his/her own ignorance as a man who inspired the second version of today's question. About seven years ago, as I was discussing my beliefs about gender with a group of friends, a college-age man I had just met said, "But it's surprising that you're a feminist: you're pretty!" He seemed to think he'd paid me a compliment and couldn't imagine why I was not impressed by him. He went on to explain that he was taking a gender studies class to pick up girls, but to his great disappointment, the girls were not pretty. Fancy that - women who are more focused on learning than on making themselves physically appealing to their male classmates.

In the recent case with Troll, Troll doesn't even seem to have read my article, so I'm not even sure that I'm the "ugliest" individual that he/she finds so easy to spot. Frankly, I'm not even sure that Troll had a particular person in mind, especially since my post establishes that I'm not the only feminist in the photo. But this still seems like a case of a stereotype-steeped individual who refuses to see any evidence to the contrary: if all feminists are ugly, and this is Troll's reason for not listening to them, then why bother reading an article by a feminist? Why not just glance at a photo, choose some poor high school girl in a group photo, determine that the teenager is ugly based on one awkward pose, and then assume that girl is the only feminist in the photo, and thus the author of the post.

And then, after all those convoluted assumptions, Troll decides that a woman who is lacking in physical appeal isn't even worth listening to. Well, dear Troll, your statement simply proves the very need for feminism. So I'm going to answer the questions you should have asked.

Why should I listen to feminists when they're ugly women, and I assume that ugly women's voices don't matter?

Because you think physical appearance is even capable of dismissing a woman's worth. Because you need to learn how wrong you are.

Why would you be a feminist when you're pretty? 

Because you don't recognize that all women are beautiful. Because you assume that attractive women wouldn't advocate for equality.

And, in the style of Joss Whedon: because you keep asking. 

So, in celebration of Ugly Feminists everywhere, here are some of the Ugly Feminists of Not Another Wave:

Rachel, contributor

Aimee, guest contributor

And of course, me.


  1. Yeah, you three are so ugly. /sarcasm.

    Over at The 100 Hour Board (as a BYU student, you may have heard of it?) there was once a question that I can't seem to find now that went along the lines of, "I can't respect/like people [read: women] I'm not attracted to." (oh, here it is: http://theboard.byu.edu/questions/62750/)

    People who can't take another person seriously based on their appearance are a special kind of shallow. Makes me wonder if they would have liked your blog if you hadn't put any pictures up, or if they would have found something else to criticize.

  2. Great post Emily. I love the questions that he should have asked. You are absolutely right--when people think that physical appearance is related to a person's worth there is definitely a problem. Thank you for your efforts in advocating for equality.