A few weeks ago, one of the major local TV networks asked me to contribute to post-Golden Globes red carpet commentary. It was an amazing opportunity that would've put me in front of an audience I don't normally reach; Even folks who don't care much about fashion often take an interest in awards season finery. And, of course, it would've been great for the ol' resume.
None of the TV stations in town are particularly acid or negative, but knowing what I know about expectations for red carpet recaps, I responded with some parameters. In addition to highlighting looks from some of the women of color and women of size in attendance, I insisted on a positive spin.
"I don't do bodysnarking and don't want to talk about 'disasters' or focus on negatives. I would want the segment to focus on the best looks of the night and why they worked," I told the producer.
I was disappointed when they declined to bring me on. But not surprised.
Snark sells, ya see. In this day and age, liking something or someone makes you uninteresting and ignorable. Focusing on positives is considered a cop-out, and failing to point out flaws, errors and missteps makes you appear less expert. But hating something or someone? Criticizing every minute detail? Honing in on the ill-fitting, the unflattering, the less-than-perfect and pointing and shaking your head and smiling knowingly? That is what the media wants. That makes you engaging, interesting, a person of note. Even if what you're saying is ill-informed or irrelevant, as long as it's scathing, it's golden.
And I won't do it. I won't condone it and I certainly won't participate in it. We need a world with less judgment in it, not more. I am not saying this to pat myself on the back or peer down my nose from my moral high-horse. I am saying this because I think many people believe there's no harm in saying nasty things about celebs and their style choices since, after all, they have paid stylists and armies of beauty workers at their disposal. But by directing this kind of haughty criticism at famous people -- most often famous women, of course -- we normalize the behavior. We strip those women of their humanity, judge them from afar, and gloat in our certainty that we'd never have made such poor choices. And once we've decided it's harmless to criticize the choices of total strangers, it becomes that much easier to direct the same scrutiny at coworkers, peers, even friends. I feel in my bones that dishing disdain at celebrities makes it more and more appropriate to throw that same disdain at each other.
Snark sells and it is hard to resist because putting someone else down -- especially someone rich and famous and beautiful -- can create a momentary rush of pleasure. But what is gained in the long run? A culture that continues to judge women on their appearances and fashion choices above all else. A culture that teaches its daughters to laugh at their peers and point and snicker and shame and alienate. A culture that pits women against each other as if there is a limited amount of beauty, success or talent in the world and someone else's overwhelming good fortune makes it less likely that you'll get some for yourself.
I know it can feel hard to resist at times, but I beg of you: Don't add your voice to the chorus of put-downs. Don't encourage your girlfriends to dissect celeb blunders and laugh at their missteps. Do you best to resist judging and criticizing your fellow women, famous or otherwise. As harmless as it may feel in the moment, this behavior encourages a form of woman-on-woman hate that benefits no one.
Snark sells. But you don't have to buy it.
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