The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

She Works Hard For The Money.

Posted by Cate on July 25, 2008

I’m wondering what Dawn Chorus readers think of this picture which appeared in a Beth Ditto photoshoot for Nylon Magazine, June 2008, page 168:

Blogger Thread Bared has plenty to critique about the editorial including the comment:

It’s about the woman who may or may not be a real housekeeper at the motel at which this editorial was photographed, sitting on the edge of the bed with a handful of cards and gazing at Ditto with a weary but guarded expression. In the story that coalesces for me, studying this photograph, she has just been forced to play cards with a guest — not because she wants to, but because she could lose her job if she doesn’t. Nor does the game even feel like a break from her domestic labor; this sort of affective labor is no less taxing. In her mind (in the story I imagine about this editorial), she calculates how much longer she’ll have to stay and clean in order to meet her day’s quota

It’s certainly food for thought, particularly as Beth Ditto is an outspoken fatshionista, feminist, queer activitist and rolemodel for many. She writes an advice column for The Guardian newspaper in the UK on tops as diverse as vegetarianism, feminism, bisexuality, coming out, gay identities and fashion.

I’d like to think she’d have been rather disappointed with the pic.


11 Responses to “She Works Hard For The Money.”

  1. Jessica said

    Photoshoots are like fiction in that they tell a story. They’re fantasy in a way. Not a true representation of someone’s personal beliefs. And hopefully they make the viewer think.

    The question is: is Beth Ditto being Beth Ditto, or is she playing a character in the photoshoot?

    I don’t understand people’s need to want to try and PC everything. Being ‘safe’ is boring and dumb. Making people think is more important.

  2. sassy said

    the other thing to consider is when would you EVER see a realistic looking ‘maid’ in a magazine otherwise?

    if you really do sympathise or relate or just feel an interest in this kind of lifestyle or who you imagine this person to be … then this editorial is really a massive step forward.

    it raises some kind of question instead of just showing you happyhappy hipster fashion pics (or models dressed as sassy hotbitch french maids).

  3. Clem Bastow said

    Yes but given that, isn’t her inclusion just for freak/shock/wow value, then?

  4. mscate said

    Sassy, I know what you mean about consciousness raising, it’s not like maids in the US are paid well or privy to many workplace rights, but I’m not sure this picture portrays any consideration to this. I thought her inclusion was in contrast to Beth’s-her role is to make Beth look more glamourous and exotic.

  5. sassy said

    well I actually thnk the beth ditto inclusion in pretty much every mag she’s in is for shock value. yes she is talented, and certainly she has a whole host of opinions, but at the end of the day I think her appeal is her freak-show factor. it ‘s Amazing and Intriguing to fashion mag publishers and readers that any woman could be fat and be happy. or more specifically, be fat about being happy.

    so my interpretation doesn’t necessarily have ‘the maid’ functioning as a decive to make beth glamorous.

    rather I think it’s more of a stark reminder of how frivolous fashion is … it’s meant to feel make you feel (ever so breifly) awkward about it.

    nylon’s trying to have it’s cake and eat it too, in other words.

  6. Clem Bastow said

    @ sassy, I actually meant the maid was there for shock value, i.e. “don’t our designer duds look even more designer next to this blue collar worker?”

  7. mscate said

    Actually i find it ironic that Beth models clothing for designers-apparently they make outfits especially for her. To my knowledge, none of the designers who dress her are known for their collections for large women or even feature clothing in larger sizes.

    She’s still effectively, ‘the other’ and while she shows women can be fat and fashionable, they still can’t buy her clothes.
    I don’t find this very progressive.

    (If I’m wrong and there’s suddenly a new larger size range from some designer or other I’d be interested to hear about it).

  8. Clem Bastow said

    The only one I can think of is Leona Edmiston expanding her range to include dresses and other items that go to Size 24.

  9. sassy said

    no that’s exactly what I meant clem – I don’t think that the maid is meant to be the foil to the obscenely glamorous beth .. and one of the reasons is that when she appears in fashion mags beth already IS the other. you know?

    she’s a kind of novelty in herself. and pretty soon designers and fashion editors will get over her particular brand of novelty and she won’t be of any interest any more.

    the two women are both equally ‘anti-fashion’ – one because she’s dowdy and one because she’s a fattie. I think this is nylon’s way of trying to be ‘subversive’ or ‘edgy’ when really they’re still effectively just selling things (most of the time on the usual models and scene icons)

    that’s what I mean by having their cake and eating it too.

  10. estelle said

    this image irks me in the same way the ang lee film ‘lust, caution’ irked me (though probably not as much). it glamorises an oppressive situation, and, as sassy said, wants a pat on the head for noticing power disparities, but a money shot as well.

  11. cathy said

    mscate Said:

    “Actually i find it ironic that Beth models clothing for designers-apparently they make outfits especially for her. To my knowledge, none of the designers who dress her are known for their collections for large women or even feature clothing in larger sizes.”

    I have heard numerous times that if you have money, you can get something in any size. I am not assuming Beth Ditto has a lot of money, but am just saying it’s possible to get stuff that fits and is “designer”. It all goes back to class here.

    Beth is really nice person who comes from a really poor background as far as I know. I’m not saying this makes the picture acceptable, but perhaps all the more unfortunate.

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