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March 14, 2006

Hell yes, "Go Fug Yourself" is funny

Feminist law professor Ann Bartow can't understand why anyone is amused by Go Fug Yourself, the celebrity fashion snark blog.

Ann writes:

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?

Last month, I was walking down the street in Amsterdam with my American blogger buddies and our new Dutch friends. We were talking about whether there were any blogs with truly global appeal. Someone suggested "Go Fug Yourself." We laughed at first, but gradually it dawned on us that there was a lot of truth to that statement. Its appeal transcends age, gender, and sexual orientation. You don't have to follow high fashion or care about celebrity gossip.

Some GFY fans I know: a married Dutch socialist organizer, a Canadian geekboy and fashion agnostic, a bunch of jazz musicians, uber-trendy New York account executives, barely legal DC policy wonks, feminist bloggers from red and blue states, Williamsburg alt culture types, random Brooklyn subway riders ... Basically everyone I know. The fact that the site is popular doesn't mean it isn't misogynist. However, I think the diversity of the site's audience suggests that there's more going on that simple-minded anti-celebrity sniping. First off, the authors, Heather and Jessica are good writers with sharp eyes for absurd detail. They also have good taste in clothes. They don’t just criticize, they inform. They tend to focus on pictures of potentially trendy outfits turned monstrous because of miscalculations in color, cut, fit, or accessories.

Ultimately, I think the key to their widespread appeal is that they are bitchy without being truly mean spirited. They usually restrict their scathing comments about the clothes. If they mention a celebrity’s body type or features, it’s almost always complimentary (“She’s got great legs, but you’d never guess when she wears those ¾ length leggings and Ugg boots…”).

Ann thinks it’s unfair that GFY subjects celebrities to this level of scrutiny. I agree that unsolicited comments about a law professor’s wardrobe are presumptuous and offensive. It’s not the professor’s job to dress for the delectation of her audience. However, the fact is that for celebrities and socialites, looking good and being seen are part of their jobs. Most of the GFY photos are taken from PR events where celebrities are invited to pose for the camera.

I don’t think that GFY is misogynist at all. The majority of GFY's targets are women, but that’s probably because female celebreties are expected to dress more flamboyantly. GFY also makes fun of male celebrities daily.

There's nothing intrinsically anti-sex or anti-woman about GFY's commentary. Sometimes the authors make fun of excessively revealing outfits, but that’s because they think exposed breast tape and visible thongs are tacky and sloppy, not because they evince more turpitude.

Maybe the real secret of GFY’s appeal that the authors aren’t contemptuous of fashion or celebrity in general. If I wrote about celebrities, I’d just sound bitter because celebrity culture annoys me. Heather and Jessica take obvious delight in the fact that famous people dress up and parade around for our enjoyment. They just want people to do it right.

Some people would argue that feminists should ignore celebrities and fashion on general principle. Maybe by making fun of people's clothes, we're legitimizing unhealthy preoccupations with appearance and the personal lives of a handful pampered public figures. However, for me, Go Fug Yourself is a non-guilty pleasure because it mocks the excesses of this decadent culture with humor and insight. The celebrities take their own exhibitionism very seriously but GFY deflates their pretensions. So, it's not hard to see why feminists and other progressives might enjoy watching them skewer these self-appointed arbiters of taste.


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they won two awards at bloggies nite. So I don't think people can complain if they are good or no good. Obviously they can pull enough people to vote for them. (ie. concrete appeal)

PS. obviously Ann Bartow hasn't seen and She'll faint.

. First off, the authors, Heather and Jessica are good writers

Well, you're half right....

Thanks Lindsay, it _is_ funny. I've seen links to Go Fug Yourself, but never followed the links.

You've got to love this line:
>It's drawstring bag/grieving clown couture
also, the t-shirt saying "Bad grammar makes me [sic]"

feminist law professor=predictably schoolmarmish. Much respect to her achievements, but achievement in humour probably won't be among them. It reminds me of the headline from the Onion: "Feminist Academics Speak Out against Pretty Young Things"

Or the chestnut:

Q: How many radical feminists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: That's not funny!

The larger larger question is why our society is so fixated on appearance and the personal lives of a handful pampered public figures. For me, Go Fug Yourself is a non-guilty pleasure because it mocks the excesses of this decadent culture with humor and insight.

Yes, I think the site is a Spy magazine or an Onion, not a Playboy's Party Jokes.

Only 3 posts until the feminist-bashing began!

Without the Bartow endorsement, GFY will die a slow, painful death as viewers who like to mock trashy celebrities are shamed into compliance. I blame Mr. Blackwell for the patriarchy.

On a related note, I used to/still make fun of Michael Irvin for his wardrobe. I think this makes me a racist.

P.S. I did have a law professor who looked like an adult version of Peanuts' Marcie.

Not that there's any male-bashing that ever goes on at Majikthise...

Only 3 posts until the well-deserved prim feminist lawyer-bashing began!

Let's be exact please.

Hopefully it's obvious that since I'm addressing a feminist blogger, Lindsay, who posted her appreciation for the site, I'm not slagging feminists. But you'll need to be the type of feminist who understands nuance in order to get that.

Hmm. But then, on the other hand celebrities are *boring*! All these people I've seen before posturing in ways I've already seen them posture.

I'm not an avid fashionistia, but my favorite such blog is The Sartorialist. More random and incidental. Lovely. Imho.

So, what exactly, from a feminist perspective, does it mean for female celebrities to "do it right" when they dress up and parade themselves around?

It boggles the mind: a feminist blogger posts a statement from a feminist academic who fails to see the humour in something, because she's thin-skinned about the fact that it involves women, and fails to see that it's roasting only some women, for being superficial (and, um, dressing badly), not because they're women.

I reply to the feminist blogger that it reminds me of those feminists who fail to see the humour in things because they're too thin-skinned about the fact that they involve women. I am commiserating with the feminist blogger about the fact that there are some feminists who are too thin-skinned to take a joke. I even use the old joke, where such a feminist says: "that's not funny!"

Sure enough, a feminist weighs in to say: "that's not funny!", and that she's offended at the feminist-bashing.

Or were you actually joking?

I don't think that Heather and Jessica are sending a feminist message about "doing it right."

I'm not saying that they are feminists, although they may be. Ann was asking how any feminist could enjoy GFY. I'm saying that a lot of feminists and other leftists enjoy GFY because it makes fun of the people who set themselves up as arbiters of taste. Obviously GFY doesn't challenge the idea that these specatacles are important. But you don't have to share the authors'enthusiasm for celebrity culture or endorse the underlying values behind the pageantry to enjoy their work.

Oh I'm utterly cluesslessly iredeemably humor-less, you can confirm that here:
I especially hate it when GFU goes after children like Dakota Fanning, but hey, it's her JOB to look good and be seen...

Ann, I don't think you're humorless. It's not like there's any kind of celebrity fashion blog litmus test around here. If that kind of humor doesn't do it for you, that's fine. Obviously, it's superficial, frequently crass, and sometimes even mean. All I'm saying is that it's not intrinsically misogynist and that it's quite understsandable that a lot of progressive folks enjoy it because they're hostile to celebrity culture (even if the authors aren't).

In response to the earlier comment about the feminist message of "doing it right" I edited the original post to emphasize that I don't think GFY is intrinsically feminist (although it may well be written by feminists, I don't know H&J or their politics).

1984, you forgot the part where you lay out your liberal credentials and tell us that you're 1/8th Cherokee but you can take a joke.

I was waiting for that. Touche'.

OK, there is no such subset of feminists as humorless feminists. And feminist lawyer professors aren't any more likely to be among that non-existent subset.


What's new here that hasn't already been pioneered at Snarkywood??

My all time fav blurb from GFY is "this shrug looks like a Wookie trying to cop a feel."

I find GFY is a great discussion topic/icebreaker - especially at boring office lunch outings.

GFU is funny, at the expense of people who make more money than dog. What more can you ask for? To take GFU seriously is to entirely miss the point.
Not every blog has to be about progressives bravely trying to save the world from the evil reactionaries intent on reviving the worst parts of the Medieval Ages.

Thanks for the clarification. I guess where I part ways with you is that to me, there *is* something *inherently* unfeminist (even misogynist) about the notion that there is a "right way" to parade yourself for the male gaze. I'm not saying that I don't look at some of those photos and think, "god, what an ugly dress," or that some of the snarky commentary doesn't make me laugh sometimes. But like so many things in life, it's problematic and I have to recognize that it's tainted, even as I try to figure out how to live with it.

Ann, sorry you feel roasted. In spite of my flip comments, no, the point is not that you have no sense of humour, but that, as the link you provided shows, you spend way too much time finding things to be shocked at, and you do seem to be so thin-skinned that whenever a gender is alluded to, your sense of humour goes out the window and you go on a signboarding campaign about it. None of the posters here believes in violence against women, unequal pay for women, or that women shouldn't be allowed to pursue whatever profession they want, up to and including the presidency.

But I for one roll my eyes when a woman--with all of the above, far more important issues to think about--spends her time micro-managing people's speech, and trying to change the spelling of German Shepherds to Ger-persun Shepherds, or making the Jim Anchowers of the world say "Flip a Bastard" instead of "Flip a Bitch, Dude," when desiring to make a u-turn. It just seems so trivial.

Also, I think Lindsay's right: you're missing the fact that GFY is not a misogynistic site. It focuses on women's fashion because--duh--men's fashions don't vary enough to make so much hay about them. Men have the suit and the tux, casual slacks and jeans, and that's it. If that's somehow a patriarchal conspiracy to make male fashion free from criticism and keep the womin down, well, it started a long time before Go Fug Yourself did.

To clarify, too: this is not to say that the T-Bogg comments you had a problem with were funny, I don't think they particularly were. Just that you do seem to lose your marbles a bit about the issue of politically correct speech, and I agree with Lindsay that you're going overboard to get prim about GFY.

Posted by: Ann Bartow | March 14, 2006 at 04:19 PM

I am sorry, but yer not funny.

Squashed universal rules of cool and effective bashing.

No.1. Witty is a must. (bonus point on ironic and subtle contemporary cultural reference)

No.2. once No.1 is applied, feel free to say anything ..

GFY vs. FLP.

FLP counter: 18353 (total)
Technorati Rank: 32,718 (105 links from 61 sites)

GFY counter: 32,031,950 (average per day:149,738, last hour: 11,528 know prof. GFY has more reader in half hour than your entire blogging career. Hell, my dinky site peak on a good day beats your average, and I am a total n00b.

.... to put it simply : NOBODY CARES ...

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