If there is, among my circles of feminist acquaintance, any woman who is NOT half in-love with Margaret Cho, I’ll eat my copy of Intercourse. I didn’t really get acquainted with Cho until I was in my mid-twenties, which is to say until I started feeling like I might actually own myself. And then, some lazy law school afternoon (I rarely attended classes), I watched Cho’s HBO special and laughed my ass off and wondered why I wasn’t even half as awesome as she was.
So I was surprised, recently, to hear that she was a part of this new Lifetime series called Drop Dead Diva, in which a thin woman dies and her soul is somehow transported to the body of a fat woman. (Mea culpa: I haven’t watched this yet for psychological/I-only-have-so-much-time-for-tv reasons, but you can read Jezebel’s take on the first episode here.) When you have a show that seems so obviously destined to subscribe to old tropes about the thin and the not-thin (I hear there is an aerosol cheese incident), it’s hard to reconcile that with the kickass image I’ve built up of Ms. Cho. But, don’t treat people like ciphers, blah blah blah.
While sort of musing about this on the second track of my brain I happened to come across an interview with Margaret in the Huffington Post. It’s not a great interview because the interviewer mostly bought the press packet, for this show, hook, line and sinker, but then Margaret says something that I found interesting and illustrative of why she might participate in a project like this:
… I always thought that people told you that you’re beautiful, that this was a title that was bestowed upon you – that it was other people’s responsibility to give you this title. And I’m sick of waiting, people! [laughs] Waiting around for people to tell me that I was! I’m tired of waiting. And I think that the world is pretty cruel to women, in what it considers beautiful and what it celebrates as beauty. And I think that it’s time to take into our own hands this power and to say, “You know what – I’m beautiful – I just am. And that’s my light – I’m just a beautiful woman.” And I am just going to start talking about how beautiful I am, and people will start talking about it after I start talking it. And I’ve noticed – and I’ve done this now for a couple of years – and it’s changed the way that I carry myself, it’s changed the way that people respond to me, and it’s changed the way that I feel , and I think this is an important experiment and an important thing for people to do. To start telling people that you’re beautiful, or just feel beautiful, just start acting like you are the most beautiful woman in the world. And it really improves everything! Because your sort of psyche responds to it – like this is truthful! I think self-deprecation is such a disease, and I want to cure everybody of it and so that’s my contribution.
There’s a Stuart Smalley element to all of this, of course: tell yourself you are beautiful and you will be; tell everyone else and they’ll think so too. We toss this idea around, women do, when we talk about being confident (often in terms of “what guys want,” but in other contexts too), as if that would change everything.
But I know what Margaret is trying to do here, and I respect it. I respect it because the more times beautiful gets associated with things that other people maintain, often vehemently, are NOT beautiful, maybe we might be able to drill a hole in this big wall.
As I said above, I’m not yet in a position to opine as to that particular show. And I’m on record as saying I don’t think claiming that we have power is the same thing as actually having it. But do any of you find any comfort in these kind of mantras? I don’t myself, but I am beginning to wonder if I ought to try.