Beth Ditto of The Gossip is on this week's cover of the NME magazine. Barely a few days old, the image has already created quite a stir over in gossip communities like ohnotheydidnt and even daily newspapers and TV shows. I must admit, when I first saw the cover, I was a bit ruffled by it. My issue wasn't so much that Beth Ditto is overweight and on the cover of a magazine, but that we're supposed to "kiss her ass" just because she's doing a supposedly radical thing, when to me, it really is the same thing as putting a starving Nicole Richie naked on the cover with the same kind of "EAT THIS" attitude. Why do we praise one and criticize the other? Furthermore, I found it degrading that she had to pose nude. Nevermind that she's overweight and we're more accustomed to seeing bikini models on the covers of magazines -- why do females still feel the need to use sexuality as some form of power? Why do they think they will only get attention when naked? Sometimes it's entertaining, as in the style of sleazy Terry Richardson photos, and sometimes it is necessary and even beautiful and artistic. But this is a music magazine, and we're talking about how "cool" Beth Ditto is. Is she only cool because she is always taking her clothes off and telling us to kiss her ass, because people wouldn't expect her to say and do those things? It just screamed "bad taste" to me, and not the loveable John Waters kind. It just seemed all shock and no substance.
However, the issue isn't as black and white as "Beth Ditto is gross" or "Posing naked on magazine covers is gross" or even "Posing naked on magazine covers when you're overweight is gross." I can see how some people would admire it -- heck, even a part of me is amazed she has the balls to do such a thing. You gotta respect that, and I'm glad she has so much confidence. At the same time, I just wish she didn't feel she had to stoop so low to get the attention she deserves just for being her and being a great frontwoman of an interesting band. That's the real press she should be getting, not that she's fat and strips to her skivvies during concerts. Doesn't she see the NME is basically using her to sell more copies? They don't really care about the sort of "statement" she is trying to make, or even about her music. If they did, they would've just let her pose in normal clothing -- unless, of course, the naked thing was her idea.
Then again, I always think, why do I find it okay when I see Iggy Pop stark naked on the cover of a magazine? I don't think he's degrading himself at all; I think he is being a total rock star. His music is sex, so it is only natural for him to be the living, breathing embodiment of the carnal act itself. Why do I not care when men appear in various stages of undress, but feel somewhat disappointed when a woman - regardless of her size - feels she always needs to be the coy little girl hiding her boobs while simultaneously untying her lace panties? Don't get me wrong: sometimes I like to see nudity in magazines, especially fashion magazines. I think the female form is beautiful, and I totally geek out over all that sleazy Victoria's Secret, Playboy bunny stuff. However, I feel that when you're a female musician who is trying to sell first and foremost her music, nudity is not only besides the point but completely unnecessary. I am always juggling between two beliefs: 1) that nudity is unnecessary and 2) that nudity is the ultimate "fuck you," a true mark of rock & roll. I think I will always see-saw between the two.
Regarding Beth's interview, I haven't read it completely yet, but what I have read I liked. She seems like a very grounded woman and a good friend. I also admire how passionate she is about gay rights (she's a lesbian and is dating a transgendered individual who was born a woman but identifies herself as a man). She's obviously a tough cookie, and her opinions are well-researched and eloquently stated. She makes good points about the "pretty face" backhanded compliment (you know the one -- "Oh, you have a pretty face... (Too bad about the body)"), dieting, and the whole "please others to please yourself" machine. Being a girl who has struggled with weight all my life (and still go through it sometimes), I'm proud that Beth is out there shedding light on matters that are often completely overlooked in the fat vs. skinny debate. Sometimes it's not just about thin being right and fat being wrong -- what happens when you're chubby, even obese, but you're still proud of your body? Are you wrong for thinking that? Must you conform to what society says all the time, just because it's easier that way? The interview made me think, which is rare in this day and age when articles are usually all about kissing the artist's ass and inserting a few of their soundbytes in-between. Definitely a must-read.