A little while ago, I read an article on the Sydney Morning Herald website about Australia’s favourite ex-Victoria’s Secret model, Miranda Kerr. The headline link was something like, “Kerr on Alpha Females.” My inner sadomasochist cackled, barely audible over layers of plastered bunny gifs and puppy pictures, “Go on, this’ll be a hoot.” Well, didn’t I get a surprise. This WTF Wednesday, I’m writing about something that happened almost two weeks ago, because that’s how long it’s taken me to be able to think about it without entering a state of brain-melting despair in which I have to fight the urge to beat my head on the keyboard.
In an interview with online magazine The Edit (put together by staffers at luxury fashion site net-a-porter,) Kerr spoke about her marriage to Orlando Bloom, and what she’s doing differently in her life that makes that relationship work. According to Miranda, her past relationships failed because of her tendency to “… feel that [she] can do it on [her] own,” and that “… that is generally a mistake.” (p13, The Edit, June 20, 2013.)Fair enough, most people do better when they can share their life with somebody else, no man is an island, blah, blah, blah. But it got worse.
“If you’re really an alpha female, you don’t allow [your partner] to have the space to feel like the man in the relationship. Maybe I am too traditional, but men feel important when you ask for their help, instead of thinking you can do it all on your own.” (The Edit, ibid.)
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Sorry, doesn’t look like I’ve overcome that urge completely after all. But seriously, WTF? The smh article compares MKerr’s gaffe to that of poor old Miss Utah, who garbled something about the need to “create education better,” (Sydney Morning Herald website, June 24, 2013,) but I don’t really think that the two instances are in the same category at all. Miss Utah was onstage at an internationally televised beauty pageant (not, as everyone seems to believe, a ‘Think-On-Your-Feet pageant,) and froze under pressure. Nobody really knows who she is (sorry, Miss Utah, I’m not trying to bring you down, I promise,) and after a few minutes under a spotlight of embarrassment, about which everyone will either laugh or feel sympathetic, she’ll go back to relative anonymity unscathed, without having affected anyone’s lifestyle or self-perception. Miranda, on the other hand, is a global name in the fashion industry, the face of dozens of brands, including her own clean-living campaigns and an organic skincare range. She is also, as much as I hate to say it, a role model for a very large number of young women. She is a successful business woman. She wrote a book and has a multimillion dollar empire built around an ever so slightly unattainable brand of self improvement. She’s done a lot, not entirely on her own, but certainly under her own steam and motivated by her own, very personal desire to be among the best in her chosen field (I know, she’s a lingerie model, but everyone is good at something, it’s not for me to judge.) Yet here she stands, implicitly encouraging women to submit to the will of their domestic partner whenever possible if they want a healthy relationship.
I did a bit of research, to see what kind of reactions this had prompted, and I was really surprised to see that it was pretty much glossed over by a number of news services and blogs, accompanied by a dismissive, “…she’s a lingerie model, not a gender studies scholar,” (The Frisky website, June 24, 2013) mentality. If anything, that pisses me off even more. I was under the impression that a comprehensive understanding of your own gender identity was something that everyone was entitled to. I wasn’t aware it required a doctorate or a thesis. It is definitely very much up to Miranda herself how she behaves within the confines of her intimate relationships, but the fact that she is essentially telling the world that the idea of being a successful, independent woman is something that has held her back, frankly, disappoints me. After thinking about it in the context of over one hundred years of women who have fought for the right to choose success or independence, I had to feed my feminist ideals half a block of chocolate before I was able to sustain any faith in humanity for more than a minute at a time. Ironically, The Edit‘s interview says it best: “Her success as a model has given her a voice.” (p9, The Edit, ibid.) Maybe she needs to think a bit more about what she uses it to say.
I know that not every woman views herself as a feminist, which is her personal choice (a choice made possible by feminism, but whatever.) In its most basic form, feminism is the idea that women deserve every opportunity, human right and dollar of pay that men do. No more, no less. A significant majority of the men I know (feminist or not,) respect the women in their lives enough to not take the absence of requests for help as an attack on their masculinity. The women in their lives also respect them enough to not have to feel like they should throw them a 19th Century bone to make them feel better about themselves. I hate to break it to you, Mrs Kerr-Bloom, but the feeling a man gets when you bat your eyelashes at him and ask his assistance? That’s not “importance,” that’s a boner.
Even though it raises some serious issues, can I just have a moment to share with you how hilarious the original article is? It’s not really something to take seriously, sprinkled as it is with perfectly lit shots of the angelic, aspirational Earth mother flicking out her “…perfect, honey coloured waves,” (The Edit, ibid,) and doing awkward yoga stretches on concrete stairs in designer togs. It breathlessly recaps her early modelling days, childhood in regional Australia, giving birth to the watermelon sized-progeny of one of the most beautiful men on the planet “… without the help of any pain relief,” and the raise of her organic skin care, healthy eating self-improvement business empire. She’s clearly a goddess, you guys. Worship her. WORSHIP HER.
Or what, The Edit? You’ll spike my coffee with non-organic soy? Come at me, bro. You’re an online fashion magazine, not a respected broadsheet.*
*This is me using the same flawed logic used by The Frisky to justify the lowering of expectations to suit socially endorsed preconceptions. It’s a joke. If you had to read this to understand that, I’m a little bit disappointed in you. But I still love you. No hard feelings.