Beth Ditto Poses Nude on the Cover of NME, Internet Readies Seventh-Grade Fat Jokes
As you may have heard, Gossip singer Beth Ditto has displayed the majesty that her momma gave her on the cover of the NME this week. So wait, a few years ago, nudie shots of Ditto were confined to the lesbian sex mag On Our Backs and now she’s being anointed the “Queen of Cool” by the U.K.’s most toilet paper-worthy tabloid while wearing nothing but painted-on kisses? Did we miss a meeting?
In America, where we saw the Gossip play one of the best shows of ’06 to a half-empty club, Ditto is free from having to think about how she is viewed by large groups of the unwashed when she strips down to her underwear as if she was at an Olympia house party after Ladyfest. In England, the Gossip is turning out to be a regular little rock phenomenon, and so Ditto finds herself with the option of posing in the raw, back fat and all, on the cover of the country’s most well-known (if little respected) music weekly. Ideally right-thinkin’ folks should be thrilled by this turn of events, given the increasingly pneumatic norm of sexiness being peddled by pop culture, a kind of uniform female beauty that would bring a tear to Henry Ford’s eye. Yet there’s a weird and sordid “two steps back” feeling about it all, as if Ditto stuffing her junk in society’s face has been instantaneously co-opted by a magazine getting off on the freakshow factor–copies to be sold, controversy to be manufactured, or hell, the creation of a potential new trend! Nu-fat? Fat-rock? They’ll think of something–of an outspoken “big girl” who happens to be the frontwoman of a band on the rise.
But maybe more worrying than who’s zooming who on the exploitation front is the incoherent and kinda pathetic way that post-riot grrl Ditto flip-flops in the accompanying interview about the complicity of the fashion industry and the media in fostering eating disorders, impossible beauty standards, and all sorts of other bad shit. Not to sound all nostalgic for the black and white ideologies of the pre-Misshapes days, but does someone wanna photocopy their old Bikini Kill zines and FedEx them to England? Meanwhile, at least until this particular blip in the media cycle fizzles out, we can, uh, look forward to lengthy and pointless comments box/message board debates about whether being fat is a “choice” and what constitutes being “unhealthy,” endless junior high zingers, and the sinking feeling that, no matter where you come down on this “issue,” hardcore feminism is a weird 20th-century aberration we’ll someday tell our confused grandchildren about.