Another day, another article on why "we" hate a beautiful female celebrity. Today's subject: Keira Knightley. Today's reasoning: "she makes this stupid face." Also: lust.
Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Celia Walden explains the female sex's supposed antipathy to Knightley thus: "mention of her name prompts women of every age to spring forward, enthralled and enraged, to postulate on the size of her pout, bosom and talent." Why? Well, what's the reason women ever dislike another woman? Jealousy, of course! Says Warden,
Female jealousy is a form of lust, the desire to know every inch of a beautiful woman in the same way that a man wants to through sex. But this lust is more powerful than the male kind, and is what has propelled Knightley to her position as a fashion figurehead, role model and Hollywood actress.
This is thoroughly confusing. Women apparently hate Keira Knightley because they are jealous of her, and are jealous of her because they want to "know every inch of her," and this desire is a form of lust. Also, somehow this hatred/lust is responsible for Knightley's fame. I found all this especially mystifying in light of the fact that my feelings about Knightley could be summed up with a resounding "meh." A "male friend" of Warden's identfies Knightley's problem thus: "She makes this stupid face, just like my girlfriend does when she looks in the mirror." This guy doesn't sound like a very good boyfriend, but I do agree that Knightley seems capable of only one face. It's not stupid, exactly, just kind of startled, and while it looks pretty, it's ultimately not that interesting. Certainly not interesting enough to light the fires of either hate or love.
What does get me kind of riled up, though, is the constant fetishization of female jealousy. We're jealous of Megan Fox, we're jealous of Sarah Palin — we barely have time to get anything done, we're so busy with our envy. Of course, it's a rare woman — or man — who hasn't felt jealous of someone else. But why does women's jealousy get so much play? Walden's piece offers a clue: maybe it's kind of hot.
Walden's claim that female hatred of Keira Knightley is all about lust just makes explicit what's always been a subtext in discussions of jealousy: that the green-eyed monster could lead women into a catfight, or maybe even some hate-fueled girl-on-girl action. Women fighting each other is a time-honored soft-core trope, and all the better if the combatants actually kind of want each other. Of course, Walden and others who've advanced the they're-just-jealous position have been women — including the reader who asked us "is it REALLY honest at all to pretend that a lot of the 'hateration' towards Megan Fox is not attributed to how reader's boyfriends and husbands, male acquaintances would/do react to her?" But this wouldn't be the first time women have knowingly or unknowingly performed for the male gaze, and while there's some truth in what they say — of course, women can be nasty about one another's looks — the sexual focus of their words is telling. Both Fox and Knightley (and, of course, Palin) have made impolitic public statements, but the reason women dislike them must be some strange form of desire — or, in an especially male-centric formulation, their effect on "boyfriends and husbands." Again, this is not to say that women are exclusively acting out a male script when they call out their fellow women for jealousy. But I would argue that the way Female Jealousy is constructed and discussed and invoked ad nauseum does indeed stem from lust — just not women's.
Why We Hate Keira Knightley [Sydney Mornign Herald]