Zooey Deschanel: 'Maybe We're All Bitches.'

I'm not mad at Zooey Deschanel. I'm not that into what she's selling, though I do covet the lustrous hair and am fascinated by those lower-lid eyelash extensions. (Seems treacherous, though). What does tend to grate, though, is the idea that any criticism of a woman in public life is automatically anti-feminist.

Jada Yuan's profile of Deschanel in New York magazine does cite Julie Klausner's piece, which we republished here, as a counterpoint to the indie guys swooning over Deschanel and the girls who want to be her. (Note to all those Deschanel-inspired: If faced with an unappealing trailer, try "draping every possible surface in pink and red linens, many of which are printed with cupcakes," or decorating with a "picture of smiling lambs.") Klausner is quoted saying "The larger issue is that it is a lot easier for men—or even guys or bros—to demean us if we're girls. It's much harder to bring down a woman, or to call her a moron, when she's not in pigtails." (Tami Winfrey Harris's smart response on the racial dynamics also gets an airing.)

Deschanel plays a teary, hapless woman (girl?) in a fall show, The New Girl, playing the stated alter-ego of Liz Meriwether, of Fuckbuddies/No Strings Attached fame. Meriwether is the one who goes to bat on those particular criticisms:

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"I think as soon as you try putting women in any sort of category, that's where it goes wrong, that women should be this and women should be that," says Meriwether. "If you feel upset with how cute someone is, maybe you should go outside and run around a little. Get some air."
"That people equate being girlie with being nonthreatening … I mean, I can't think of a more blatant example of playing into exactly the thing that we're trying to fight against. I can't be girlie? I think the fact that people are associating being girlie with weakness, that needs to be examined. I don't think that it undermines my power at all."

Ladies, someone is telling you to go outside again! But seriously, it's true that women should be allowed to like smiling lambs and cupcakes all they want without being told that they're failing feminism. On the other hand, saying you can never criticize anything being put out by a woman isn't feminism — it's a cop-out. Women do not suddenly become off-limits for legitimate criticism of their work, which in Deschanel's case is inextricably intertwined with her personal tastes and habits and has been broadly influential, just for being female.

As it happens, the picture that emerges from the piece is Deschanel having savvily figured out how to sell almost every aspect of her apparently-authentic self. (Making Yuan a "happy" mix tape is an act of PR genius, sincerely meant or not.) That merging of persona and profession can make it look like worrying about what it says for the broader culture is a personal attack Deschanel, but that's what happens when you make yourself into a product. In exchange, you get to buy all the cupcakes you want.

Deschanel herself seems to get this, though. And we were totally with her on this one, which gets into the entitlement of the supposedly Nice Guy:

(500) Days Of Summer... told almost entirely through Tom's perspective, was "actually very misunderstood," she says. "I can't tell you how many guys, and girls, are like, ‘You did him wrong!' What, she's a bitch because she didn't want to date that guy? So? Are we bitches because we have our own opinions? If that makes me a bitch, or that makes women bitches, then maybe we're all bitches."

We may not all thrill to a ukelele, but we can all be bitches.

The Pinup Of Williamsburg [NYM]