Elizabeth Wurtzel Has Finally Lost It

Illustration for article titled Elizabeth Wurtzel Has Finally Lost It

Well, this is something: Elizabeth Wurtzel's recent print-only Harper's Bazaar essay, "Looking Better at 25 Than 45," could also be called, "Why Are You So Ugly, Dear Reader? It Makes Me (And Feminism) Very Sad." There is only one reason why the magazine would publish such a bizarre, rambling diatribe (the article is so nonsensical that it's almost difficult to get appropriately riled up): Harper's Bazaar has caught on to the concept of trolling.


Here's the gist: Elizabeth Wurtzel is hot. Super hot. But it's not that hard! For her, or for anyone else, if "anyone else" looks and lives like Elizabeth Wurtzel! She keeps herself looking gorgeous — which, again, is, like, soooo not hard to do — because she's a real feminist, as opposed to all of the 20-something women who "break her heart" because their chapped lips and unmoisturized faces signify the end of feminism and, quite possibly, the world.

We're not being hyperbolic. In Wurtzel's words:

I long for the impossible standard of female beauty as a daily chore for all, not because i want the world to look better—-I want it to be better. I want everyone to try as hard as I do to please be gorgeous, because it's not that hard, girls. Looking great is a matter of feminism. No liberated woman would misrepresent the cause by appearing less than hale and happy.

But she doesn't want "everyone" to deal with the "daily chore" of beautification, just women — or girls, in particular. But more on that later. First, let's find out what it's like to be Elizabeth Wurtzel, who is, not that she's bragging, "45 and in the physical shape of someone about half my age":

I realize this is obnoxious to say, but it just takes discipline. I do Gyrotonic sessions three times a week for an hour at a time, and nothing more. I also don't eat meat, and I take resveratrol. But I have a Mister Softee every day, and when I eat out, I always get the dessert du jour. But I walk everywhere, eat tons of leafy salad and green vegetables, and, above all, I try to be happy and work hard.

Wurtzel never EVER leaves the house without forgetting to "rub on some SPF 30 cream and fresh sugar rose lip balm" because she believes that it's "common decency to be presentable." To be clearer, she is "horrified by the onset of slovenliness." HOR-RI-FIED.

Then, her her essay really hits its stride as it unravels into an argument about how feminists must look presentable at all times (Liz, you really should've stuck with humblebragging about your ability to look fab on command):

Demanding standards of appearance are of a piece with anything else. The current state of slovenliness is a sign of a nation in decline and of a despairing distaff population. After all, on the left there is Michelle Obama, and on the right there is Sarah Palin, who are each a few years older than I am. Both are busy working mothers, both are in amazing physical condition, and both have striking personal style and coruscating charisma…like me [they] probably had parents who imposed a work ethic that translated into discipline in all aspects of life; when we were growing up, not all girls were winners just because they participated.


Huh? "Winning" means being pretty? I think I prefer Charlie Sheen's definition.

OH, FYI, did you know that Elizabeth Wurtzel went to Harvard? And has really nice shoes? Those important details have nothing to do with anything, but she still manages to fit them in there:

Even with my Harvard degree, when I ran out of money while writing my first book, I was happier to serve cocktails in high heels than to get money from my mom. And now I walk miles in Marni's five-inch platform T-straps.


Ladies, you have TWO CHOICES in life: ask your parents for money or wear uncomfortable footwear/work at Hooters.

Here's the real kicker:

"When I look at the meticulous style of these women and then walk around Manhattan — New York City, the international capital of fashion and beauty — and see women in their twenties who have already given up, my heart breaks. I am not a mean person, but the sloppiness angers me because it is about a wounded world."


If you've been reading Caitlin Moran's How To Be a Woman (which you should be, because we're discussing it on Friday!), you may recall this quote from Moran's excellent chapter on feminism:

I have one rule of thumb that allows me to judge...whether some sexist bullshit is afoot...are the men doing it? Are the men worrying about this as well? Is this taking up the men's time? Are the men told not to do this, as it's "letting our side down?"


Men are conspicuously absent from Wurtzel's piece on looking "presentable." Why do women — particularly young women — have the sole responsibility to look put together? How is that anything but the opposite of feminist?

It's easy for Wurtzel to look good because she's stereotypically attractive: blonde, thin, and fair-skinned, with pouty lips and big open eyes. Check her out above on the cover of Prozac Nation, looking "depressed," if by "depressed" we mean "like Fiona Apple," which is how many folk wish they looked when they were upset. Both Wurtzel's genes and her lifestyle (the type of "discipline" Wurtzel casually refers to necessitates money and free time; one private Gyrotonic session will cost you about $80 bucks) afford her the means to look "presentable" at all times. And isn't it interesting how she focuses on adjectives like "presentable," the definition of which is "decent enough to be seen in public"? Isn't feminism about, amongst myriad other things, not having to look the way society expects you to look?


Since Wurtzel is specifically attacking 20-somethings, it's only fair to reference the voice of that generation (kidding, kinda), Ms. Lena Dunham. In an early episode of Girls, Dunham's Hannah Horvath tells the guy she's sleeping with that she hasn't "tried a lot" to lose weight "because I decided I was going to have some other concerns in my life, OK?" Indeed. Some of us are too busy to prioritize looking as pretty as Elizabeth Wurtzel wishes we looked.


Erin Gloria Ryan

I love it when people act like they've worked really hard in order to have the good genes they enjoy.