Paula Jones has a new face to go with her new hairdo. Hillary Clinton’s been done over so many times even she doesn’t remember what she looks like. Monica Lewinsky checked into a fat farm. And now betrayer to the stars Linda Tripp has a new face to go with her slimmed-down body. The cost in plastic surgery and colorists alone must be triple the national debt.
What’s up with that? It’s one thing to be labeled trailer trash, whore, moron, liar, thief, tramp, con artist, even traitor. It’s a whole other thing to be called fat, ugly, or dumpy— at least for us women, who’ve been beaten up since birth by magazines which suggest— sometimes subliminally and sometimes right out there— that we are all fat, ugly, and/or dumpy. (Unless, of course, you are fabulous enough to look like you need to be hooked up to an IV and force-fed intravenously.) Sexgate broke down all barriers, though, and even the mainstream press took particular glee in skewering the less-than-model looks of Paula, Hillary, Monica, and Linda. Nobody— not even women— thought this was unusual or unfair.
Meantime, look at some of the men involved in this same sleazy scandal. Big Bill looks like he got his hair cut in prison, Kenneth Starr (a/k/a Torquemada) wears clothes he must have picked out in 1967, and mouthpiece James Carville has a face only married cousins could love. Has the media ever made fun of their looks? No. Men apparently are more important than the sum of their outer parts— no matter how terrifying those parts happen to be.
Take the fall of Al D’Amato. Despite the fact that D’Amato himself should have been indicted by the fashion police for crimes against the state, he crashed and burned partly because he made disparaging remarks about another man’s looks. He called Jerry Nadler “Jerry Waddler,” remember? The press— the same folks who excoriated Paula Jones for her big hair and nose, Hillary for her haircuts and legs, Monica for her beret and butt, and Linda Tripp on all counts— went crazy over the fact that Senator Al was so tactless as to make a joke about a man’s weight. Right. Have you ever seen Jerry Nadler? If the man wants to step on the scale, he goes to a weigh station on the New York State Thruway! But we’re not allowed to say that out loud.
Women don’t get the same pass. Even women busy prosecuting scandals need to look like Baywatch babes. Remember Marcia Clark? She went into the O.J. trial looking like a D.A. and came out a computer-enhanced version of herself. There were daily fashion updates on Marcia’s clothes and hair. Why? Did any reporter ever take the time out to mention that Johnnie Cochran’s ties must have been made from his mother’s couch? Or that O.J.’s Bruno Magli shoes belonged on an orthodontist? Or that Barry Scheck looks like he himself is missing some crucial DNA? No!
I can think of only two high-profile women who are totally oblivious to media taunts about their appearance. The first is Janet Reno. Of course she’d probably coldcock the first reporter who suggested a makeover, so fear is a big factor in the decision not to taunt her.
Then there’s Camilla Parker Bowles. The woman who would be queen is so breathtakingly unaware of how she looks and how the media hates her for it, that the more they beat her up, the less she pretties up, and the happier she seems. This of course is in sharp and ironic contrast to poor, beautiful, dead Diana, love object of the media. Diana, unlike her rival, dieted, dressed, shopped, exercised, threw up, and struggled to be always gorgeous for the press who adored her. And they paid her back in spades— they loved her unflinchingly. In fact, they loved her to death.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 8, 1998