Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blogger Ian's Tabatha Criticism Harangue

When my mom came to visit me for a week in Missouri in the summer of 2009, she beat me to within an inch of my life and had me tearfully begging for my dad. I mean, she exposed me to Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. Mom loves this show. I’m not sure I love my mom.

If you’ve never seen the show — lucky you — it’s about this bitch named Tabatha who bitches failing salons into submission by saying bitchy things, after which everyone says how bitchin’ she is. She also hates hugs. What a bitch.

And lest you object to my calling Tabatha a bitch, she proudly calls herself the same thing. To her, being a bitch is about being a strong, assertive and forthright woman. And apparently the entire world agrees — after being subjected to my first episode of Tabatha’s Salon Makeover, I googled “Tabatha mean” and found nothing. Well, OK, I found stuff like, “Tabatha means what she says and says what she means,” but nothing that made me feel like anyone else on this entire dirty mudball shared my opinion of her. And that’s saying something, because it’s the Internet, where I’m pretty sure you can find essays on the virtues of child molestation (knock yourself out if you want to search that — I won’t).

I had to wait for the comments on the above-linked HuffPo piece before I realized anyone agreed with me about Tabatha. She has many, many fans, including my mom. I’m told that her tart “quips” are in the service of good, and that the people she berates and belittles not only deserve it, but ask for it. I’m told it’s a TV show, and she makes for great TV. None of that has ever kept me from watching to punch something three minutes into an episode.

My problem with Tabatha (and anyone else like her) is not that they’re trying to make things better, or that they’re forthright and honest — it’s that they’re cruel in the process. There’s an old saw that you have to be an asshole to get things done — that’s my least-favorite saying ever, right up there with “the good must suffer for the bad” and “boo hoo.” It’s bad enough to be that way, but celebrating it is even worse.

I can’t stand when people pat themselves on the back for how blunt, straight-shooting, common-sensical, no-nonsense and honest they are. Those aren’t bad qualities in and of themselves, but not if they’re substitutes for empathy and tact. And in those cases, they usually are.

Tabatha insists she’s doing someone a favor by telling them their sweater is ugly. Just seems mean to me. It’s one thing if someone asks and really wants an answer, but I get the sense that she isn’t referring to that situation. Does she really think someone wearing said sweater hasn’t considered the fact that it might be tacky at least? And even if they haven’t, are they on the edge of their seats hoping almighty Tabatha B. Coffey offers her opinion, er, incontrovertible fact about it?

Tabatha can justify her bitchiness all she wants, but to me embracing the label is less about celebrating forthright feminism than it is an excuse to wallow in cruelty, rudeness and narcissism. One the image problems feminism has is that it’s often defined as all-or-nothing — either you’re a man-pleasing doormat or you’re a ferocious, brutally frank bitch. And what does that pair of extremes accomplish apart from justifying every sexist dismissal of women?

(And, no, I wouldn’t feel differently if Tabatha were a man. I hate when men act this way as well. Bullying is bullying.)

Gender equality is an awesome thing. Women being hailed for being as obnoxious as the jerkiest men is not. There’s definitely some middle ground to be had on the whole tiger/doormat issue. Can we — men and women alike — please find it? I’m tired of Tabatha being held up as a feminine icon. There are so many better examples, none of whom deserve or need to embrace the label “bitch” in the way Tabatha does. Meredith Brooks comes to mind. She’s also a lover, child and mother at least.

I hope this blog hasn’t been too blunt. Or bitchy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, there's a difference between just plain obnoxious and "bitch" in the way that people like Meredith Brooks or other feminists claim the word. Tabatha and people like her aren't doing worthy of recognition, yet she dares claim it as a positive character trait, a skill almost. It garners her the attention, but that burns out quickly.