Don't Cry for Memed Argentina

What Argentina's legalization of abortion shows us about the ongoing attack on femininity.

It happened again. Ugly girls broke the internet. If we’re being more gentle, broken girls uglified the internet. This time, the footage comes from Argentina, where after a protracted conflict with the country’s Catholics, feminists have finally won legal access to abortion. Video shows the Argentine street demonstrators drinking, smoking, singing, and gyrating in the heat. Neon hair, heavy tattoos, and bare albeit deflated breasts litter the screen. You can even see the occasional male feminist, with his predatory grin and glazed eyes, bouncing among the gleeful (yet somehow still joyless) women, hoping for a free squeeze.

It may seem a particularly petty type of ad hominem to attack a woman based on her looks when what you really hate is her politics. Stupid pantsuits don’t make stupid women, of course. But women do communicate through the aesthetic choices they make when they dress themselves, whether we know it or not. Fashion might even be considered a preferred mode of feminine communication, precisely for allowing us to wrap our meaning in layers of gauze and plausible deniability: protecting us from the consequences of radical statements but still harvesting the attention those statements draw. Communication by clothing is circuitous, coded, and passive, but nonetheless powerful. Peak female stuff.

With regard to women’s fashion, communicating with men is relatively simple: women make themselves into worthy and desirable objects as a reproduction strategy. The desire to be desired by men is traditionally mitigated by the need to be accepted by other women. More importantly, and more in the style of a Japanese fan dance, women dress for each other. The female consensus is the final gatekeeper. Women ultimately decide who among them gets to enjoy all benefits of membership in the social order. Clothing is one indicator of the conformity they require. In other words, fashion is indirect politics: a set of social signals that tells us something about the state of things by telling us what is required of a person to belong.

What, through their sallow and sagging nakedness, do the Argentine feminists mean to communicate to the world? These aren’t simple bra-burners, and this isn’t simple immodesty. These women shave their heads, pierce their eyebrows, and cover themselves in prison ink. The soft pinks, clarity, and effervescence traditionally associated with female beauty have given way to sickly grays and blacks. This is no simple disregard for, to borrow a feminist term, “the male gaze.” Rather, this is an outright assault.

This assault reflects a deep perversion in both the relationship between men and women and the general relationship among women. A female consensus that demands this kind of fashion is one that has disdain for men particularly, generally, collectively, and archetypically. To strip down while also making oneself repulsive is to command the male gaze in order to brutalize it. To set these aesthetic standards for other women is another indirect attack on men, because maximizing ugliness minimizes masculine desire, but it is also a direct attack on other women. Pop ugliness flattens the female dominance hierarchy. If modesty is the guardian of chastity, immodesty is the guardian of shame. 

While the explicit mission of abortion activists is to annihilate the natural consequences of the sex act, they dress to destroy its precursor: femininity and desire itself. This is an act of hatred of the highest order because it is an attack on the transcendentals: a metaphysical blitz on the conceptual masculine and feminine. 

The seriousness of a widespread female fashion consensus that looks like this—based on hatred of beauty and male sexuality—cannot be understated. In a world where this consensus reigns, there is no balancing act between passion and prudence because there is neither passion nor prudence. Similarly, there is no tension between male and female because there is no true male or female. It isn’t just sterile. It’s hideous.

The new rules of the 117th Congress deal in similar obfuscations. We should not doubt that it will yield hideousness in kind.