Monday, February 4, 2013

Rita Hayworth, Chely Wright, and That Black Bikini

Rita Hayworth, back in her day, worked hard, suffered snide remarks from her haters, earned a nice living, and--ultimately--made it OK to look like Rita Hayworth.

Thank God.

Today we are the happy recipients of the freedom she modeled and won for us. From her, we learned to never apologize for smoldering devastatingly. We wear our hair down on our bare shoulders, and let our admirers wonder about everything south of there. And if any shaming voices decide to tell us how we should look, we know to ignore them.

Let's not let go of those lessons.

In an ironic twist, the woman who edited Chely Wright's memoir Like Me questioned a photo of Chely Wright being unapologetically sexy in a bikini. (NOTE: details of this are in the memoir and also in the documentary Wish Me Away.) Apparently, the editor felt that if she (the editor) wouldn't appear in a bikini, Chely Wright shouldn't appear in a bikini. Something about Chely Wright "playing straight" in her swimwear.

I hope this editor realizes that her own work wardrobe is what she wants it to be simply because someone somewhere broke the rules and paved the way. Does she understand that Chely Wright is stretching the boundaries of how lesbians are "supposed" to look, and making it OK for us to look like, well, us?

As our world continues to move toward equality, the definitions of feminine and feminism will continue to evolve. Let's agree together to be comfortable with that evolution. We seek out all that those terms embrace, letting each of us give definition to ourselves, gratefully receiving the stardust left behind by our sister Rita.