Skip to comments.Rachel Maddow, reluctant sex symbol
Posted on 03/01/2009 3:46:20 PM PST by presidio9
Why do we -- men and women, gay and straight -- find Rachel Maddow sexy? Daphne Merkin's "Butch Fatale" about the newly minted MSNBC icon, hidden among the overpriced handbag porn and fluffy profiles of last weekend's New York Times T style magazine, is more complicated than it appears.
As Merkin writes, it isn't often that mainstream culture celebrates the attractiveness of butch lesbians. Sure, we admire femmes like Portia de Rossi and Lindsay Lohan. But for the most part, lesbians who wear suits, cut their hair short or otherwise don't conform to traditional standards of beauty -- the Ellen DeGenereses and Rosie O'Donnells of the world -- have to remain culturally neutered in order to participate in public life. Though we find classic representations of gay male beauty in the films of Luchino Visconti and the writings of Oscar Wilde and Thomas Mann, says Merkin, "It's much harder to envision a lesbian icon without coming up against Fran Lebowitz, looking surly and bored."
The problem with lesbian archetypes, according to Merkin, is that "both categories -- butch and femme -- borrow from gender-influenced dichotomies of beauty." And this is where Rachel Maddow, supposedly, is a revelation. "She may not be one of Hefner's Girls Next Door, exactly, but she is no bare-faced, unstylish dyke either, however she chooses to characterize herself," says Merkin, going on to coo over the way Maddow combines a light dusting of makeup with "Poindexter glasses, Jil Sander pantsuits and Converse sneakers" and concludes that "she's willing to prettify her image sufficiently to endear her to male viewers."
Here's where I disagree with Merkin: I don't think Maddow's TV appearance is particularly calculated to attract male viewers. The makeover doesn't seem like a ploy to sex up Maddow; rather, it's a concession to appearing on television, where everyone has to wear makeup and dress like a professional. According to a New York magazine profile, Maddow's partner, Susan Mikula, is responsible for her wearing makeup: "Without it, 'she looked like a dead person,'" Mikula said. And as for the designer suits, it's not as if MSNBC was going to let Maddow -- or Keith Olbermann or Chris Matthews, for that matter -- go on the air in a ratty button-down and carpenter jeans. Meanwhile, Maddow makes no effort to hide her casual, butch off-screen appearance, either. In this pre-New Year's video, also for New York magazine, a bare-faced, hoodie-clad Maddow gives a lesson in mixology.
It's true that while the butch-femme dichotomy has already broken down among many younger lesbians -- I'm hard-pressed to categorize any of my mid-20s lesbian friends as either -- Maddow is still a butch in my book (and her own). And besides, I think Merkin misses something major about what makes Maddow sexy: the nerdiness! From the "Poindexter glasses" to the Oxford Ph.D. to her perfectly crafted sarcasm, Maddow is as geek-chic as she is lesbian-chic.
Unlike Merkin, I believe Maddow when she says "she has no interest in the issue of physical appearance -- her own or anyone else's." And as much as I would love her to herald a new age of lesbian beauty, it seems to me that viewers respond more to Maddow's non-physical qualities -- intelligence, charm and, above all, authenticity -- than to her looks. But I'm interested to hear Broadsheet readers' take, too. What do you think makes Rachel Maddow sexy?
Looks like a dyke to me.
Your obvious sexual confusion.
So, we’re supposed to find that guy in that pic sexy?
Thanks, I needed a good laugh.
She’d be a lot more “sexy” if that gray T-shirt had a cigarette pack pocket. LOL!
From the picture I couldn’t tell if it was a gay man or a gay woman. Doesn’t matter I suppose. They are sexless anyway.
Lesbianism: It’s the new black!
Is Salon sure they got her last name correct? I always thought is was something like Madcow or Mancow.
I don’t find Rachel Maddow interesting in any way, shape or form. Which explains why she’s the subject of a Salon article.
I honestly can not tell. And personally I find that creepy.
This needs a mega-barf alert.
“What do you think makes Rachel Maddow sexy?”
She is keeping fully clothed and I don’t EVER look at her?
Sexy????? Maybe if I were a lesbian.
Totally ruined mine and hubbys buzz tonight. She is about as sexy as a pile of sh!t.
My eyes! My eyes! Where was the BARF alert??
Sexy????? Maybe if I were a lesbian.
That would turn someone straight hopefully.
"That's a man, baybeee!"
no. maybe if you were some hermaphrodite polymorph
my question has always been, Where did they find the dude who follow Olberdork???
Sexy? Ummm.....not to somebody who likes women. Typically, women have those nice things that require bras. And they also tend to sound and act like women which is what makes them so attractive. I don’t detect any of those things in this dude.
Hmm, I'm not getting any readings on the Schwing-o-Meter here.
In any good dictionary you will find that definition right next to the word WTF.
I doubt even Slick Willie would hit it.
PLEASE. MAKE. IT. STOP.
I don’t care if she’s in to Swedish bikini models.
I knew a Holstein steer quite well while growing up on a farm in New England.
His name was Ed.
Ed like to hump everything, even the rear wheels on the parked Farmall H.
Ed would run from this bhitch.
Salon is blind.
That’s a dude?
No wait, that’s a..
What the hell is it?
We don't but you MSM media types find it necessary to bring it up and make it an issue.........
He looks like this dude i went to school with in 8th grade.
If more women looked like that it would save the planet!
(because nobody would be #$#@^&ing
This is a question for people with phds in biology. not freepers
The photo does not identify the person. Is the person a teen age boy, or an undeveloped girl?
If it is Rachel Maddow she most certainly is NOT a sex symbol. How in the world would anyone conclude that?
She looks a little like Sean Hannity there.
She looks like a 20 something guy.