Everyone is an idiot: A brief tirade regarding Robyn Doolittle's 'sexiness'

Robyn Doolittle, the journalist who helped break the Rob Ford crack video story last year, is promoting a new book about Toronto’s grosso mayor. As such, she was featured in Flare magazine recently and, for her photo shoot, wore a dress *gasp,* heels *gasp,* and red lipstick *gasp gasp.*

The nation is now all abuzz trying to decide whether she is “too sexy” or Next Top Feminist.


Everything is boring, I know.

Doolittle says she received some angry emails from women over the shoot (it sounds like it was mostly people expressing “concern” about how if she looks too hot it might “undermine her career“), angering the good people of the internet.

As a result, a lot of people are having Strong Opinions about things like “judging,” what feminism is really about (my choice fuck yeah!), about how “women can wear what they want,” and also “GET IT GIRL.”

So yeah, women can technically wear what they want. And I could really care less if Doolittle wears lipstick in a photo shoot. But whether or not she has the ability to “choose” to be “sexy and smart” is not an interesting topic of debate unless we are going to also discuss the fact no one cares if men are sexy or not because male power isn’t attached to their ability to be objectified.

So, while people sending her angry emails about her outfit is pretty silly, what’s even sillier is the response from those trying to defend her. Because, in their attempts to tell her that feminism is about choice! and you doing you! they dis feminists, completely misunderstand what feminism is actually about, and fail to understand that What Women Look Like is not simply a matter of individual choice.

On Friday, “Robyn Doolittle: Sexiest Sexy Lady vs. Bad And Ugly Feminists” was the topic of discussion on Global News’ morning show. This conversation not only shows the way in which choice feminism/individualism/neoliberalism has turned feminism into a big dumb (but sexy!) joke, but also how deeply stupid news anchors are, making an excellent case for not allowing them to have opinions on any things ever (I wonder if this is why mainstream news media remains so very attached to the myth of the “unbiased reporter?” Is it because they know that if mainstream news reporters attempt to share their thoughts in public, we will discover the truth about all those back alley lobotomies media conglomerates have been conducting on their TV news anchors?)


Such strong opinions! Let’s review and discuss:

Lady Anchor 1: “She can wear whatever she likes.”

Mister Anchor 1: “I agree!”

Way to take a stand, douchebags. You could have conveyed an equally weighty opinion had you sat in front of the camera eating sandwiches.

MA1: “It’s obviously a feminist who’s probably lashing out at her, saying: ‘you’re being sex… a sex.. object… And there are a lot of beautiful women and you should not hide it.”

Yes, yes of course. Ye olde “feminists are the enemy of feminism” tale. OOOH those feminists hating sexy ladies again! They are the worst, amirite? *everyone nods head as though something very serious and impactful has been said*

Also. THANK YOU for liberating us from the chains of patriarchy by telling us we are free to look pretty! NO MORE TALKING FOR YOU, SIR.

Lady Anchor 2: “Beauty is power and… she’s showcasing her beauty. Boom. There you go.”

Boom indeed! What more is there to say? Nothing. “Boom.”

Well, actually there are still a few things, “boom” aside. Here are some of them: Beauty is not power. As evidenced by patriarchy. Pretty ladies continue to be exposed to sexism on a daily basis despite their “freedom” to “showcase their beauty.” In other words, if beauty were power then women would have real power in this world and would no longer be marginalized based on the fact that they happen to have been born female.

The myth that “beauty is power” is actually super destructive because it tricks young women into thinking that if men want them, they will be empowered, which is, alas, not true. Because the kind of “power” that comes from having men lust after you is fleeting and holds no real weight in the grand scheme of things. It might make you feel good momentarily, until you realize that men don’t respect you because they like your boobs, nor will your fuckability bring things like political power and freedom from male violence. As long as women are seen as (and see themselves as) pretty, sexy objects, they will continue to to be viewed and treated, primarily, as sex-holes for men (i.e. not full human beings but the kind of beings who were invented for men to use and abuse and play with and then discard when they get bored).

Also, friendly reminder that real “power” doesn’t run out when you turn forty. Men don’t suddenly become invisible and irrelevant when they reach middle age and that’s because they haven’t bought into or been fed the ridiculous myth that their power lies in their ability to be youthful and have a perky butt. Society treats older women as invisible and younger women as objects. That’s not power.

LA1: “We still have ‘tall poppy syndrome’ in this country. Everyone wants to cut down the one who starts to rise up a little bit. I don’t know why we do that. In the United States it’d be like, ‘you go!'”

So I actually do think there’s a little truth to this point. It does seem that we like to attack women who either are perceived to be gaining power, are in the public eye, or who are getting attention. I think we do this because we still think, whether or not we realize it, that women should be in the background — in the private sphere, not the public one. We should be supporting men to become great, not becoming great ourselves. Femininity is about sacrifice and selflessness — we are to put our husbands and families first.

Look at the way female politicians are treated. As women in power, they must be harassed and degraded and mocked and sexualized (or called ugly — whichever you prefer so long as you remind them they are to-be-looked-at). But that’s a dude thing. That’s a you-don’t-belong-here-and-we’re-going-to-let-you-know-by-turning-you-into-porn thing. That’s not a jealous, prudish, dowdy feminist thing.

And, Lady Anchor 1, the reason they would be feeling this in the U.S. is because, in the U.S., everything is hypersexualized and hyperpornified and women really, really shouldn’t be on TV or in magazines at all unless they’re sexy. That’s not a good thing. That’s a sexism thing. Is America our new standard for Freedom™? Because that’s fucked.

Man Anchor 2: “Nobody criticized Woodward and Bernstein for being too sexy.”


I really don’t want to get into this because it makes me feel crazy, but for the sake of clarity, the reason “nobody criticized Woodward and Bernstein for being too sexy” is because they, like all man-reporters, don’t have wear makeup or heels or sexy dresses. They’re men! It doesn’t matter what they look like. They get to do and say and be whatever they like and they get to be in photos looking like the boring ugly white men they are and people respect them regardless. See? Men don’t have to justify their presence in the public sphere by being pleasant to look at. THAT’S THE SEXIST PART.

The other sexist part, as I mentioned earlier, is when you tried to pretend like feminists are squashing women’s freedom.

Now let’s all go put on something sexy and jump off a bridge.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • I don’t think the issue would have even come up if Ms Doolittle had been an attractive young man (like Woodward and Bernstein way back when) who had “scrubbed up” in full corporate drag of the male variety, for a photo shoot.

    It is the usual double bind for women.

    But no, I don’t think being sexy, and in particular, heels so high that they are hard to walk in, are empowering for any woman or drag queen, except as part of a specific and very short-term role.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Certainly not. And while I’m not going to tell women who wear heels they are Bad Feminists (even I wear heels sometimes), I also think the notion that heels or makeup is ’empowering’ is ridiculous.

      • Adrianna

        I love you & everything you do, and I agree with you. Please, never change! 🙂

        • Meghan Murphy

          Thanks! I’ll do my best 🙂

  • Matt Markonis

    Here’s the thing to me: smart is a conflation of two ideas that roughly seem like “business saavy.” If you accept the principle that sex sells (object petit a: itself, i.e. sex sells itself), what’s the difference between these two “ideas”?

    • Lola

      I loved the final sentence! Well, I do agree with this article. Any woman who is honest about the expectations she knows eeeeverybody has about her looking sexy and feminine (aka sexually available) has to acknowledge this is true.

      I get really angry when I hear the whole “men are also portrayed naked on TV. what the what? men never cease to be subjects! naked or not!

      congrats on this great post!

  • Typical malestream tactics create a non-issue in order to divert womens’ attention away from the real issues. Notice the male presenters did not once focus on fact Roby Doolittle’s involvement in uncovering misogynist Rob Ford’s nasty little secrets!

    Instead malestream media saw an excellent opportunity to ‘take down a woman who in male eyes was becoming too powerful and threatening to men.’ Malestream media also saw an opportunity to remind women ‘don’t even think you can obtain a miniscule amount of male power because your place is firmly under men’s feet. Get back to your subordinate place women which is being ‘sexually hot and available to men’ whilst we real humans – aka men get on with the job of maintaining male oppression over women.

  • sporenda

    “If you accept the principle that sex sells”

    Sex doesn’t sell, it’s sexism that sells: try to sell egalitarian porn and see how well it sells, you’d go bankrupt quickly.

  • Missfit

    Haha. Funny, the video and your replies. Boom indeed! And thank you man in blue cardigan for informing us that women can be both smart and beautiful, contrary to what feminists are saying (because that is what they are saying right?).

    This woman wrote a book about Toronto mayor. It could as well have been written by a woman who does not peform hyperfemininity or ‘sexyness’. Would that have meant less power for her? Why? How is that relevant? I understand that the good looks of a Brad Pitt might have helped him get contracts in his line of business. But for women, this has to follow them everywhere, no matter the context. And obviously, the counter part is that if you don’t follow beauty mandates, which for women are often costly/time-consuming/painful, you somewhat lose. No matter the context. And what is this power that beauty gives? Because in regards to credibility, a woman’s appearance will be used either way, usually ending in her lack of credibility no matter what. The power of visibility? Why women should have to do this extra task of performing beauty, which men don’t have to, for visibility? Oh yes, because unlike men, women can never escape their sex status.

    • That was the question that kept coming round in my mind. If beauty and sex-appeal is power, where does that leave beauty-2k-non-compliant women? Not to even mention why isn’t men’s “power” equated with their sex appeal.

  • Poseidon

    I love this article Meghan and totally agree with you that women aren’t free to wear what they want. Even to the point where if Robyn deliberately chose to not wear heels and lipstick (despite personally liking them and wishing that she could have) to avoid being sexualised she would still be having her choices about her personal appearance limited by the patriarchy.

  • Candy

    Love the sass. Thank you for infusing some much needed sense into this debacle. By the way, do you still write for xoJane? I really love your articles on there.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I haven’t pitched to them in a while, but I’m glad to hear you liked my pieces there! Thank you!

  • Maria Luisa

    Love your comments!!!! Puts the funny in a very stupid situation… Since I moved away from the U.S. I am sort of out of the loop. Who is this Robyn Doolittle? Is she going to be crowned queen of feminism, like Beyoncé?

  • lizor

    THAT’s the photo??? Wow.

    I saw Doolittle on the Daily Show and she was very good. I was told about a “fashion magazine spread” that was creating controversy and I assumed it was one of those shoots like Esquire does where they photograph a woman who is known for having done something other than look the right way, get her in lingerie, or at least with her clothes falling off, and contorting on a satin bed or something like that; effectively reducing her to male masturbation fodder. I was honestly a bit disappointed that Dolittle would have chosen to do some soft-core spread that has nothing to do with her work or her public profile as a journalist. But this picture? Seriously?

    Just when I thought the quagmire women have to muck through in this life could not possibly get any dumber or more lose-lose.


    • Meghan Murphy

      I know. I thought I was missing the “controversial” photo at first too. Nope! Ridiculous.

  • PunkRoctorok

    Hello Meghan. I’m a 22 y/old male from the USA who enjoys reading some of your articles/opinions. Gender dynamics are an interesting subject to me, though I am no expert nor particularly dedicated to the study, so bare with me if I seem uninformed.

    Anyhow, recently I read an article on BuzzFeed about a young woman named Lindsay Bottos who created a photo project in response to hateful comments on her tumblr. In it she stated that:

    “The act of women taking selfies is inherently feminist, especially in a society that tries so hard to tell women that our bodies are projects to be worked on and a society that profits off of the insecurities that it perpetuates. Selfies are like a ‘fuck you’ to all of that, they declare that ‘hey I look awesome today and I want to share that with everyone’ and that’s pretty revolutionary.”

    In my opinion this statement is bull. It is emphasizing the appearance of a woman is some sort of protest against male dominance. I find selfie spams (which I experience plenty from friends on facebook) are about vanity and pride in one’s appearance, not any sort of social protest. I’ve noticed the trend tends to be that women take far more selfies than men, though I do have male friends who do it often (straight friends, mind you). Do you think this is just part of the cultural emphasis of women’s value being on appearance? Personally I can’t stand these spams from anyone. I think, “Yes, I know you are attractive, I don’t need to see a different angle of you every day with the filter edited and blemishes touched up. You must be proud of your 20+ likes on something.”

    Of course it falls to personal choice if you want to upload pics of yourself looking attractive, male or female. But I see nothing liberating or empowering about it for a gender. It may be personally empowering, but on an extremely shallow level.

    Anyway, that’s my thought. Do you have an opinion on it? You may not even read this or care to respond. Also, I hope I posted nothing offensive here that warrants blocking!


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