Feminist Litmus Test: Dear Jewel, A Whole Cake? Really?

Hey Jewel, how’s it going? I haven’t heard from you in a while, and suddenly, you’re on the July cover of Shape magazine, making some eyebrow-raising statements. Let’s run you through the Feminist Litmus Test.

I can’t criticize your career. You grew up dirt-poor in Alaska, learned how to sing, spent some time living homeless and played the bars-‘n-coffee-shops circuit until you got discovered. You made buckets of money by putting out fairly woman-positive music. You donate a lot of that money to a clean-water charity in Africa. Cool.

But you didn’t score so well on the Feminist Litmus Test this week. Sadly, you’ve fallen into the same attention-getting statement trap so many celebrities follow lately. I can sum it up as, “I’m not scandalous or interesting, so I’ll say something pathetic about my body image to get a People headline.”

Singer Jewel has revealed the personal effect being labeled “the chubby Renee Zellweger” by the press had on her. ‘My feelings were so hurt by that story, I ended up bingeing on an entire cake,’ the 36-year-old told Shape magazine. ‘Afterward, I actually tried to throw it all up, but thankfully I couldn’t do it. It made me think, ‘I can’t go down this road’. I had seen so many performers develop eating disorders or try to control their weight with drugs, and I decided I would do no harm to my body.

The entire story sounds concocted to me. Every celebrity interview cliche is there: “I eat my feelings.” “I feel fat, too!” “It hurts me when I hear mean things about my body in the press!” “I eat too much, just like you!” “I pseudo-identify with eating disorders!” “Everyone should be confident about the body they have!” What’s really obnoxious is how articles like these are always accompanied by the star looking very toned and svelte on the cover of a magazine.

This is not feminist. It’s just boring and conforms to every stereotype about women’s relationships with their bodies. And you topped it off with a great recommendation for building confidence:

‘We should be more like men, God bless ’em. They can take their shirts off and show their man boobs, and they don’t give a hoot.’

I’m pretty sure men do, in fact, have body issues as well. Sure, we’ve all seen the guys who nonchalantly let it all hang out. But I also know lots of men who are secretly terrified to ever be seen shirtless. I personally would not trade my female body issues for being a man– just Google “penis enhancement.” It’s tough to change that with diet and exercise.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on you, Jewel. I could really go for some cake right now.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user jenniferlstoddart // CC 2.0


  1. Tessa Towne says:

    Perhaps I miss your point, but… bingeing is anti-feminist? Or is it whining about bingeing?

  2. Tessa, I think it’s whinging about bingeing that’s the problem. heh heh.
    But…I do think the post is a little hard on Jewel. I think she means what she said, it’s just all squeezed through the celeb filter they all must develop. You know, the one Kanye and Tony BP are missing.

  3. Julia Tew says:

    I just wanna say: I really dislike the entire concept of a “feminist litmus test”. It’s alienating and often anti-woman.

    Call out ideological duplicity if you want. Criticize and analyze ideas, statements and platforms. But this whole, “You’re not good enough to be one of us” concept is not helpful. Humans are imperfect — even feminists.

    Intentions: C+ Execution: D-

    I feel like a cad for saying it, and still, that’s a delineation that the “Litmus Test” doesn’t even bother to make.

  4. What are you writing about? Feminist Litmus Test, are you kidding? Did Jewel claim to be a feminist? Not sure where it all fits in! Is she not allowed to be human and have issues with her body, and eat a whole cake to feel better? At least she noted that she was not going to go down that dangerous road. Did you have nothing better to write about? I do not see where Jewel and feminism and eating a cake bc she feels badly about herself all fit together. Thank you for wasting my time!

  5. I actually used to be anorexic and consider myself to be a strong feminist. I think this blog writer is being too harsh. Jewel didn’t say anything anti-feminist. The pressure society puts on women to have the perfect body may drive a person to do something extreme. Combine that with having a tough life (ex: being homeless in the past or, in my case, being the survivor of rape) and yeah maybe she really did binge on a cake. An eating disorder is not just about losing weight – it’s about finding something to control. Women are mistreated on a regular basis in this society, is it any wonder some of us “eat our feelings” or starve ourselves? Instead of judging each other so harshly how about we act a little more supportive of each other? I think it’s sad that Jewel felt that badly about herself and hope she’s feeling better.

  6. Wow! It’s tough being a woman these days. Jewel can’t win for losing. I think this article might have been better left after the first paragraph with a note of gratitude for showing the strength of women. Instead it continues on criticizing Jewel for sharing how it sucks that she is failing to meet the “thin litmus test” in the eyes of one media critic so indulges, feels guilt, considers relieving the guilt and what do you know another media critic decides she’s failing the “feminist litmus test” because she didn’t seem genuine enough? Wonder if how we act in, think, feel, feed, and abuse our bodies will ever be our business? Wonder if we’ll ever stop criticizing one another long enough to feel like something other than a body. So many directions to go with this article and you chose to take a stab at a woman and in that you fail the Feminist Litmus Test.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ms. Magazine, Pamela Reich. Pamela Reich said: RT @msmagazine: Men, take your shirts off and show your man boobs. Women, check out this great advice Jewel has to offer! http://ht.ly/20wx6 […]

  2. […] 20, 2010 · Leave a Comment Kate Whittle’s recent post on the Ms. Blog scores singer/song writer/former homeless girl Jewel as a “mediocre […]

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