***LEARN TO READ .***
- “I do think that George Bush was absolutely a fascist piece of shit.”
- “I don’t know who I’m voting for yet, and people keep asking me a lot. I think that on the one hand, people are surprised that I don’t say “Hilary” immediately, but I just don’t think civil unions are the best, because “separate but equal” is unconstitutional! It’s bullshit, and we’ve been through this already.”
- “I’m the kind of voter who thinks a lot about who they vote for, period. Until the day of, usually, because I’m busy deconstructing [the candidates.]”
- “I love fashion, but it’s just not fair. Here’s the deal: Fashion should be for everyone. [Pauses] Well, fashion is one thing - I love style. Those are two different things. I think fashion is a product that can be bought and sold and is made for you, and style is something that you get up and you do it to yourself every morning. Fashion is a product, but style is a way of life. You can’t buy style, it’s an instinct.”
- Miss Piggy is extremely iconic. There’s no one higher than Miss Piggy. It’s funny, but it’s true — she definitely was a huge influence on me as a teenager. Oh, and Patty Duke!
The whole interview.,.....
Beth Ditto is used to making headlines -- not only is she the vocalist for buzz band The Gossip, she's also an outspoken activist with strong opinions on sexuality, feminism, and body image. The Gossip's scorching hit single “Standing in the Way of Control” blasted President Bush for his stance on same-sex marriage, and when I talked to Beth shortly after the Democratic presidential candidates had concluded their so-called gay debate, the issue was still heavily on her mind.
Beth, you're obviously a political person. Do you feel like there is a candidate you can support wholeheartedly, or do you have to make too many compromises in this field?
I think, as a radical queer, there's never anybody I can 100% trust in politics. It's a fucking joke to even call it a debate with the idea that we [haven't yet treated] human beings like they are on the same par with everyone else, from homos to immigrants. It's two-thousand-fucking-seven, get with the program, you know? There's so many candidates and it's like the worst of two evils -- not that I think they're necessarily evil, but I do think that George Bush was absolutely a fascist piece of shit. So I don't think that they're on the same par as him, but there are things I don't trust, because when money is involved, it changes everything. You can't trust people to be in charge of a lot of people when there's that much money at stake.
So do you know who you're voting for in the presidential election?
I don't know who I'm voting for yet, and people keep asking me a lot. I think that on the one hand, people are surprised that I don't say “Hillary” immediately, but I just don't think civil unions are the best, because “separate but equal” is unconstitutional! It's bullshit, and we've been through this already.
Are you the sort of voter who'd vote for a candidate with little chance of winning, or are you the type that votes for someone you think is electable?
I'm the kind of voter who thinks a lot about who they vote for, period. Until the day of, usually, because I'm busy deconstructing [the candidates.] I'm very supportive, but I'm also realistic. I think right now is an amazing time to be alive; to get to see the candidates and the diversity that I don't think has ever happened before in this country. I mean, it has to a degree, with people like Shirley Chisholm, but this is such a mainstream vote that has never happened in American history -- which is such a fucking joke, considering that we're supposed to be ahead of the game all the time. [Laughing] Watch, you're like some freelancing Christian conservative for The Advocate and you're just going, “Interesting.”
No chance of that, Beth. Although, since this interview is for The Advocate, I have to ask about your recent comments to the British magazine NME where you blamed gay men for perpetuating the “size zero.” What kind of reaction did you get to that?
I got a little bit of a reaction. Although I think what's so funny to me -- not “funny ha ha,” but “funny strange” is that comment was paraphrased to the max. I know that in America not that many people are familiar with the NME, but everyone in Britain knows that the NME is the enemy. There's a reason why it's called “the N-M-E.”
Its coverage is known to be sensationalistic.
Absolutely sensationalistic. Absolutely known for paraphrasing. What I said – and you can still disagree – it was in a list of things that I thought could be blamed [for the size zero] before women were blamed. Like I said, I'm a radical feminist, and first and foremost, I'm a woman. That's something I'm perceived as by the whole world, and I get the options handed down to me that are handed down because I'm a woman. I didn't create those standards that I'm supposed to adhere to -- those were created for me, and it started before I was born.
That being said, it was a list of things, and half of the list was left out. I mean, one of the things I said which was a very specific thing was gay men in the fashion industry are responsible, not gay men as a whole. But I think it was good, at least, because it got people talking about shit. I don't blame any one thing, and I would never say “Gay men are to blame for the size zero.” That's absolute bullshit, there's lots of things to blame.
Where did that idea come from?
What I think is so funny about it is that I didn't even get the idea in my head until my stylist brought it up to me. The problem is that you're supposed to feel this kinship because we're all queers and we're all in this together, and then you go to this styling shoot or something and it's gay men treating women like shit. I think that's what it's about, and it was actually one tiny, minuscule part of the conversation that got printed as this huge thing like we'd been talking about it for hours. I think that when you're trying to explain radical politics to a straight white boy, of course they're going to take the heat off the straight white boy, which is what we talked about the most during the interview. Mind you, I haven't read the interview, I've only heard about it from other people, but I think it's interesting how the one thing they'll do is turn it right back on gay people. They'll pit gay people against each other, which is exactly what they did.
I mean, I have a lot of opinions. Do I think that women do it to each other? Sure, I do, but I also think there's a lot of privilege that's in the male world that I know doesn't exist in the female world. Do I think that gay men are oppressed? Fucking of course, fuck yeah, I do, but do I think that women are oppressed? Fuck yeah, I do. I don't want to spend too much time on this, because it looks like I think about it all the time, when it's actually a tiny piece in this huge picture. And it's not even “size zero,” it's feminism as a whole, it's oppression and what people do to each other. I think that's what's so hard about the media for me, that you can never explain yourself thoroughly because it takes too much time. I mean, you'd have to write a fucking essay about one tiny thing!
Can you give me some examples of what you're talking about?
Jean-Paul Gaultier refused to make a collection for H&M. It's like, "Wait a minute, you're fat!" And I thought it was so interesting because, again, I'm the monster because I'm a woman and I said that. In a lot of ways, it goes back to sexism, and it makes me feel not mad but sad because you think that someone's understanding what you say but they're really using it against you.
When you're queer or you're part of an oppressed group, you don't think you have any part in oppression yourself, and that's a joke. As a white person, I can be just as oppressive as a man is to me. The reason why I'm glad it did come up, even though it was so paraphrased, is because it got people talking about their responsibilities to their community. Because, guess what, there are fat people in your community! It's like, why be a hater? I don't think anyone actively oppresses people when they're an open-minded person; I think they do things out of ignorance.
Now, despite that comment, you're definitely into fashion, and I believe you're working on a style guide, right?
Yeah! That's the thing, I love fashion, but it's just not fair. Here's the deal: Fashion should be for everyone. [Pauses] Well, fashion is one thing -- I love style. Those are two different things.
How are they different in your mind?
I think fashion is a product that can be bought and sold and is made for you, and style is something that you get up and you do it to yourself every morning. Fashion is a product, but style is a way of life. You can't buy style, it's an instinct.
Do you ever feel like there's an uneasy relationship between feminism and fashion?
No, no, feminists can be very fashionable. Look at Gloria Steinem. Look at Angela Davis. Most activist movements have amazing fashion. The Red Army faction, the Black Panthers, all of them had an amazing style. I think the contradiction is when fashion is created for you and you buy into the body that has to fit this one kind of fashion, but I don't think it means you can't express yourself via clothing or makeup. Drag, to me, is amazing for that reason. It doesn't have to mean you're a Cher impersonator -- look at Leigh Bowery, look at Klaus Nomi.
Some people have accused drag of being a misogynist art form. Do you disagree with that?
I'm sure everything can be misogynist if you don't do it right. I think that through conditioning things can be misogynist and you don't even know that they are. Like I said, things are so multifaceted, and we contradict ourselves sometimes. I don't support crazy corporations and would never play a show for them, but I shop at the mall, you know? I think anyone who's an activist but doesn't own up to their contradictions is not doing anyone a favor.
Since you're working on a style guide, are there certain looks that are iconic for you?
Black eyeliner always looks amazing -- anyone from Johnny Depp to Siouxsie Sioux, you can't go wrong. What else is amazing? Oh! The bouffant is always, always acceptable.
What about when it comes to you specifically? If Beth Ditto were going to the party to end all parties, what would she wear?
Hmm, what would I wear? I would probably wear something extremely cheap. Probably something cut-up. I don't know, maybe a trash bag? Maybe jeans? Well, no, I'm not really a jeans person. It depends, what kind of party are we going to? Give me a party.
A party being thrown by an idol of yours whom you've never met before.
So, Roseanne Barr's gonna be there?
Roseanne Barr's gonna be there.
OK, so if Roseanne is there, I'd probably wear something hilarious. Like, I'd try to find that chicken shirt she always wore [on her sitcom]. Do you know that shirt, the one with the chicken eggs on it?
I'm drawing a blank.
She wore it in every episode, although maybe not in the later era. My ultimate thing that I've always wanted – and this is my key to life, and if I don't get it, I'm gonna die -- is I'm going to go into a Big & Tall store in the next couple of days before I go back to England, and I'm gonna get a solid black hoodie and take it in so it's like a hoodie down to my knees and I can wear it with dresses. Then I want to spray Divine's face on the back of it. It would look so good! That is my dream -- I would wear it anywhere, I would even wear it to bed. A guy told me once that it doesn't matter what you're wearing underneath as long as your coat looks great. Do you agree?
Completely. To me, it's all about the shirt and jacket.
It's true! Like, if you've got jeans, those are a staple, and then you do it up.
When you were a kid, is there a certain singer that really resonated with you?
Miss Piggy is extremely iconic. There's no one higher than Miss Piggy. It's funny, but it's true -- she definitely was a huge influence on me as a teenager. Oh, and Patty Duke!
What was it about Patty Duke?
She had that bouffant! She had that tiny little bouffant.
The bouffant really works for you, huh?
Yeah! I remember watching her on Nick at Nite. Remember when Nick at Nite would come on, and it was, like, Make Room for Daddy, Patty Duke, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Dobie Gillis? Those are the shows that my dad would watch, and when I stayed at my dad's every other weekend, I would watch Patty Duke. Then, the whole next day, I would put on bright red lipstick -- even though Patty Duke never wore that -- and then bouffant my hair for hours.
Oh, also, Mary Tyler Moore's pants were amazing. And did I say Mama Cass? Mama Cass is iconic, definitely.
Do you remember the first concert you ever went to?
When I was in the fourth grade, I saw Damn Yankees, Slaughter, and Jackyl.
Oh, my God. What a lineup!
I know, hilarious! Can we talk about this -- you remember Jackyl? They had chain saws! You know, I was probably the only fourth grader in my school who had really short cutoff shorts, huge bangs, and leather boots. I'm proud of it. I was a little metalhead.
Do you remember the first time you realized someone was a lesbian?
You know who I had such a strong feeling about? Martha Plimpton, from Goonies and Parenthood. I also had this weird obsession with Rosie O'Donnell as a kid, like when I was too young to care about Rosie O'Donnell, just renting Beautiful Girls and not understanding anything. And then I watched VH1's Stand-Up Spotlight [which she hosted] every single Friday.
There were lots of lesbians that I was obsessed with when I didn't know why, kind of like when you're young and upset at your friend for getting a boyfriend or a girlfriend. You know what I mean? You're upset and you don't even understand it.
No, I get it.
OK, good. Good!
and some music.....