Thursday, August 13, 2009

The NYTPicker Comes To The Defense Of "Critical Shopper" Columnist Cintra Wilson For Being, Well, Critical.

The NYTPicker doesn't usually like to engage in commentary, but the debate over today's "Critical Shopper" column --"Playing To The Middle" -- by Cintra Wilson in the NYT Styles section has moved us to speak out in the writer's defense.

Over on Wilson's website, readers have been trashing her with dozens of nasty comments, even calling her posted apology into question. We don't think she had any reason to apologize.

Here are a few points to consider.

1. It's funny. (Example: It was never “get the look for less” so much as “get something vaguely shaped like the designer thing you want, but cut much more conservatively, made in all-petroleum materials, and with a too-similar wannabe logo that announces your inferiority to evil classmates as surely as if you were cursed to be followed around by a tuba section.”)

2. It's a widely documented fact that designers now falsely size clothes (it's called "vanity sizing") to make overweight people feel thinner. That explains Wilson's reference to "abundant size 10’s, 12’s and 16’s." She's right to note that these tricks are designed to appeal to plus-size customers.

3. It seems to us Wilson is welcoming the idea of servicing New York City's overweight population. "Herein lies the genius of J. C. Penney: It has made a point of providing clothing for people of all sizes," she writes. She describes the strategy as "really, remarkably smart," which it is.

4. The notion of obese mannequins has also been chronicled elsewhere in the press. Her observations reflect a logical and appropriate acknowledgement of an undeniable, if unfortunate truth --Americans are getting fatter. Wilson doesn't pass judgment on fat people; her commentary addresses stores that do -- or don't -- service them.

5. We'd argue that Wilson speaks mostly in defense of overweight shoppers. Read this again:

This niche has been almost wholly neglected on our snobby, self-obsessed little island. New York boutiques tend to cater to the stress-thin, morbidly workaholic, Pilates-tortured Manhattan ectomorph. But there are many more body types who vote with their hard-earned dollars, who appreciate a clean new space in Midtown to buy affordable clothes in hard-to-find sizes, as well as attentive service from attitude-free professionals.

6. Most important: What's wrong with allowing a NYT writer to slip some clever attitude into an often-stodgy and humorless newspaper?

Jill Abramson, the NYT's managing editor -- and, once upon a time, a brilliant, edgy investigative journalist -- now puts her byline on a treacly, earnest and often nauseating chronicle of raising a puppy. It's the safest and most pandering way imaginable to ply readers with the comfort food of maudlin prose.

By contrast, it's refreshing to read Cintra Wilson's edgy, honest and clever take (along with that of her witty colleague, Mike Albo) in the NYT each week. We hope the knee-jerk criticisms of the angry mob wash away and leave her standing.


Caroline said...

I agree completely -- the tone of the article was appropriate for a Manhattanite reviewing a middle American standard, and I think the new "edgy" JC Penney image she describes will do well by some Critical Shipper attention.

Plus, as someone for whom JCP was the only department store within a half hour for my entire childhood, her descriptions of its usual image are spot on. Alarmingly spot on.

Anonymous said...

Dead right about the Puppy Diaries. It's the kind of thing you'd expect to find in a small town weekly, not the New York Times.

Anonymous said...

I always look forward to Cintra Wilson. She's funny and acerbic (just like The NYTPicker!) and there's not nearly enough of that in the Times.

This is just another example of the PC police snapping into action. Glad you called them out on it.