Near flawless beauty is supposedly an achievable and worthwhile goal for women. Women are buying in, and many are desperate. A SELF survey of 4,000 women found that 75% have disordered food habits. It starts early, with girls starting to express weight and beauty concerns at around 6 years old.
So when people try to convince women and girls that they are beautiful just how they are, my first reaction is relief. Yet ultimately, I find the effort short-sighted. I’m not trashing body positivity; it has an important part to play in challenging the status quo and helping people. But the continual focus on women’s bodies and how women are supposed to feel about them has some severe limits.
First of all, millions of women aren’t irrationally body -focused. They’re picking up on existing biases. One study showed that being as little as 13 pounds overweight affects women’s job and salary prospects. In my personal experience, the closer I’ve cleaved to expected beauty standards the better I’ve been treated by family and strangers alike. Saying that all women are beautiful and that they just need to feel good about themselves does little when society doles out the same crappy treatment as usual.
Furthermore, the concept of beauty has become enmeshed with other ideas and values. We equate a certain look with self-control, confidence, self-esteem, and moral worth. Just look at any women’s magazine cover. Those who aren’t considered physically attractive are often judged as lazy, weak-willed, and self-hating. Just look at Reddit. *shudder* When women are encouraged to feel beautiful, it changes the goal posts, but not the game.
Focusing on whether or not you measure up to an aesthetic standard in order to be happy and treated well, even if you meet it, breeds anxiety. This method of determining human value leads to hyper vigilance about looks as women to try to eke out as much respect and self-respect as possible, with mixed results that are largely up to chance. It leads to a society where women look in the mirror to determine how much they’re worth today. Reassuring a woman that she is beautiful, and hence still valuable, does not dismantle this dynamic.
As much as I’ve been sold (emphasis on sold) the idea that men only want supermodels and are part of the problem, men aren’t collectively responsible for this stuff. Most guys don’t want a blindingly beautiful princess any more than most women want a prince who slays dragons. Women love dragons, obviously.
Men, however, can be part of the solution. Simply by treating women like people and not like decoration pushes back against this messed-up beauty culture. It’s hard to list everything that entails, but it includes giving complements that aren’t just image based, not falling back on looks-based insults, and ultimately finding human value beyond aesthetic value.
Even if body image issues weren’t on the rise for men, and they certainly are, men still have something to gain from pushing back. You lose out when you believe women’s looks are the most important thing about them, as Dustin Hoffman explains:
Is Chivalry Dead? If it is, Good Riddance
The idea that (certain) men are noble protectors comes from the eras of rigid hierarchy. From the Middle Ages to the Victorian era and later, being a woman, a child, or poor meant having almost no power, which was a feature, not a bug. A chivalrous man believed that this situation made him responsible for those who couldn’t care for themselves.
THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.
If you want to get technical (and who doesn’t?!) chivalry went out of style in about the 15th century when cheaper professional armies and gunpowder replaced knights as the standard for warfare. Nevertheless, we like to hearken back to days when being a gentleman meant avoiding your lady’s seductive advances and wearing plate armor. Good times.
Okay, I’m being facetious. Being kind and considerate to fellow humans should always be encouraged, and it can overlap with what is regarded as chivalrous behavior.
However, the idea that (certain) men are noble protectors comes from the eras of rigid hierarchy. From the Middle Ages to the Victorian era and later, being a woman, a child, or poor meant having almost no power, which was a feature, not a bug. A chivalrous man believed that this situation made him responsible for those who couldn’t care for themselves. It is honorable all things considered, but better than the relief that the person controlling your life is a decent guy is the ability to control your own person and property.
The concept of chivalry seems to exist in the hazy past, like how the 1950s were the good old days instead of the days of potential nuclear annihilation. There’s this idea that once upon a time men were gentleman, women were ladies, and various behaviors underscored a more genteel way of living. What’s left out of this daydream is all the people who don’t neatly fit into the simplistic boxes of what manhood and womanhood are “supposed” to look like.
It turns out living in the present has its perks, including no longer having to adhere to crushingly rigid social and gender norms. We still have a long way to go, but in general it has become more okay to be who we are instead of following prescribed roles. Men can be primary caregivers, and women can be primary breadwinners. Men can be soft-spoken and abhor violence, and Ronda Rousey is a household name.
LGBTQ people are especially left out when it comes to chivalry. If you’re not part of a heterosexual gender binary, it’s hard to see how some of these rules are supposed to apply or make sense. Even if you are cis and straight, the rules of chivalry have become muddied.
Does it indicate a lack of respect if a man doesn’t stand when a butch lesbian enters a room?
What about a trans woman? Is there a threshold for how feminine she is perceived before you pull a chair out for her?
How old does a man have to be before giving up your seat on the bus is welcome instead of emasculating? If a young man with a cane, a female athlete, and a mumbling bag lady all get to a door at once, who’s responsible for holding it and who should go through first? Does this question even matter if it’s an automatic door (that vile aperture, creator of anarchy and vehicle of the breakdown of everything we as a society hold dear, that is, the importance of proper-door-holding proceedings)?
Despite what manners websites may say, there aren’t actually any solid answers because if chivalry were solely about consideration and good behavior it wouldn’t be so damn confusing. People wouldn’t be so pissed off if it were simply about being kind to each other. (Well, maybe pissed off differently.)
In some ways, chivalry is a way to reinforce gender roles under the guise of refined behavior. But we simply don’t have the same expectations anymore. A man picking up the tab for a date made sense when women’s earnings were severely limited (instead of just limited.) Opening doors and providing a steadying arm made sense when even sensible women’s wear was difficult to move in. Men providing jackets, holding umbrellas, and carrying heavy bags made sense when male physical weakness, especially compared to women, was a great source of shame. Making all the rules for courtship about straight people made sense when queerness was unspeakable.
I’m not saying that we live in a magical, accepting world or that the inequalities that made chivalrous behavior make sense are gone. That much is obvious, and perhaps that’s why there are those who insist it’s still necessary. But as we focus more on achieving equality and we open our eyes to the full spectrum of humanity instead of just “respectable” straight people, the rituals that soften inequality and shore-up outdated ideas have begun to fall away. That’s a good thing.
The housework excuses your S.O. hates
Division of housework is often a gendered issue, and there are all kinds of reasons for that, like girls getting more chores growing up and social pressure for women to keep a tidy house.
We’ve all made crappy excuses to get out of doing something, especially boring stuff like housework. Some attempts are obviously bad like, “I can’t clean the bathroom. I’m… currently on fire.” But other excuses seem true when you say them. In fact you don’t even think of them as excuses, which is why your S.O. is extra annoyed with you when you let them fly.
Division of housework is often a gendered issue, and there are all kinds of reasons for that, like girls getting more chores growing up and social pressure for women to keep a tidy house. But it’s not only a gendered thing, it’s not like same-sex couples never fight over the dishes. It’s not like women are never lazy, slobs. While the issue isn’t necessarily equal across the board, we all have the potential to be equal-opportunity offenders.
So what are those magic words that’ll piss off your S.O.?
“I just don’t see mess like you!”
The thing about this excuse is you think it’s true. You really think your S.O. is just more sensitive to messiness like a dog is to high-pitched sounds.
This is bullshit.
Unless you literally have problems with your eyesight, chances are your eyes work the same as your S.O.s’. A messy space isn’t some kind of Highlights for Children hidden object game where you need to find the pile of laundry on the deceptively T-shirt-printed floor.
If you walked into a hotel room that had the same “invisible” mess as your home, you’d flip out over how gross it was. This gets to the crux of the excuse: you don’t see the mess if you assume it’s not your problem. Specifically, this excuse is telling your S.O. that most messes, even ones caused by you, are their problem alone.
“You’re just better at these things.”
Okay, there’s a grain of truth to this. We all have different levels of talent, even in mundane areas. If you’re a rotten cook who can’t be trusted to boil water, then fine, maybe your S.O. does the cooking and you wash up afterwards. But if “these things” means anything remotely domestic, your S.O. has a right to be annoyed.
No one is born with an innate sense of how to separate laundry, how to load a dishwasher, or how to change a diaper. It’s not a glamorous skill set, but they are skills, and they are learned. When you dismiss the idea that you can or should learn how to get better at “these things,” you’re saying your S.O. should accommodate your learned helplessness for your convenience.
“I didn’t have time to do it.”
We’ve all had time pose a problem, especially if you’re juggling a lot at once. But someone has to keep the house safely clean, the people within it decently fed and clothed, the bills paid on time, the doctor’s appointments made, etc. The person handling these things has to make time, sometimes by sacrificing things they would rather be doing. Scrubbing toilets is rarely the preferred way of enjoying yourself.
Sure, sometimes you legit just can’t get to everything you need to. It happens. But when this is your constant excuse to get out of housework, you’re saying that your time is more valuable than your S.O.’s because your time is non-negotiable and theirs isn’t.
“Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.”
Perhaps the most well meaning of all the excuses, you’re still putting the brunt of housework duties on your S.O. How is that possible?
First, how would you respond if your S.O. told you to not just do a couple easy chores a day, but several things and actually expected you to do them well? If your response is anything but positive, you don’t mean what you said. And even if you did everything with a smile, few people enjoy the idea of bossing their S.O. around, especially when it’s for something as unsexy as cleaning litter boxes.
It still takes a certain amount of energy and diplomacy to tell someone to do stuff, even more if you need to tell them how. Have you ever helped a computer illiterate person with Microsoft Excel? It’s like that except instead of telling them how to do a spreadsheet it’s how to not live in squalor. At some point you just say, “Fuck it. Let me do that for you.”
When you say, “Just tell me what to do,” it means that your S.O. expends time and energy differently, but it’s effort just the same.
Dudes, please stop objectifying and rating women
First of all, objectification is not a complement and having rampant pants feelings for someone does not mean you are objectifying them.
The story of the Harvard men’s soccer team “scouting report” is starting to be lost in the laundry of election think pieces and holiday gift guides. The athletic team in question has been punished via cancelling their winning season, and the women they targeted responded with a strong and classy piece in The Harvard Crimson. It would seem like this story is done, and we have bigger fish to fry.
But I’ve heard some push back about Harvard’s handling of the matter. The biggest point seems to be that men are born to sexually objectify, and expecting anything more, even at one of our most prestigious universities, is unreasonable and oversensitive. And because it is natural for men not to consider women fully human, it is women’s responsibility to understand and accept that they simply never will be. In fact, rating women is a complement and how men express attraction.
Before I start dissecting this owl pellet of an argument, let’s get some things out of the way. The men’s soccer team did not gossip amongst themselves in a locker room; they made a public Google document for the explicit purpose of rating women for several years running and lied about it, which violated Harvard’s code of conduct in a couple ways. They were not punished for wanting to have sex with fellow athletes. Also, yes, women can be gross, sexist assholes, any demographic can be, but that doesn’t excuse the men who are gross, sexist assholes.
First of all, objectification is not a complement and having rampant pants feelings for someone does not mean you are objectifying them. Objectification means that you treat someone like something. That’s really at the heart of ranking women on a 1-10 scale or only valuing them as sexual commodities. It’s about the failure to realize that women are nuanced people and not sex decorations. It’s incredibly frustrating to not be taken seriously whether it’s a job interview, arguing a point, or describing your goals because those around you are deciding whether or not you’re fuckable instead of listening.
Now, one instance of objectification does not make women fall to the ground and gnash their teeth. But being continually exposed to an environment where your looks never not matter, in fact, you’re often told your looks are the most important thing about you, and having that environment be normal, your stasis, sucks. You don’t get to leave your body somewhere when you don’t want to deal with this shit. In order to process and engage in this kind of environment, you need to self-objectify. Your body is always with you, but stops being of you. Self-objectification leads to a kind of disassociation of self; looking in the mirror is not a first-person act, but third-person-limited: “How do other people think I look?”
In a 2007 American Psychological Association (APA) report on the sexualization of girls, they found self-objectification to increase the likelihood of depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem, poor sexual health, and more. Plus all that self-monitoring uses a lot of brain RAM that could go towards other things. The report provides additional nuance about age appropriateness, different demographics, and personal choice, but the overall conclusions aren’t great.
Saying that women just need to accept that this as their lot in life is bullshit, even if men mentally breaking them down to their component parts and laughing or jerking off is as natural as breathing. Which, of course, it isn’t, not even for guys who love having sex with women. Frankly, that kind of assumption about men is also bullshit.
The thing is, while men are less likely to self-objectify or be only valued sexually, they don’t escape unscathed. Talking about women, sex, and yes, objectifying women is often a male bonding thing. It reinforces who’s in the group and who can’t hack it. It also makes an environment that’s hostile to gay men, transmen, and straight guys who love having sex with women and hate trash talking them. But the more you engage in the behavior to fit in, the harder it is to shake off the ideology.
It’s a strange thing to assume men lose nothing when they treat women one dimensionally, and I’ve written about it before. You miss out on what half the human race has to offer if you think the only thing they have to offer is eye candy or sexual favors. You also miss out in real relationships, too.
People generally have a pretty good idea what you think of them, even if you don’t use “lewd language” in their presence. If you don’t see someone as fully human, they will not trust you. They may care about you, laugh at your jokes, and even love you, but they also understand that it is not safe to put complete faith in you. They will not share what they really think because it is not welcome. It is so much easier to coddle and soothe someone who generally means well but does harm anyway. It’s incredibly condescending, but often effective. *
Looking into how the women’s soccer team responded to the “scouting report,” it is telling that before significant media attention many female players considered the behavior of the men’s team to be repugnant, but ultimately normal and not worth dwelling on. Even though they considered many of the male players close friends. The betrayal hurt, but it wasn’t surprising, and that’s probably the worst part. Seeing a friend laugh that you’re “STD ridden” and responding with a shrug because what can you expect from guys?
So, what do we do about this? Harvard’s director of athletics said, “These things exist in our society. Society hasn’t figured out a way to stop these things from happening.” While true, one would hope for something more concrete.
The best I have to offer is that everyone needs to challenge this idea of normal. It shouldn’t be normal to assume men are animals, and it shouldn’t be normal to assume women’s worth can be judged on a 1-10 scale. We need to make people uncomfortable because it’s not an easy thing to talk about. But are we really comfortable with the way things are now?
* I’m indebted Melissa McEwan’s thoughts on this matter in her essay, “The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck.”
Entertainment1 year ago
32 worst things Donald Trump has ever said
Entertainment2 years ago
32 of the worst things Donald Trump has said since running for President
Entertainment2 years ago
Netflix Secret Codes Guide
Travel3 years ago
27 Foreign Laws You Don’t Want to Break
Entertainment3 years ago
30 Animals that Will Make You Fear Australia
News2 years ago
The 24 Dankest Bernie Sanders Memes
Entertainment3 years ago
27 Surprising Facts About Beer
Entertainment1 year ago
25 Most Disturbing Urban Dictionary Words Ever