Skip to comments.The Truth About Beauty
Posted on 12/12/2010 6:19:47 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
It would be so nice if inner beauty triumphed over outer appearance. But men are designed to care about packaging. It's time to accept the not-so-pretty facts about looks.
There are certain practical realities of existence that most of us accept. If you want to catch a bear, you don't load the trap with a copy of Catch-22not unless you rub it with a considerable quantity of raw hamburger. If you want to snag a fish, you can't just slap the water with your hand and yell, "Jump on my hook, already!" Yet, if you're a woman who wants to land a man, there's this notion that you should be able to go around looking like Ernest Borgnine: If you're "beautiful on the inside," that's all that should count. Right. And I should have a flying car and a mansion in Bel Air with servants and a moat.
Welcome to Uglytopiathe world reimagined as a place where it's the content of a woman's character, not her pushup bra, that puts her on the cover of Maxim. It just doesn't seem fair to us that some people come into life with certain advantageswhether it's a movie star chin or a multimillion-dollar shipbuilding inheritance. Maybe we need affirmative action for ugly people; make George Clooney rotate in some homely women between all his gorgeous girlfriends. While we wish things were different, we'd best accept the ugly reality: No man will turn his head to ogle a woman because she looks like the type to buy a turkey sandwich for a homeless man or read to the blind.
There is a vast body of evidence indicating that men and women are biologically and psychologically different, and that what heterosexual men and women want in partners directly corresponds to these differences. The features men evolved to go for in womenyouth, clear skin, a symmetrical face and body, feminine facial features, an hourglass figureare those indicating that a woman would be a healthy, fertile candidate to pass on a man's genes.
These preferences span borders, cultures, and generations, meaning yes, there really are universal standards of beauty. And while Western women do struggle to be slim, the truth is, women in all cultures eat (or don't) to appeal to "the male gaze." The body size that's idealized in a particular culture appears to correspond to the availability of food. In cultures like ours, where you can't go five miles without passing a 7-Eleven and food is sold by the pallet-load at warehouse grocery stores, thin women are in. In cultures where food is scarce (like in Sahara-adjacent hoods), blubber is beautiful, and women appeal to men by stuffing themselves until they're slim like Jabba the Hut.
Men's looks matter to heterosexual women only somewhat. Most women prefer men who are taller than they are, with symmetrical features (a sign that a potential partner is healthy and parasite-free). But, women across cultures are intent on finding male partners with high status, power, and access to resourceswhich means a really short guy can add maybe a foot to his height with a private jet. And, just like women who aren't very attractive, men who make very little money or are chronically out of work tend to have a really hard time finding partners. There is some male grumbling about this. Yet, while feminist journalists deforest North America publishing articles urging women to bow out of the beauty arms race and "Learn to love that woman in the mirror!", nobody gets into the ridiculous position of advising men to "Learn to love that unemployed guy sprawled on the couch!"
Now, before you brand me a traitor to my gender, let me say that I'm all for women having the vote, and I think a woman with a mustache should make the same money as a man with a mustache. But you don't help that woman by advising her, "No need to wax that lip fringe or work off that beer belly!" (Because the road to female empowerment is...looking just like a hairy old man?)
But take The Beauty Myth author Naomi Wolf: She contends that standards of beauty are a plot to keep women politically, economically, and sexually subjugated to menapparently by keeping them too busy curling their eyelashes to have time for political action and too weak from dieting to stand up for what they want in bed. Wolf and her feminist sob sisters bleat about the horror of women being pushed to conform to "Western standards of beauty"as if eyebrow plucking and getting highlights are the real hardships compared to the walk in the park of footbinding and clitoridectomy. Most insultingly, Wolf paints women who look after their looks as the dim, passive dupes of Madison Ave nue and magazine editors. Apparently, women need only open a page of Vogue and they're under its spellthey sleepwalk to Sephora to load up on anti-wrinkle potions, then go on harsh diets, eating only carrots fertilized with butterfly poo.
It turns out that the real beauty myth is the damaging one Wolf and other feminists are perpetuatingthe absurd notion that it serves women to thumb their noses at standards of beauty. Of course, looks aren't all that matter (as I'm lectured by female readers of my newspaper column when I point out that male lust seems to have a weight limit). But looks matter a great deal. The more attractive the woman is, the wider her pool of romantic partners and range of opportunities in her work and day-to-day life. We all know this, and numerous studies confirm itit's just heresy to say so.
We consider it admirable when people strive to better themselves intellectually; we don't say, "Hey, you weren't born a genius, so why ever bother reading a book?" Why should we treat physical appearance any differently? For example, research shows that men prefer women with full lips, smaller chins, and large eyesindicators of higher levels of estrogen. Some lucky women have big eyes; others just seem to, thanks to the clever application of eyeshadow. As the classic commercial says, "Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's Maybelline." (If it increases her options, who cares which it is?)
Unfortunately, because Americans are so conflicted and dishonest about the power of beauty, we approach it like novices. At one end of the spectrum are the "Love me as I am!" types, like the woman who asked me why she was having such a terrible time meeting men...while dressed in a way that advertised not "I want a boyfriend" but "I'm just the girl to clean out your sewer line!" At the other extreme are women who go around resembling porn-ready painted dolls. Note to the menopausal painted doll: Troweled on makeup doesn't make you look younger; it makes you look like an aging drag queen.
Likewise, being 50 and trying to look 25 through plastic surgery usually succeeds in making a woman look 45 and fembot-scaryan object of pity instead of an object of desire. Plastic surgery you can easily spot is usually a signeither of really bad work or of somebody who's gone way over the top with it, probably because she's trying to fill some void in her life with silicone, Juvederm, and implanted butt cutlets. There are women who just want to fix that one nagging imperfection. For others, plastic surgery is like potato chips, as in, "Betcha can't eat just one." A woman comes in for a lunchtime lip joban injection of Restylane or another plumping fillerand ends up getting both sets of lips done. Yes, I'm talking about labioplasty. (Are your vagina lips pouty?)
Once women start seeing wrinkles and crow's feet, the desperation to look like they were born yesterday often makes them act like it, too. Women want to believe there's such a thing as "hope in a jar"and there is: hope from the CEO selling the jars that you and millions of others will buy him a new yacht and a chateau in the south of France. There actually is hope to be found in a plastic bottleof sunblock, the kind that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (the skin-aging ones). But the Beauty Brains, a group of blogging cosmetic scientists, write, "The sad truth is that creams that claim to be anti-aging are not much more effective than standard moisturizing lotions."
French women, too, buy into the idea that there's some fountain of youth at the Clarins counter. But, perhaps because feminism never seeped into mainstream culture in France like it did here, they generally have a healthier and more realistic relationship with beauty, accepting it as the conduit to love, sex, relationships, and increased opportunities. They take pleasure in cultivating their appearance, and in accentuating their physical differences from men. They don't give up on looking after their looks as they age, nor do they tart themselves up like sexy schoolgirls at 50. They simply take pride in their appearance and try to look like sensual, older women.
To understand what it takes to be beautiful, we need to be very clear about what being beautiful meansbeing sexually appealing to men. And then, instead of snarling that male sexuality is evil, we need to accept that it's just differentfar more visually-driven than female sexuality. To focus our efforts, we can turn to an increasing number of studies by evolutionary psychologists on what most men seem to want. For example, the University of Texas' Devendra Singh discovered that men, across cultures, are drawn to a woman with an hourglass figure. Men like to see a wom an's waisteven on the larger ladiesso burn those muumuus, which only reveal your girlish figure in a Category 5 hurricane, and if you don't have much of a waist, do your best to give yourself one with the cut of your clothes or a belt.
Too many women try to get away with a bait-and-switch approach to appearance upkeep. If you spend three hours a day in the gym while you're dating a guy, don't think that you can walk down the aisle and say "I do...and, guess what...now I don't anymore!" A woman needs to come up with a workable routine for maintaining her looks throughout her lifetime and avoid rationalizing slacking off while she's seeking a man and after she has one. Yeah, you might have to put five or ten extra minutes into prettying up just to hang around the house. And, sure, you might be more "comfortable" in big sloppy sweats, but how "comfortable" will you be if he leaves you for a woman who cares enough to look hot for him?
Like French women, we, too, need to understand that a healthy approach to beauty is neither pretending it's unnecessary or unimportant nor making it important beyond all else. By being honest about it, we help women make informed decisions about how much effort to put into their appearanceor accept the opportunity costs of going ungroomed. The truth is, like knowledge, beauty is power. So, ladies, read lots of books, develop your mind and your character, exercise the rights the heroes of the women's movement fought for us to have, and strive to become somebody who makes a difference in the world. And, pssst...while you're doing all of that, don't forget to wear lipgloss.
I agree with this to a point, and that is for initial attraction.
But if a man gets a chance to know a woman, at least sometimes, she “grows” on him.
Also, beauty is still subjective. Witness the article’s admission that some cultures like fat and some like thin. Obviously that is not “hard wired.”
I have seen some women I think are genuinely ugly (NO offense intended, but she can pout all the way to the bank) like Sarah Jessica Parker. If I looked like that I’d feel depressed. Yet she is a famous and apparently gorgeous movie star.
I have known some “Sarah Jessica Parkers” in real life who are apparently loved by good looking men with decent jobs.
Also I have known a handful of very heavy women who have husbands who are much better looking. And I’m not talking about women who got fat after the wedding but who were seriously fat to begin with.
I was just a skinny lad
Never knew no good from bad
But I knew love before I left my nursery, huh
Left alone with big fat fanny
She was such a naughty nanny
Heap big woman you made a bad boy out of me
A pretty face don't make no pretty heart
I learned that, buddy, from the start
Interesting article with many good points.
Except about French women.
In every situation I have been in ,with time and familiarity, the initially beautiful and ugly girls always moderate in their appeal.
True—making a man feel deeply appreciated is a powerful aphrodisiac and can make a very plain woman the subject of a good man’s love. But looking as though you care how attractive you are, staying in shape, making an effort, corresponding to traditional female ideas of beauty, and appearing happy and healthy will give a woman a bigger pool of good men to choose from. It’s not realistic to expect a man to have ESP and see past the ratty hair and rolls of fat an unfamiliar woman is displaying and recognize the fine character beneath. At least look like you’re in the market, for goodness’ sake.
Most women choose men, at least in part, based on their healthy appearance and ability to provide for their mate. Likewise, a man chooses a woman, at least in part, based on their healthy appearance and ability to bear children.
We’re hardwired to notice appearance, as are all sorts of species. It’s perfectly natural, although it can seem cruel to the unattractive who try to legislate it away.
Amy, you really have covered thus pretty well.
Feminists have hurt women in many ways. One older female friend of mine was a pretty lady, but a fairly hard-core feminist. Only in her later years, after she was past 40 or so (but she still looked great), did she come to realize that men weren’t out to hurt her. But by then she’d dated a gay guy for over ten years in a basically non-sexual relationship and a bunch of divorced men who were easy for her to use and turn down. She’s approaching 60 and has never been married and wishes she’d lived her life in an entirely different way.
She knew “nice” guys who would have, as she thought, tied her down, even though the ladies they married were/are still quite happy. But she went for the higher profile men and made sure they kept their distance.
She openly states the many ways the feminist movement’s bilge corrupted her and many others she’s known. She’s been pretty conservative for some years now, but her tastes are still fixed in the directions to which she was accustomed in many ways.
She still looks pretty good, and she’s pretty engaging, but she’s dated or knows all the guys in her city that amount to anything. Unfortunately, single, conservative Christian men are hard to come by at 57.
I hope the best for her, as she’s quite alone now after her parents and sister have passed on.
Feminism has helped lay waste to many lives as it has sought to undermine a country.
No one can look precise every day; it varies. Well, perhaps this Alcon woman looks all curled and powdered every day. So, good for her. I have to live a practical life, actually getting out in the elements, letting my slightly graying hair blow in the wind, stacking firewood, feeding the fire, feeding the animals, cooking, cleaning, etc. I’m 64 and had to face facts head on a long time ago.
SJP has a SMOKING hot body, but her face leaves me unimpressed. I actually like Brittney Spears now that she’s 30 and has a few pounds on her.
Men are visual.
Fact of life.
I think once “beauty” crosses a certain threshold, other things become more important. Like “Can I hold an enjoyable conversation with her?” or “Will both of us be sane at the end of an eight hour road trip?”
Feminist Naomi Wolf who famously had Al Gore dressed in earth tones and advised him to assume an Alpha Male personna . Oh, the irony.
I certainly don’t want to legislate it away. All that will do is force unwilling, attractive people to cohabit with the unattractive people, ultimately making the members of both groups miserable. I would rather work on becoming more attractive.
Figures, but she writes funny!
I’m sure there are men who would appreciate that (I certainly would). And they would help you out, if they knew what’s good for them. :-)
Pink is not her color.
We can’t change who we are, even when we’d like to, when it comes to these preferences. Women are visual to some extent, too, IMO.