Monday, December 19, 2011

On Behalf Of Women ...

This morning on Facebook, a friend, a male friend, asked (I'm paraphrasing here) why women of the spousal variety get so bent out of shape if their husbands say some other woman is pretty, especially if they're answering a direct question from their wives.

My reply to him was: "A simple 'She's not as pretty as you' should suffice."

But, of course, that's a simple reply to a complex issue.

And men surely know that women are beleaguered, day in, day out, the messaging, the non-stop messaging that we're not good enough, but just in case you need a bit of a refresher, guys ... .

Have you ever looked at a women's magazine? Not for George Constanza-esque purposes, but to see what women see? If not, do. Hundreds of pages of "You're not good enough," from the airbrushed waif on the cover and the coverlines about how to be thinner, prettier, sexier, and the all-encompassing "hot" to the pages upon pages of women in ads who have been Photoshopped to remove all evidence of offending characteristics like, you know, pores to the content, sparse as it is, that spells out in oh-so-simple-so-why-aren't-you-doing-it terms that we're walking, talking billboards of shortcomings.

(Note: What follows is a representative, not comprehensive, rant.)

Every ad, in print and on screen, every day, tells women that we should be:

And not just thinner, but much thinner. Swimsuit-model thin, please. Sure, we occasionally read that men don't want skinny women, except that every ad posted by every man on every dating site says he wants someone "thin" or "fit" or "athletic." Never mind that many of those men bear a striking resemblance to Kevin James.

Speaking of, how many sitcoms feature a big guy married to a hot, skinny woman? On "The King of Queens," when Leah Remini put on a few pounds, it was a big deal. But Kev was a big guy and just fine the way he was.

Then along comes "Mike & Molly," a funny show that dares to feature two people who have the temerity to look like a lot of people in this country, and whoa, the backlash. Insane.

Men, here's another bit of insight for you that you probably did not know: The quality of a woman's life is directly proportional to the length of her lashes. Yep. We all need to march ourselves right up to a makeup counter in a ritzy department store and plunk down $30 for tube of black goo. Except that most black goo is the same, so we can also go to the drugstore and only plunk down $8, but then we're faced with the problem of how to choose. In any given makeup aisle in any given drugstore, we find approximately 27,000 brands and types of mascara. But don't worry: Marketers have our best interest at heart. We know that we just look for the most extreme adjectives. Perhaps Maybelline The Colossal Volum' Express Waterproof Mascara will do the trick. (I have no idea what the hell is up with the apostrophe on Volum'.) Yes, that's what we've always wanted: colossal lashes. Because if we don't have to strain our necks to keep our heads upright to counterbalance our colossal lashes, we're clearly doing it wrong.

And speaking of doing it wrong, our lips are too thin. They need to look like they've been stung by a bee. Or some other creature. Lip Venom is an actual product. Or maybe we need Just Bitten. Um, ouch.

And while I'm on the subject of our lips, we also learn that they should be shellacked with high-shine lip gloss. Yes, it looks ridiculous and no one in their right mind would want to kiss us with all that crap on our mouths, but we're probably not thin enough for anyone to be attracted to us in the first place. So we just glop on some bubblegum-pink, sparkle-packed lip gloss and pretend our lives are worth living. P.S. We have learned the hard way that we should not go outside on windy days.

We need to be sexier. We get it. We see the ads. This is what they say to us:

Honestly, ladies, you have a Victoria's Secret at a mall near you, don't you? So why don't you spend your days flouncing around in push-up bras and bikini underwear with giant angel wings on your back? Haven't you been paying attention? That's how you snag a man.

Of course, first you have to achieve the body of a Praying Mantis and shell out a few grand for hair extensions and get your lips plumped and your pores eradicated and your skin waxed into oblivion and learn to strut in 5-inch heels, but once you do, impossibly handsome men from fragrance ads will be beating down your door.

And, of course, on top of all of that, most women are expected to work full time, raise a family, plan meals, prepare meals, clean the house, do the laundry, run errands, remember everyone's birthday, plan parties, host parties, and at bathtime, make sure they wrap their angel children in blindingly white, giant fluffy towel hugs.

All of which is to say, men, that women are just looking for a little reassurance from you. If she's asking if you think another woman is pretty, what she's probably saying is that you don't tell her she's pretty often enough.

A little appreciation goes a long way.


Anonymous Dave D said...


I appreciate your position and agree, in principle, that messaging - especially from advertisers, etc. - is horribly slanted toward 'perfection' to some ideal that not only is barely achievable to only a select few, but also adding the emphasis that it IS achievable, only you are not doing enough to actually get there.

I get it.

However, I do take exception to this comment:

"Speaking of, how many sitcoms feature a big guy married to a hot, skinny woman?"

While true from the sitcom perspective itself, why do you think it's that way? Do you think that men actually 'believe' this happens in the real world? No, we know this never happens, but are equally confronted with the same guilt-enducing set of feelings because we're somehow expected to live to that standard as well.

While I'm sure it's not as bad as what you (and women) face daily, the emphasis toward male perfection is steadily increasing. Not only are we supposed to look like Brad Pitt (or the guy from White Collar who, apparently, is all the rage at the moment), we're supposed to have (and utilize 24 hours per day) the sensitive intellectual capacity of George Clooney, Sean Penn, Albert Einstein and Hugh Laurie) as well as have the full capacity, not to mention, desire, to be well-rounded, and..when not working ridiculous hours as the primary income winner, sacrifice all of that because we have, otherwise, apparently neglected to empathize or be sensitive enough to not only the things we knew (or should have known) about, but equally for the things we didn't know about, but through some magic or osmosis just were supposed to know. Likewise, we are to be taken at face value in all but the overly sensitive situation where a woman's beauty is potentially threatened because we answered a question honestly?

So, with all due respect, it may be that simple "Yes, she's pretty.." is a mere statement of fact/opinion and really nothing else.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Dave D said...

Beth - meh. Just disregard this comment. Caught me on a bad day in a bad moment and it just hit me wrong.



11:58 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Well, what a great comment. Thanks, Dave.

And I understand that men, too, feel the need to look and be and do more.

It's just a matter of perspective. As the comment thread on Facebook continued this morning, that revealed itself to be true. But it was a good conversation. And I appreciated that I was talking to a man who could say, "Huh, I never thought of that before." (I had mentioned that there is no male equivalent of beauty pageants, of women being judged solely on their looks. He suggested Mr. Universe, but I pointed out that that is a competition based on the pursuit of something, not traits with which men are born.)

12:01 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I saw your first comment and replied before I saw your second.

You have valid points. Men face similar issues. Perhaps not to the same degree as women, but we all have stuff to sift through.

Ideally, we would all tell the advertisers and other peddlers of the impossible ideals to just cram it.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Nothing in the world is more erotic than someone who is 100% comfortable with who they are.

The smart will resist the manipulation. We should try to build this resistance into all kids, starting in school.

Unfortunately, with nothing to balance it, it is in school that the competitiveness and self-centeredness often starts.

A huge part of teaching and parenting is saying "no". If people didn't buy the crap then companies would rapidly stop selling it. And that works for images as well as products.

The ad world tends to reflect society not guide it. The real problem is buried deeper. And it is a real problem.

Education is all we have to truly address problems.

All the best for 2012 Beth. Keep's great stuff.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

All very good points, Dave. My mom said "no" to me a lot when I was growing up, and I resented her at the time, but I'm grateful to her as an adult.

All the best to you for the new year, too, Dave. Keep singing.

10:13 PM  

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