Men are commonly blamed by women for forcing them to endure beauty regimes at their expense for men’s benefit. This is nonsense. Women choose their beauty routines of their own accord regardless of the opinions of their male partners (or men in general). Women use symbols of ‘beauty’ to compete with other women for social status.

It is heartening to read the occasional recognition of the reality of this from women. When talking about women’s use of botox in ‘Beauty cuts more than skin deep‘, ethicist Leslie Cannold states:

Radical feminists – and their Christian pseudo-feminist cousins – blame men. As one angry young woman put it in response to a piece I wrote on the issue several years ago: ”Women get plastic surgery, as well as spend endless time and money on all of the other beauty practices listed, because men require us to … Men invent new and higher standards of beauty for us to live up to because they need new and different ways of knowing that we’re still playing the game.”

My experience is that the shaming and silencing around Botox has nothing to do with men and everything to do with other women.

In ‘Why are we so repulsed by how these women look?‘, Wendy Squires examines the bogan beauty aesthetic of the women in the tv show The Shire. She quotes psychologist Meredith Fuller:

Talk to men and they usually say they don’t like that huge made-up look or fake breasts. I think these girls are just delighting in looking how they want. They’re saying ‘it’s my body, my money and my choice’. This sense of liberation can challenge those of us who don’t share it or feel they can achieve the same in their own lives.

Precisely. The artificial beauty aesthetic has nothing to do with women pandering to men’s desires and everything to do with their own values.

men are not to blame for women’s beauty paranoia

14 thoughts on “men are not to blame for women’s beauty paranoia

  • 16 August 2012 at 5:03 am
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    Eh, I see your point, but personally, I don’t blame ‘men’ for this at all. I blame the patriarchy. Both men and women participate in the perpetuation of the patriarchy. I include myself in that, and I’m a pretty staunch feminist.

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  • 16 August 2012 at 2:46 pm
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    The extremes as seen in The Shire might not be attractive to most men but I would say a degree of beauty ‘maintenance’ in women is still expected by a lot of men.

    I do tend to agree with hsg though… it is more likely societal pressures rather than “men” that make women feel this way (and examining the history behind the causes of these societal pressures may be worthwhile as well).

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    • 16 August 2012 at 3:57 pm
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      I argue that those social pressures are created and maintained by women.

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      • 17 August 2012 at 10:00 am
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        Out of interest (and assuming you are hetero) would you date a neat, tidy, healthy, fit and well-presented woman who also has short greying hair, underarm hair, hairy legs, an unmanicured bikini line, a makeup-free face and a slight hint of a mono-brow?

        I am genuinely interested if you would and whether or not you think some men might find this confronting or off-putting. Many women from about 25 and older would look like the woman I described above if they were to limit their personal grooming to that of the average man.

        Women may tint, dye, paint, pluck, wax, style and polish for other women as well but I would argue that there are some influences coming from men and/or men’s influence on society as well.

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        • 17 August 2012 at 11:18 am
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          I would, have and hopefully will do in future.

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          • 17 August 2012 at 4:43 pm
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            That’s refreshing to hear.

            I still think many men would see things differently though. Certainly from my experience many men have turned their noses up at visible underarm, leg or other hair not growing from the scalp on myself and other women… for that reason (amongst many others) I have participated in certain “artificial beauty” (as you put it so well) procedures myself.

            I’m surprised you have never experienced this but heartened that men such as you do actually exist.

          • 17 August 2012 at 4:46 pm
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            I don’t like people telling me what to do with my body, and it would therefore be hypocritical if I had irrational expectations of others.

  • 10 September 2012 at 4:58 pm
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    It’s definitely not just men who are criticising women’s bodies and appearance but they do. Women and men are both at it but don’t forget men get it too (balding/back hair/beards/ are common male areas that get a lot of negative attention). I’m not so sure “beauty and grooming” criticism is a gender issue in the sense that one gender is forcing it on the other. I’m not even sure it’s a human culture thing. Most mammals have a pre-occupation with appearance/attractiveness to mates one way or another at breeding time whether it’s males impressing females or vice versa. As we are fertile all year and a hypersexual mammal that has recreational sex we’re focussed on attractiveness almost permanently. Thus we exist in a culture that sets up ideals of beauty/attractiveness for men and women and that some people amongst both genders indulge in criticising/ humiliating those who fall short. All in all though I do hear women indulging in criticism of both other women’s and men’s appearances more often than I hear it from men.

    The only time this is a direct gender/prejudice issue is when we’re talking about public criticism/ humiliation for deliberately creating an appearance that doesn’t give clear gender signals. This is usually a hegemonic cis-gendered society alienating and shaming those who diverge from those constructed norms but is still as likely to be enforced by cis gendered women as it is by cis gendered men.

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  • 13 June 2014 at 12:23 am
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    I can only speak to my personal experience but I do believe the policing of women’s bodies is patriarchal in nature and that men do it to women more than women do it to women and for different reasons. I think to suggest that women have some kind of ‘beauty paranoia’ independent of men is simplistic and reductive. I won’t even bother with the inherent sexism in that specific terminology, except to say it’s really fucking irritating, dismissive and suggests you don’t engage enough in women’s issues to have an substantive opinion about them.

    Anyways, when I started working in a strip club the other dancers didn’t tell me to tan up and lighten my hair because they had a vested interest in me being sexually appealing to them, they told me these things because they understood the game. They were right, I made more money with tanned skin and blond hair. The women with fake breasts also generally made more money. Where I work now producing content for (mostly) men to jack off to I have access to statistics that tell me exactly what gives the majority of these men hard ons and it’s unfortunately not the woman jcat describes. You can’t fault an individual for their sexual preferences (unless they get on community forums and lament pubic hair, or the lack of, which they often do) but it’s certainly a function of the patriarchy and it certainly disproportionately effects women. These dudes erections have influence. They pay bills. Which leads me to my next point.

    If the representations of the women that we see in media content is a form of body policing, and I would say it is, who is making these representations? Film and television is still hugely dominated by male directors and producers and while it’s getting better, for every Jenji Kohan and Melissa McCarthy there’s still about 8 Matthew Weiners and 20 Seth Rogans. Not to mention Seth has always got or is getting a hot babe. It’s worth noting that a man, Chris Culvenor created ‘The Shire’.

    Maybe these male versions of hegemonic femininity are so pervasive and ubiquitous that they feel meaningless to you Brian, but this shit seeps in, gets all over the place, sticks to fucking everything. The entitlement to judge and discuss a womans body certainly felt natural to a large group of teenage boys who thought it was so funny to yell out ‘some cum, some prettier’ to my teenage friend and teenage self as we walked together in a park at night. It took me a long time to stop wondering, who was prettier? We told each other that they were the prettier.

    Lastly, I personally can only remember the one time a woman made me feel uncomfortable about my body but I can remember many, many times that men have. This is significant only in illustrating that for some reason the body policing of men has been more memorable to me.

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    • 14 June 2014 at 11:46 pm
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      I don’t know what percentage of men visit strip clubs, but I would suggest it is a minority. Using the taste of this minority as representative of the majority is unhelpful.

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      • 20 June 2014 at 11:01 am
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        That’s what you took away from my comment? Really? I know I’m not an excellent communicator but, jesus.

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        • 20 June 2014 at 12:29 pm
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          You’ve contributed a long comment, so thanks, but this last comment implies you expect more. But commenting does not guarantee you a detailed response. Your expectation is unreasonable.

          I agree with you that ‘versions of hegemonic femininity’ are pervasive, but I disagree about their cause. I identify culture and society as their point of origin and women are as responsible as men for creating these exaggerated representations of femininity. I think most men find such things as fake breasts and spray tans ugly, not beautiful. So blaming all men for their creation is stupid and pointless.

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  • 20 July 2014 at 10:06 pm
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    No, I didn’t expect a detailed response, or anything at all (I didn’t realise how old this post was when I commented), I was just dismayed that you had missed my point by so many miles. I also kinda think you missed the point of articles you’ve referenced here too, but anyho.

    I read this article today and thought of you!

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118735/problem-esquires-praise-42-year-old-women-amy-poehler

    By the way I didn’t blame ‘all men’ (NOT ALL MEN!!!! amiright) I simply took issue with your reductive and shallow assessment of a form of gendered oppression that women experience all the time. You did write ‘those social pressure are created and maintained by women’.

    Whatever, I’m off to shout drive by sexual obscenities at other women walking down the street (I’ll probably rate their fuckability, maybe I’ll compliment their tits) because someones gotta keep em in their place and all the dudes are too busy shouting the ‘real truth’ of women, at women, over the top of women.

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    • 20 July 2014 at 11:56 pm
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      There are many things about gender inequality and discrimination that men are responsible for and should be called to account about. However, this post is not arguing everything gender. I don’t make the effort to respond when someone can’t stick to the topic. When you reference other issues you’re not engaging with what I’ve written, hence my lack of interest in engaging further. I didn’t miss your point, I just didn’t comment on it.

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