Surprise: This Is Not Crabby McSlacker!
Image: Vogue Magazine
Image: Vogue Magazine
How To Lose Friends and Alienate Readers
So this is one of those ill-advised posts that I will probably regret soon after I hit "Publish." But as a female health blogger, there is a nagging question that comes up for me all the time: why do women seem to be so obsessed with physical appearance?
This is not just a rhetorical question. For those of you who do care a whole heck of lot about your appearance, and the appearance of other women, I really am curious about why that is.
I know it's weird to question something so ubiquitous in our culture. But it seems to me that is still often considered the most important thing about a woman, or at least one of the most important things: how does she look?
Lurking behind nearly every mainstream media women's "health" magazine or website is a not-so-secret agenda: tell women what they need to do to lose weight and become more attractive. "Health" in the conventional sense is almost kind of a side note: oh yeah, and here's how not to end up with diabetes or die of cancer.
(That's why I especially like fitness bloggers who focus on health and empowerment, rather than pant size, like Kelly at Fitness Fixation or the inimitable MizFit).
So What's With All This "You" Stuff?
So here's part of the reason for my confusion, and part of the reason this post may seem really irritating: I may be a woman, but I think more like a guy when it comes to this beauty stuff.
Sure, I'd rather be attractive than unattractive, but it's not something I'm willing to spend a whole lot of time or thought on. Like with a car: it might be fun some days to drive around in a gleaming vintage Jaguar convertible instead of a dented station wagon.
(Bringing More Boys to The Yard
Than Milkshakes Since 1935)
Than Milkshakes Since 1935)
But who has the time, money, and patience for a Jag? That dented station wagon gets me to the grocery store just fine, even if it doesn't turn any heads along the way. And I don't have to throw a bunch of time, money, and emotional energy into maintaining it. And as long as it runs great I'm happy!
It really does seem to me that the average woman spends a LOT of time, money and energy maintaining that Jaguar. Is there a cost associated with that? Are there other things that are being sacrificed in life to keep those heads turning when you drive by? Or are the benefits so totally worth it it's not even a question?
What's Wrong With Crabby?
I just don't think like a normal woman! I see a typical shoe store display full of designer stiletto shoes and I wonder: Why do these even exist? Why would a woman put these on her feet when sneakers are so much easier to get around in?
My pragmatic stance on such matters is certainly not because I've pondered the issue and meditated over it and sought spiritual guidance and decided there are more important things in life than how I look.
It's just that truly I don't care that much! I seem to be missing the normal girly genes that make fashion, hairstyles, footwear, skinny jeans, makeup, etc, etc, etc, subjects of so much interest. I don't even find highly "feminine" styles attractive--I like a more androgynous look, on both men and women. I just seem to have been born with a different set of operating instructions than most females.
(So I realize that while plenty of straight women can probably relate, and plenty of lesbians are totally feminine, girly, and devoted to their physical appearance... I don't think it's entirely a coincidence that so many of us with female partners instead of male ones started of as "tomboys." It wouldn't surprise me at all if there were something genetic that goes into gender role development as well as sexual orientation, and that's why I think more like a guy on all this).
Help! I Really Do Want To Know!
So, girly girls, can you help me understand? I have several questions, and I'd really like to know what you think. Just consider me like a clueless alien from another planet, or perhaps, a guy.
1. Do You Want to be Pretty Mostly For Yourself Or Because That's What Men Demand?
In my younger days, I used to think it was all men's fault that so often, women were judged solely on their appearance. (And back then, I think there was a lot more societal pressure on women to just "shut up and look pretty"). But now, I can't help noticing that women themselves seem to drive a lot of this focus. I don't think it's men who are clamoring to know where Michelle Obama buys her sweaters or how many pounds Valerie Bertinelli has lost and kept off. Would the editors of women's magazines keep putting waifs on their covers and promising miracle beauty solutions if that wasn't what women wanted?
So I'm starting to wonder if this focus on women's physical appearance is actually driven more by women's interest and their standards, not men's? But I actually have no idea.
2. Is the quest for physical attractiveness pragmatic, recreational, or is it a major source of self-esteem for you?
I'm guessing that women who look like beauty pageant contestants are treated differently than women who do not. They probably have an easier time getting promoted and catching a cab at rush hour and finding husbands. But I sense there's something more than practical and financial benefits at stake behind the quest for the perfect shade of eyeshadow or the skinniest rear end. What does being beautiful mean to you?
3. Does your fear of not looking slim or attractive enough ever cause you stress?
The nice thing about driving an old dented station wagon is that when the runaway shopping cart slams into your passenger side door? Meh, not such a big deal. Not quite the same thing if you're driving a Jag? Or are you pretty content with your appearance regardless of how close it is to fashion model standards?
4. Does this whole blog post make you extremely irritated with me? If so, that's cool, feel free to share your annoyance in the comments!