Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Groom or doom

Surveys keep telling us most women dislike their bodies and would like to change them. Well of course they dislike their bodies. Is that surprising when everyone around them says they're not attractive until they've been through a string of laborious grooming procedures? The obvious conclusion - their natural self without all the recommended beautifying and prettifying must be a hideous sight nobody wants to look at.

The message blares out endlessly from the mass media, from movies, from parents, even from friends - if you've missed out on make-up, skincare, body-hair removal, weekly hairdos, nail polish, push-up bras or shapewear, then you're simply not feminine or glamorous enough and nobody will give you a second glance.

The message for men is totally different, in fact almost the opposite. If they pay any undue attention to their appearance, they're just narcissistic - or maybe gay. Real men simply sling on a few nondescript clothes, comb their hair and that's that. Nobody cares two hoots about the condition of their skin, or when they last had a haircut, or all the hair carpeting their chest. Nobody suggests their natural self is something to be worked on obsessively to make it passably attractive.

In fact some men seem to revel so shamelessly in their wild and woolly appearance that I sometimes think a little pressure to beautify themselves female-style wouldn't come amiss.

Of course there's nothing wrong with prettifying yourself as such. It must be a lot of fun dolling yourself up occasionally. I'd quite like to doll myself up now and again but gender forbids. No, the problem is the implication that if women don't doll themselves up, they're ugly ducklings who'll never get to the ball.

Well, ducklings look pretty good to me, even without make-up....


Anonymous said...

Nick, there is no delicate way of putting this: STOP reading "surveys" and don't believe all they tell you.

Surveys of that kind serve a purpose. You know which purpose? To sell wares.

I have said it before and getting a little tired of it: You generalize too much. Not ALL women "hate" their body, not even a part of it. Not ALL women are being brainwashed by advertisers and a glossy dreamworld into wishing to become something they are not. And please, please, please, do credit some parents giving their daughters a positive body image when they are barely out of their nappies, and please please please do not think women hand in their brain, their ability to think for themselves, the moment they hit the mirror or a cat walk.

As to men? Where were you - ever? Of course men preen themselves. Always have. Always will. Just like the peacook to attract females and warn off other males.

Come to think of it - and following your line of thinking: How do you feel (age aside) when you see the (visually) drop dead gorgeous David Gandy (currently
modelling M&S men's underwear?) As an aside: I imagine gay men drooling over him.

As to the "ugly duckling" you evoke: Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. For once truer words not spoken.

And, last but not least, you yourself actually distinguish between the "ugly duckling" and "a swan."

Now all I can hope for that Grannymar won't come back and tell us that swans are full of hot air anyway and she'd rather listen to a duckling.

On a parting note: What people tend to forget that a duckling grows to be a beautiful duck. And a young swan is not exactly a vision either.


keith said...

Consider yourself reprimanded by Anonymous!

I dislike my body, it's old, wrinkled and worn out. I would like the body of a twenty year old. . . . of either gender! I'm not fussy.

Rummuser said...

You are taling to an ugly duckling who never made it to swan!

CheerfulMonk said...

I love being a duckling. :) Haven't worn makeup or fancy shoes or clothes in years.

kylie said...

i think i am in love with ms anon!!

i dont use any of the products you listed (i have one push up bra because i liked the floral design, if that counts) i even quit shampoo for a while and have plans to again some day

i break all the rules and i still managed to get laid once or twice

just so you know, i think that if men wish to keep the carpets of hair that grow on their bodies that is completely their choice and i wouldnt try to pursuade them otherwise

Nick said...

Ursula (for I assume it's you): Very little of what you say accords with what I actually said. I was referring to most women, not all women, and most is entirely accurate because the figure for body-disliking women is consistently around 80 to 90 per cent. And yes, that figure comes from surveys, but if you seriously want to write off all surveys as nonsense, the world would be in a state of appalling ignorance. Would you for example disregard surveys that say many mothers suffer from post natal depression?

There are of course women who're entirely positive about their bodies, especially in the sort of circles we move in, but I would still say they're very much the exception.

I'm sure parents do their best to give their daughters a positive body image, but they're often defeated by the flood of negative opinion from everywhere else.

Neither do I imagine that women stop thinking when they look in the mirror. But what they think is not necessarily self-affirming.

You're generalising yourself when you say "men preen themselves". I would say the vast majority do not, and male preening is still very much an anomaly.

As for David Gandy, he's not my type at all. Pharrell Williams on the other hand - now HE is drop-dead gorgeous. I'd take him to bed any day....

Nick said...

Ursula: Here's a question for you. If women are so positive about their bodies (and I do wish they were), how come the beauty industry keeps growing at such a phenomenal rate - plastic surgery, botox, diets, anti-ageing treatments etc? Where does this demand come from if not from women desperate to improve their looks?

Nick said...

Keith: Ah, but if you had the body of a 20 year old and also the mind of a 20 year old, would that be any improvement?

Ramana: Who says you're ugly? As Ursula says, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Jean: Good for you. A victory for common sense!

Nick said...

Kylie: Please see my reply to Ursula!

Glad to hear you avoid all the things I mentioned. But as I said, in our particular social circles, you'd expect to find women who're more positive about their bodies and more resistant to the beauty machine.

Indeed, if men favour wall-to-wall carpeting, that's their choice. All I'm saying is that men are not subject to the same relentless pressures to prettify themselves and improve on their natural appearance.

kylie said...

i think your anon poster and I just feel as if we would rather not be lumped in with the majority even though we are obviously not part of the majority of which you speak. I also feel (and i speak only for myself here) that by regularly referring to the expectations on women you reinforce them by way of the phenomenon "all publicity is good publicity"

which social circles are we in where women are resistant to the beauty machine?

Ursula said...

Yes, Nick, Anon is indeed me (who else would it be?). Why my name didn't show up I don't know. Probably so mesmerized by my having to prove to you that I am not a robot I turned into a nobody.

I will pick up points in your response and indeed clarify some of mine for better understanding. It will have to wait as today I need to get my head down, my nose to the grindstone or find the knuckles of my beautiful hands rubbed (by the most stringent taskmaster - myself). In the meantime I shall take sustenance from Kylie having fallen in love with me.


Anonymous said...

hi Nick. How's it going? Good I hope. When I was in high school, it would take me an hour to get ready. All the girls showed up in full makeup, nice outfits, hair done.

Now it takes me about 10 minutes...ditched the hair dryer,minimized the makeup, and I dress down most of the time.

Have a nice day!

Nick said...

Kylie: Oh, there's no way I would lump you in with the majority, you're a free-thinker par excellence. As for publicity, I don't think the beauty industry needs any help from me, they're in huge demand as it is.

Which social circles? Well, those that include well-educated, intelligent, free-thinkers who don't easily believe women should be constantly primping and preening to overcome their naturally displeasing appearance.

Nick said...

Ursula: In a similar disclaimer to Kylie's, no way would I see you as a robot, you're also an incorrigible free-thinker.

I await your further deliberations with interest. I also have some urgent housework to do, we're expecting visitors on Friday night.

Meanwhile I'll leave you two lovebirds to neck and smooch a little.

Nick said...

Susie: Ah, well there you are, the rigours of the teenage beauty treadmill. Which sort of proves my point. I'm glad you got pissed off with all the beautifying and moved on to a more streamlined approach. And presumably you rely on the old trick of wearing jeans to avoid shaving your legs....

kylie said...

have you heard of the facebook group WANG?
it's fascinating, i'm sure they would let you join esp just talk about cis gender and you're in like flynn

Nick said...

Kylie, I've never heard of it and I can't find it on Facebook. Tell me more.

Bijoux said...

I'm very happy with my body, but I work out most days of the week. Not because the beauty industry tells me to, but because it's the healthy way to live.

I've said this before.....yes, I do wear make up, shave my legs, wear deodorant, etc, etc.....it literally takes me 10 minutes to do the extras. I like the way I look afterwards, so that's all that matters. If others want to take that 10 minutes of their day and do something that they find more worthwhile with it, by all means!

Nick said...

Bijoux: You seem to have a very healthy attitude to your body and to personal grooming. If you do things simply because you like the way you look afterwards, that seems okay to me.

Ms Scarlet said...

Yep, I'm happy with my tits, arse and various other bits. They all work, and that's what matters most to me.
Like Bijoux, I exercise for fitness and in the hope that it'll keep my on my feet as I age.
Who paid for these surveys? Which age groups were asked?

Nick said...

Scarlet: That sounds like a very positive attitude. As for the surveys, I'll just quote the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), which looks pretty respectable:

"All research to date on body image shows that women are much more critical of their appearance than men – much less likely to admire what they see in the mirror. Up to 8 out of 10 women will be dissatisfied with their reflection, and more than half may see a distorted image.

"Men looking in the mirror are more likely to be either pleased with what they see or indifferent. Research shows that men generally have a much more positive body-image than women – if anything, they may tend to over-estimate their attractiveness."


Secret Agent Woman said...

You may have commenters with healthy body images, but I'm hear to tell you that's not what I hear from most women. And you are right - women are bombarded with messages that they are imperfect non-stop.

I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behavior," and laughed out loud at this: "She tried not to stare at his midsection, but it did draw the eye, ballooning under the yellow shirt he'd tucked into his belt, sub-belly, in the most unflattering way imaginable. As men so often did. How they toted such physiques around so proudly was a mystery to Dellarobia. Women spent whole lifetimes trying to camouflage flaws that were basically undetectable to the human eye."

It made me think of the saying, "Women will never be equal to men until they can be fat and bald and still think they've got it going on."

Ms Scarlet said...

Ha Ha!!! I love that fat fat and bald comment, Secret Agent Woman. And it's probably true.

Ms Scarlet said...

sorry about the extra 'fat' - small screen issues.

Nick said...

Agent: You certainly ought to know the reality, since plenty of women have confided in you. As I said earlier, most of my commenters move in the sort of social circles where a healthy body attitude is more likely, but the bigger picture is very different.

That's what I always wonder too - how can men be not only impervious to their glaring physical shortcomings but fondly imagine they're still as attractive as teenage boys?

And yes - those barely detectable flaws that bug women incessantly....

Nick said...

Scarlet: It's absolutely true. I've seen enough physically repugnant men proudly strutting their stuff, and so has Jenny.

Dave Martin said...

Well Nick, it looks like you really put the cat among the pigeons with this one.
Personally I get put off by women who try too hard with their appearance because I wonder if they're overcompensating for a lack of self-confidence (and confidence is always more attractive than cosmetics)or personality, or are carried away with the whole glossy magazine mentality.
Neat and tidy is good, but the world is not a catwalk.
A woman who spends hours fiddling about with hair, makeup, designer clothes etc would drive me mad.
As for male grooming, I really can't be bothered beyond keeping my hair short and shaving, although I do have an odd compulsion to regularly remove the hairs that grow on my big toes....

Nick said...

Dave: Many men say that women try too hard with their appearance, but how many men are guilty of expecting certain "minimum standards" - make-up to hide bad skin, shaved arms and legs, stylish hair, thinness etc (and I'm not immune myself)? Standards they don't apply to themselves.

Like you, how many men bother with more than cutting their hair and face-shaving (if that)? A bit more grooming might be a good idea.

Dave Martin said...

I think most people expect certain minimum standards of both themselves and their partners, although those standards can be flexible. Nobody's perfect and when you love someone you tend to be more accepting of the little things.
I do like a woman to have shaved legs and pits, and I prefer it if her pubes aren't making a desperate bid for freedom out the sides of her knickers. For my own part, I admit to using the clippers on more than just my head because I don't think the gorilla look is particularly appealing.
It is easy to become complacent about one's appearance but as in all things it's about striking a balance.

kylie said...

why should men groom more, nick?????
its bad enough that women have to follow ridiculous rules and now you want men to as well???

and no, no justification you give me will do. your attitude to grooming is that anyone who does less than you think appropriate is a slob and anyone who does more is a slave.

Nick said...

Dave: Indeed, striking a balance. Obsession with one's appearance is as bad as not bothering at all. But I do think men demand higher "minimum standards" of women than vice versa. I think a lot of women are too tolerant of their menfolk's appearance, and are probably constantly stifling criticism. Or so it seems to me.

I'm fine with female pubic hair. I don't understand the current fashion for ripping it all out. As for my own body hair, luckily I have very little so it's not a big issue.

Nick said...

Kylie: Oh, you do make me laugh. You're wildly exaggerating my attitude. I'm not telling other men to do anything, just voicing my personal opinion. Neither am I writing everyone off as slobs or slaves. I'm just saying that women are expected to look perfect while men can get away with just about anything. So maybe, just to even things out, men should up their game a little?

Ms Scarlet said...

You should start a men's fashion blog, Nick, so that men can follow your example.
That survey was done in 1997. Back in the day when we used to tape songs off the radio and polish our brand new cutting edge CDs,

Dave Martin said...

I guess the benefit of ripping it out or at least trimming it is that it doesn't get stuck in your teeth :-)
Bottom line on all this is 'Live and let live'. We're all entitled to our opinions and just because someone holds a different one doesn't necessarily make it more or less valid.

Nick said...

Scarlet: Ha ha, I've never been fashionable in my life, except by accident when my odd tastes happened to coincide with everyone else's.

Yes, a rather old survey but the best I could find. I imagine things have got a lot worse since then. Like supermodels are now .00005% of the average woman's body weight.

Nick said...

Dave: Hmmm, by the same token, men should be de-hairing "down there" as well then. Live and let live indeed. What other people choose to do with their bodies is none of my business.

Secret Agent Woman said...


And we sure can't blame it only on things like fashion magazines. Men's support of the pornography industry, where women are airbrushed and digitally altered and platicized, fuels the perception that a woman's real body can't possibly be good enough.

Nick said...

Agent: Absolutely. It seems widely agreed that pornography gives men (and women) crude and damaging ideas about women and sexuality. As I've said before, unlike most men I've never looked at porn and have no desire to. The only shocking thing on my computer is a rare photo of me wearing a tie.