Sunday, 24 April 2016

Double standards

An alarming number of people still think it's okay to criticise a woman's appearance at every opport-unity. Men do it, women do it, the media do it, the internet trolls do it. Yet men are generally immune from such criticism, even if they look like they've just been dragged through a hedge backwards.

Why is such criticism seen as normal? Why are women seen as fair game? Why do some people enjoy tearing them to bits?

The historian Mary Beard is just one example. She was said to be "too ugly for television", to have disastrous hair, terrible teeth, embarrassing clothes, and much worse. Fortunately she's resilient enough to shrug it all off as hateful nonsense, but why should she have to put up with such comments?

Of course for men the hidden agenda is to control women by insulting and intimidating them. For women, the motive is to undermine other women who're seen as competitors. For the media, the aim is simply to whip up controversy and get more readers. As for the internet trolls, there are all sorts of sadistic tendencies at work, too varied to disentangle.

Men on the other hand are usually spared such ruthless appraisals. They can have paunches the size of blimps, body hair like a shag-pile carpet, and suits that might have fit them ten years ago, and nobody says a word because well, they're blokes and they're different. You don't criticise their appearance, only their football team or their make of car.

Personally, I hardly ever criticise a woman's appearance. I know women are anxious enough about how they look without me adding to the anxiety. In any case, it's none of my business how other people present themselves to the world. And there are more important things to attend to than a shapeless dress or hairy armpits.

Like all those women who're being raped or pimped or stalked or genitally mutilated, for starters.


  1. Your penultimate paragraph sums it up Nick.
    No matter what our opinions of the way someone chooses to present themselves, it's nobody's business but their own - regardless of whether they're male or female.
    I do agree that the media makes a much bigger deal of this sort of thing when the target is a woman, and that's just not on in a supposedy enlightened society.
    It is hard to not have an opinion when someone chooses to look like a disaster area, but to put someone up for public ridicule on this basis is not acceptable.

  2. Dave: Indeed, nobody's business but their own. You'd expect papers like the Mail and the Express to pull women to pieces, but even the more respectable papers are not above making snide remarks about unflattering clothes and wardrobe malfunctions.

  3. One of these days you will write an uplifting post, Nick. Show your readers the little ray of sunshine hidden above your ever looming cloud.

    "You don't criticise their [men's] appearance" you say. Really? Try being Trump. The guy is practically in shreds.

    Oh, Nick, if I have one wish with regards to you it's for you to stop exaggerating the world's woes. You take a molehill and you make "it" (whatever it is) into an elephant's dung heap.


  4. Always more despicable when done by other women....but feminism lost its way decades ago.

  5. By and large what you say is true but it is not as though men do not get criticised for the way they look or dress. I can think of one very loud politician right now who gets a fair share of criticism for how he looks as well as what he says.

    I personally do not indulge in such criticism of either sex.

  6. Ursula, I don't blog to be "uplifting". If you want uplifting, try the local vicar or the nearest self-help guru. I write about life as I see it. If you don't like my view of life, you're free to visit some other blog where rose-tinted spectacles are routinely worn.

    You know very well that Donald Trump is not your ordinary guy but a celebrity who gets treated very differently.

    Neither am I exaggerating the world's woes. I get sick of smug, well-off middle-class types who go around in their cosy little bubble and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. They should try lifting their head out of the guacamole and looking at what the less privileged have to deal with.

  7. Helen: I don't agree that feminism has lost its way. The problem is that there are too many women who deny being feminists and are happy to slag off other women.

    Ramana: Are you thinking of Trump? Or maybe Jeremy Corbyn, who has certainly had plenty of sneering comments on his dress sense. It seems he doesn't knot his tie properly.

  8. The older I get Nick, the more radical is my thinking. I don't believe for a minute that fine feathers make fine birds. I wonder why we all don't dress alike and have real conversations not involving finger nails and makeup and hair styling, etc. Looking back I think: what an incredible waste of time was all that grooming and dressing for success I did.

    We BS ourselves and then our heads are so empty we criticize each other's coverings?

    Meanwhile the world has got another 10 years approximately for sustainable human life.

    Lawdie give me strength......


  9. www: The irony is that women can primp and preen themselves to the nth degree, and still the snipers will find something to criticise. You can never get it right.

    Not necessarily a case of empty heads. Just an obsession with the superficial, often fed by media headlines.

  10. Nick, NIck, Nick, I am well disposed towards you. After many years of communicating with you you should know that. Being well disposed to someone doesn't make them exempt from fleeting touches of questioning/criticism.

    You say that you "don't blog to be uplifting". If that's your trademark fine. Just don't accuse others to stick their "rose tinted" heads and glasses into the "guacamole" (my [guacamole] is a fine one - you may wish to bathe in it if you can ever find enough ripe ones outside California).

    Fact is, Nick, you are depicting a world (not least with this last post of yours) a world I don't recognize. Which is, other than the fact that I think you a lost soul, is possibly why I keep reading you.

    Rabbit caught in the headlight,

  11. I've always thought primping was boring, and for the most part I've been able to avoid it. Fortunately women have a lot more choices now than they did in the distant past. I don't take that for granted.

  12. It does not bother me what others look like or how they dress up, but what I do think, and as a form of respect and of good manners, is that male and female, should both always be clean and presentable when going out of their own home. Greetings Maria x

  13. Jean: Women do have a lot more choices than they had when I was young. But many young women today take it totally for granted and don't realise the hard struggles that prompted that increased freedom.

  14. How about htis cartoon. :)

  15. Maria: Clean and presentable, I totally agree. Scruffiness shows huge disrespect for the other person.

    Jean: Great cartoon! Absurd how celebs are supposed to always wear something new. As if wearing the same thing twice suggests they're poverty-stricken or letting themselves go.

  16. Ursula: Well disposed to me? You've got a funny way of showing it. If I'm depicting a world you don't recognise, maybe you should get out more. Or follow the media more closely. You say I'm exaggerating the world's woes. Just to take one statistic, 200 million women have been genitally mutilated in at least 30 countries. How exactly am I exaggerating? That figure is so shocking, it makes me feel quite ill. But the media is more interested in whether some actress is showing too much cleavage.

    I don't know why you think I'm a lost soul. Troubled maybe but certainly not lost. I know exactly where I am and what I want out of life. After so many years of following me, you have remarkably little insight into what makes me tick.

  17. Probably generalizing here, but it seems as though men don't really care as much about their appearance as women do. That makes women more of an easy target.

  18. Bijoux: Very true that most men don't really care about their appearance, apart from those fashion-conscious youngsters who're always swathed in the latest must-have designer brands. But I'm sure they'd start caring if their clothes were being trashed by all and sundry the way women's clothes so often are.

  19. it seems i am always late to the party here.
    but then i have a highly enjoyable time reading all the comments.
    i have never been one to enjoy the shopping for clothes and dressing up game. it was necessary to a point in my working years. i often longed to be able to wear a uniform. i am all for clean and neat.
    one day years ago now... i was still fairly young. and i simply heard the song eleanor rigby in my head. remember the line...
    she lives in a dream. she leaves her face in a jar by the door.
    or something like that.
    i decided that very morning to take off the eyeliner and the lipstick and have never looked back. i wanted my own face out there in the world. i wear a little blush... just to look reasonably healthy! but there are no longer TWO faces of me! if they want to tear me to shreds ... i say have at it. the confidence and contentment with yourself has to come from within. and when that is in place... i find it matters not what the world thinks.
    but then... i'm not in the limelight with people constantly criticizing me either. i'm sure that would get old.
    as you say nick...
    there are SO MANY other things that are seriously done to women that need to be STOPPED.
    great post.

  20. Tammy: Late arrivals always welcome, ha ha!

    Eleanor Rigby is a wonderful song. Such profundity in a few simple lines. How interesting that it inspired you to give up all the fancy make-up! So many women are absolutely plastered, I'm sure their natural face is perfectly okay without all the slap. As you say, in the end confidence can only come from within and not from a pile of cosmetics.

  21. Very true. These days many people feel they can be particularly nasty because they can hide behind the internet.

  22. Jenny: Absolutely. I think anonymity shouldn't be allowed, people should have to give their personal details. Then we'd see how many of them have the nerve to make their vicious attacks on other people, often complete strangers.

  23. The opposite of love is indifference, Nick. Ursula gives you the truth as she sees it because she estimates you big enough and thoughtful enough to process it. It is a compliment and you should take it as such.

    I'm not hugely critical of other women's appearance but I must say I seem to take a woman a little more seriously if she is at least a little bit groomed. It's hypocritical of me because I am the worst groomed woman ever but I suppose I have internalised the expectations that have influenced women since before I was born.

    In my own defence, I might have some kind of internal expectations but I would never say anything. I would always uphold the right of any woman to do whatever she wants with her body.