A friend on Facebook recently linked to a post called “Worthless women and the men who make them” from a blog called “Single Dad Laughing” in which a (straight) guy laments about how the men of the world have destroyed women with this notion of the perfect woman. So many women are praising him for being amazing and wonderful and sensitive, and it’s just not sitting quite right with me. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s nice that he’s realizing that when women feel insecure about their looks, it’s not just on them individually. I just . . . don’t really like the post.
Perhaps it’s the blinding heternormativity.
If men never stopped. If men never looked. Do you honestly think women would have this problem? Think about that. Would these magazines even exist if men weren’t interested in the fakeness splashed across their covers? Women would not care. They would feel no need to live up to a digital standard of beauty because there would be no reason to do so. Not if it was something we didn’t want.
He also argues that women should be clothing that is less revealing: “maybe if women gave everybody a little less to compare, this whole thing would be a little easier for us all, no matter what our chromosomal make-up.”
And then: “None of this is to say that men should or can stop appreciating beauty. That would be unnatural. That would be impossible. It is not to say that women shouldn’t make themselves as attractive as they can be.” I think he’s missing the point. (By the way, the word “unnatural” just bothers me. Maybe it’s the philosophy major in me.) And why would saying that men “should or can stop appreciating beauty” be so “unnatural” and “impossible”? I mean, I think appreciating beauty is a grand thing (beauty in rivers, rainbows, trees, puppies, people). But it seems that he’s just talking about men appreciating beautiful women, and that’s rather heteronormative.
Why should attractiveness be so emphasized in society? That, perhaps, is the real issue (not that the standards are unrealistic, although that’s also definitely a problem) — that one’s attractiveness is tried to one’s worth. And why should women need to “make themselves as attractive as they can be”? Seriously? I’m not against people being, or wanting to be, attractive by some standard, but I definitely disagree with the idea that women should make themselves as attractive as possible.
He’s just so . . . overdone. “I ask you seriously, men. Do we not realize what we have done to the women of this world? Do we not recognize the atrocities we have committed? We have destroyed the very beauty that women are.” “Can we not discover the very pulchritude that each womanly imperfection carries?”
Another problem is that he makes it all about the individual man — society as a whole has no part in making women feel lesser. It completely absolves social institutions from having any part in the subjugation of women, and that’s just b.s. Sexism is systemic; it doesn’t exist simply because individual people decide that women are different/less than men.
Even though he’s trying to stand up for women (or something like that), I feel that he’s actually disempowering women. He writes, “A woman can tell herself that those images [of the ideal, airbrushed woman] are fake until the sun goes down, but at the end of the day, her self-talk will barely matter. Not when men think that they’re real.” Great, so, really, women can’t feel good about themselves unless men think they should.
And lastly, a reason why I personally just feel incredibly disconnected from his post — I don’t think he’s talking to me. Like, I’m really pretty sure that I’m not one of the guys to whom he’s addressing the post. But I’m also just as certainly not one of the saintly women who bases her self-worth on whether men thinks she’s sexy. It’s so incredibly women vs. men. He raises women up on some kind of pedestal, and it’s . . . not actually as positive as it might seem:
Can we not express our excitement over the things that day in, and day out, they so selflessly accomplish? Can we not keep from questioning whether a woman could have done more? Can we not see that oftentimes, women do much more than you or I could ever, or would even want to do? I can’t speak for you, but as I ponder on the women in my life, a truly lazy or lacking woman has been rare indeed. Men, on the other hand… we have some things to work on.
Actually, I just read an article that would probably call that “benevolent sexism.” The whole post just pits men against women: he draws a very, very clear line between men and women as though they were deeply, intrinsically different — two very clearly defined categories that do not overlap.
He is obviously well-intentioned. There are many, many women who think he is just the most wonderful man ever. I’m not actually trying to criticize his blog post so much as I’m in favor of a more nuanced, more inclusive view of society, sexism, and gendered relations. This blog post is almost intended as more of a reaction to the adulation his post has received than as a reaction to him specifically.