From Darwin to Dolce & Gabbana
“We need to be very clear about what being beautiful means: being sexually appealing to men.”
Trust me, the above are not my words. And yet, it is a thought that has often run through my mind, not as a statement, but a question. I don’t know the answer, but Amy Alkon is so sure she’s right about this that she published that statement in the November 1 issue of Psychology Today. Amy apparently takes herself pretty seriously and bills herself as the Advice Goddess for a weekly advice column published in over one hundred North American newspapers.
I continuously contemplate beauty, what it means, who gets to define it, how its definition has or has not changed, its multiplicity of layers, its subjective vs. objective nature.
I’m a bald beauty (sorry for the oxymoron Amy) and have no eyelashes, eyebrows, or body hair. I’m not single, fishing for a life partner as an insecure bald woman. I have a wonderful husband who loves me for who I am, who finds me beautiful and sexually appealing with or without hair. And yet, it is very hard to feel beautiful as a woman without hair. Why is that? Is it nature or nurture? Are we evolutionarily wired to perceive beauty through only a very narrow lens, or was I brainwashed to think I need voluminous locks (along with a trim figure and eyelashes) to join the beauty club? And even if we are at base dealing with some evolutionary wiring, so much about us has changed in the history of Homo sapiens since our wandering nomadic hunter-gatherer days. Isn’t it to be expected that our wired definition of beauty would change as well?
Judging by the comments on the Advice Goddess’s blog post about her article, “The Truth About Beauty,” the idea that beauty boils down to a woman’s ability to sexually attract a man is clearly a polarizing statement. How about, “There’s a tendency in feminism to blame the media for what men like. It’s completely anti-science and anti-evidence, and victimist ideology-driven.” Someone else adds, “This tendency is common within Leftist critiques generally.” (Wow, who knew that I was leftist for being utterly fed up with the Pantene commercials …)
At the other end of the comment pole: “This is just more oversimplified coffee-table soft science …” and a “dating tips for chimps agenda.” Whew! Dismissed!
More words of wisdom from dear Amy: “No man will turn his head to ogle a woman because she looks like the type to buy a turkey sandwich for a homeless man or read to the blind.”
I guess I personally know a number of non-men then.
I have researched the meaning(S!) of beauty and I can accept the fact that certain physical features evolutionarily did and to some degree do indicate genetic health and breeding potential. But let’s face it, many of our top fashion beauties, the one’s strutting the runways, covering our magazines, and selling one of the most pervasive images of beauty are so thin that their procreative moon cycles are probably turned off as much as they’re turned on, and that’s despite the long, luscious locks on their heads that I know would indicate sound reproductive health in a golden retriever.
Finally, Amy the Advice Ego bashes “the absurd notion that it serves women to thumb their noses at standards of beauty.” I guess if I pulled up at Amy’s advice card table, she’d tell me that the only way to honor myself and the men whose attention I subsist on is to live under a wig. I may be bald, but I’m not a chimp, Amy. What’s more, I’ve no interest in mating with a chimp either. They’re all yours, Amy.
Susan Beausang, President, 4women.com