Empirically, the most accomplished, intelligent people I know couldn’t give two fks about beauty standards.
All the same, it is super popular and desired. Being beautiful seems to serve a purpose beyond health and attraction. I am wondering what that is.
I followed Jessi Kneeland a few years ago after seeing a recommendation on Greatist. Obsessed with HIIT, the fitness-junkie in me rejoiced at finding her, fit as a tennis ball.
In the last year, she switched from being a fitness guru to a body image coach:
“Here are some of the boxes which a modern woman must check in order to be hot. (You’ll notice that many of these are actually “achieved” through effort, skill, time, and money, rather than inborn):
➡️A thin/toned hourglass body
➡️Big perky breasts
➡️Long femme smooth hair
➡️Big doe eyes
➡️Kardashian level makeup
➡️Smooth and hairless skin
➡️Well-fitted clothing and high heels
➡️A particular way of moving, speaking and posture.” Source
I think this is a really interesting point: hotness is down to the amount of energy you put into it. My personal experience would be congruent with her ideas.
“Women were taught that our purpose in life was to be desirable enough to “snag” a good partner.”
That is certainly the idea being thrown around by “empowering” publications. I think any woman who was told this and bought it already had issues with her self-respect.
I went through a rebellious phase when I was around 12. Sporting short hair with a touch of pink, I was asked to stay behind after class. The teacher didn’t bring up anything academic. She told me that she does not approve of my image and that women ought to have lovely long hair.
I told her that I don’t subscribe to her standards of what women “ought” and could she please refrain from biting into my after school time unless absolutely necessary.
Being a rebellious teenager seems to be like chicken pox. It’s better to get over it when you are a teenager.
I’m not immune from societal expectations. I do admit to feeling a little ill when seeing some of the casual modelling that goes on on Instagram.
But if I were to feel bad when watching the Oscars for not being a movie star or feel bad when going to a gallery for not being an artist, that would be silly.
It’s best not to confuse societal expectations and your own. But this is where it gets interesting:
“Beauty standards got invented to help women be more competitive in the man-snagging market, and the whole thing escalated endlessly until we all have to look like airbrushed celebrities in order to be “good enough”.
Indeed, what is the point of beauty standards if not to attract a partner?
“I wondered if women who aren’t attracted to men might worry less about looking “hot,” since the whole women-as-beautiful-sex-objects thing was made by and for men, right?”
Basically, she asked LGBT women. As an experiment, this didn’t control for the “looking for a partner” aspect, only for “looking for a male partner”.
“The feedback I got proved this shit has nothing to do with men at all: being gay does *not* seem to offer ANY freedom from the pressures of the male gaze, beauty standards, or insecurities…
It’s not for men. So then what are doing this all for?”
What if we tried to control for “looking for a partner”? Ask married people? Well, they still have to “maintain a parter”, so that’s out.
So why do women do it?
A lot of men do the male equivalent, but it seems that that’s not quite as common.
Is it literally being gullible? These standards are floating out there, so we adapt them with the idea that… That what? It will make us better people? Plug holes in our self-esteem?
Or is it literally just down to being a more attractive partner? But that doesn’t add up because (from what I can tell) a lot of men don’t like women who fulfil the “hotness standards” outlined above.
So, either the purpose of looking hot is to find/maintain a partner, only the method is miscalculated, or there is some other reason. Let’s consider proving your worth as a reason.
Traditionally, men had other ways of proving their worth, e.g. their work. That’s increasingly popular with women. In that case, looks should be less important in today’s society than they were 200 years ago. I have no way whatsoever of testing that.
The question then arises: is it worth it?… Cause it is hard work – as Jessi has shown us above.
Curious as to what you think!
UPD: This is a really interesting perspective on gender issues.