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View Diary: Do I Look Fat in this Dress? A political meditation (148 comments)

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  •  Virginity, Women As Property (2.50)

    I'm a middle-aged male.  I have thought very little about virginity in my days, although maybe one or two of the two dozen or so women I have had relations with were virgins at the time.  It was never much of an issue for me.

    A question I would pose to women is this.  Most women want, if not right now then during much of their lifetimes, marriage or a committed relationship.  They further wish that their partner be faithful to them, and not have sex with other women.  They also wish for the man to support them financially, or at least to share his income and property in some measure.  Isn't that set of attitudes akin to seeing men as property?  Isn't it objectifying, as some men objectify women?  Is the insistence on sexual exclusivity deplorable when men do it (as in wanting virgins to marry) but OK when women do it?

    I have daughters.  I don't want them to read Cosmopolitan, or most women's magazines.  Blaming the obsession on thinness on the patriarchy, or the Bible (I doubt 15% of contemporary Americans have read as much as a third of the Old and New Testaments) or men is Over the Top.  Most women devote too much damn time to clothes, makeup, hairstyles, thinness, and beauty, and too many women put all their psychic and emotional eggs in the basket of sexual attractivness.  In doing so, they neglect their own development in many other respects.  You don't have to do that!  No one has a gun to your head!  Men, too, are seduced by the culture into accepting ideas that are bad for us, but when we succumb, we get little sympathy from women.  Get a life!

    "If Jesus returns, Karl Rove will kill him." (Harvey Wasserman)

    by proudtinfoilhat on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 02:00:47 PM PST

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    •  My Last Post (none)

      . . . did, I confess, generalize about women wanting committed relationships with men.  I am aware, however, that some women are lesbians.  The omission was not intended to be an insult.

      "If Jesus returns, Karl Rove will kill him." (Harvey Wasserman)

      by proudtinfoilhat on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 02:02:17 PM PST

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    •  I suppose it depends (4.00)
      Yes, of course it is possible that some women objectify men (or other women): they desire their earning potential, not the person for him or herself.  And in a relationship where one partner just desires the other's sexuality, and the other desires money, each partner is equally deplorable.  At least in my eyes - two shallow people like that sound like the perfect match for each other, and a lot of couples are like this.

      I don't, however, see the expectation of fidelity in marriage to be necessarily deplorable, or indicative of objectification.  I would like to be in a marriage one day where I don't cheat on my partner, and my partner doesn't cheat on me.  I don't have anything against open marriages, but I expect promises made to be promises kept, and if fidelity is a promised in a marriage, fidelity damn well better be upheld.  

      Most women devote too much damn time to clothes, makeup, hairstyles, thinness, and beauty, and too many women put all their psychic and emotional eggs in the basket of sexual attractivness.  In doing so, they neglect their own development in many other respects.  You don't have to do that!  No one has a gun to your head! Men, too, are seduced by the culture into accepting ideas that are bad for us, but when we succumb, we get little sympathy from women.  Get a life!

      I think it is true that no one is forced to accept any dominant ideology.  Props to the truly strong people who do not allow themselves to accept stupid ideas that are bad for them, men and women.  

      I think, however, you underestimate the degree to which women are valued SOLELY for their sexual attractiveness in many cases, and the degree to which it is reinforced that only pretty women will get partners, good jobs, etc.  I do think you understand this on some level, though, or you wouldn't care if your daughers read Cosmo or not.

      "Get your American flag out of your blind spot, bitch!"

      by KB on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 02:17:35 PM PST

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      •  right (4.00)
        I just wanted to add to your excellent post that woman HAVE to be attractive to get high profile jobs in most cases.  There have been cases where women were demoted/fired for not wearing make up, etc.  While to some degree it doesn't matter the sex, attractive people are almost always considered "better" in our society--but then, when an attractive woman does get a promotion, it's blamed on her "sleeping her way to the top."  The double standard weighs heavily on women.

        There's no point for democracy when ignorance is celebrated...insensitivity is standard and faith is being fancied over reason.-NoFx

        by SairaLV on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 02:24:38 PM PST

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      •  excellent post (4.00)
        Studies show it is a fact that overweight women get hired less often than "hwp" women, and overweight women also get hired less often than women deemed "unattractive."

        For girls to do well psychologically in this culture, they need: skills/competence, & the confidence that comes with them, and a strong network of female role models, friends & community, IMO.

        •  How 'bout men and height? (none)

          As a child I was among the youngest kids in my grade level, and I was pretty tiny.

          Most of my boy cousins are over six feet tall, but God gave me only 5 feet, 8 inches.  Happily, I guess, reaching the height I did seemed good enough, as I had been a really tiny kid, and I would up within the normal range, if toward the lower end of it.

          I think the height fetish (for men) in Merka is about as pronounced, and as silly, as the thinness thing for women.  and there is even less we can do about it, other than wearing the funny shoes.

          Go read match.com profiles.  You'll see that most women prefer not merely men their own height or better, but men who are significantly taller than they are.  Isn't this silly?  Why should this be an issue?  Why is it an issue for what seems to me to be nearly all women?  If you're 5'8" and you meet a great guy who's 5'7", do you reject him on that ground?  If you did, would you be any better (less shallow, whatever) than a man who insists on dating only model-thin women?  

          Studies show, also, that men between about 5'10" and 6'5" are paid better than men who are shorter (taller than 6'5" I think you begin to be seen as freakishly tall).  Unless you're working in the NBA, why should your height make any difference in your salary?

          "If Jesus returns, Karl Rove will kill him." (Harvey Wasserman)

          by proudtinfoilhat on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 02:41:24 PM PST

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          •  well, mr tinfoil (none)
            You're right.

            My eight year old is facing a similar problem, since he is the smallest kid in his class, and as his father and I are on the tiny side as well, I will be surprised if he grows above 5'6". Kids tease him and call him a sissy, etc. (His saving grace is that he's very quick in sports.)

            He also has very long hair for a boy, and does not care at all that people constantly mistake him for a girl. What's that hair-length discrimination thing about?

            Regarding personal ads, etc.  - people often express general preferences that they would forget about if they knew someone they liked who didn't fit the profile. Yes, there is a societal prejudice.  

            But what's your point? It's as if by the diarist & others saying women are discriminated against, you feel your own negative experiences are being discounted or dismissed. That may not necessarily be the case. As the diarist is a woman, it seems natural enough that she would be thinking about a woman's experience & perspective. I don't think anyone is saying men are not discriminated against.

            I notice men always get dumpy clothing. I hate mens' & boys' clothes. Girls get better clothes. Girls get better toys, too. Men in the arts are considered gay. Etc.

          •  not to perpetuate the shallowness (none)
            for shallowness' sake, but I prefer taller guys simply because I like to wear heels, and as silly as it is, I like the guy to be taller than me in a pair of 3-inch slingbacks... yes, feel free to call me an anti-feminist, but I love wearing ridiculous and impractical shoes, and I enjoy makeup, and frankly, it's more for my own entertainment than anything else.  [But no, I don't read Cosmo, so maybe I'm some new-wave difference feminist and this is some reverse power-assertion thing... or, I'm just not that evolved.]  In any event, that's one reason women go for taller men... not exactly defensible, but a reason.

            The U.S. Constitution: For whatever reason, giving Florida the benefit of the doubt since 1845

            by dublin85 on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 04:13:11 PM PST

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          •  Exactly (none)
            And at 5' 8", you're tall compared to me.  

            I basically now ignore talk of "woman objectified" with a "yeah, whatever."  (I'm not saying that's what Lorraine's diary was about, btw.)  The most feminist straight women I've met wouldn't give me the time of day cause of my height.  

      •  Well, actually . . . (4.00)

        I am faithful to my wife, and so far as I know vice-versa.

        But while it's not my thing, I don't lose sleep if some fellow in Pakistan wants to marry a virgin.

        Yes, I am fully aware that women in the USA are strongly encouraged to drink the Kosmo Kool Aid, and devote themselves to fashion and makeup.  And I agree it takes some strength of character to swim against the tide.

        But where I part company with some feminists is that I can't blame this all on men.  In middle school (my elder daughter is 11) it isn't the boys who are telling the girls they have to have the best clothes, makeup, hairstyles, etc. -- it's the other girls, the (usually self-appointed) "popular" girls who enforce the regime.

        No doubt men are selling all this shit and profiting from it.  But women so far as I can see, with admirable exceptions here and there, seem to immerse themselves in the beauty & fashion culture so willingly, so completely, that I can't see blaming the phenomenon entirely on men, as some women do.  I guess I'm retrograde in that I think a fraction of this beauty-for-security thing may be hardwired.  Er, the women are the ones who have babies, and are consequently vulnerable in many ways, and if a male is going to foreswear relations with all but one woman for life, I reckon he prefers one who is somewhat pretty.

        Where I find it odious, however, is when it's carried to excess, as many people of both sexes do.  I'm not grossed out if women prefer men with a dollop of ambition, but often it seems that 80% of the single women are pursuing 10% of the single men, generally the wealthiest ones (or the very best looking ones).

        Likewise, I can't say I don't prefer pretty women, but my sweethearts haven't all been great beauties (uh, I ain't Brad Pitt, either) and I don't admire men who want only great looks in a woman, or women who would be interested in men who only wanted them for great looks.

        "If Jesus returns, Karl Rove will kill him." (Harvey Wasserman)

        by proudtinfoilhat on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 02:33:41 PM PST

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        •  Fidelity and insecurity (none)
          I'm SO sorry if you thought I was implying your were unfaithful to your wife; your personal situation never even crossed my mind and I was just riffing on marital fidelity in general.  

          I think you're right in that it can't all be blamed on men: women can be just as or even more brutal in reinforcing a shallow pecking order based on makeup, hair, etc.  ESPECIALLY in middle school (ugh, don't even ask me to go into my middle school experiences).  It probably has everything to do with their own feelings of insecurity.  

          No one is blaming YOU personally, proudtinfoilhat, for all of women's body issues.  I'm not trying to blame all men, or suggest that men don't have insecurity issues of their own.  

          If there is one thing I've learned from being bisexual, its that personal insecurity is the greatest threat to EVERYONE's mental health and thus their relationships, and it is by no means exclusive to either sex.

          "Get your American flag out of your blind spot, bitch!"

          by KB on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 02:46:22 PM PST

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          •  Most men I know (none)
            and that includes me, do not get the whole 'starved waif' thing.

            One of the rags--People or Us or Star or something--had a thing a few weeks back...before and after pictures of "Stars who shed those extra pounds!" For me, with every single one, the 'before' picture looked better.  

            And, being a guy, I talk to guys--I'm not alone in this. I don't know where the desire to be ultra-thin comes from, but I can't see where it comes from men. We like curves, we like T&A, and we're not all that hung up on a flat tummy either.

            "Don't call yourself religious, not with that blood on your hands"--Little Steven Van Zandt

            by ChurchofBruce on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 04:40:33 PM PST

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            •  Not sure about "starved waifs" (none)
              but I'm not into curves.  I like thin girls and flat tummies.  Paris Hilton.  Britney Spears.
              •  Britney's tummy isn't flat (none)
                She's got a little pooch there, and has for at least the last few years.

                Paris Hilton does absolutely nothing for me.

                "Don't call yourself religious, not with that blood on your hands"--Little Steven Van Zandt

                by ChurchofBruce on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 06:17:58 PM PST

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                •  Pooch?! (none)
                  Dude!  Do you have Britney's latest DVD with all of her videos, My Prerogative?  No, didn't think so.  She has no pooch.

                  Still, you hit on an important point.  I've never lived in a Red county, and the last two places I've lived were on the wealthier side (I now live in a university town.)  The majority of young women around me are thin.  So when I read about "unnatural" and "impossible" female body ideals, I don't get it.  I see that body type all around me every fricking day.  

                  But, of course, do those women view themselves as being thin?  I think many don't.  I'm guessing many think as you do that they have a Britneyesque pooch.  And I think therein lies the problem--a misconception of what "thin" means.  It's not hard at all to attain.

                  Oh, and Paris Hilton is a glowing Goddess....

                   

                  •  Paris Hilton (none)
                    God. She's not even pretty.

                    I do NOT get her at ALL.

                    My preferred female bodytype runs in two directions. First is your basic Marilyn Monroe. (Nowadays, Marilyn would be 'fat'--what a crock.) Second? Athletic women. That must be 'opposites attract' since I'm an overweight couch potato, but the Williams sisters, or Amanda Beard (the swimmer), or any member of the US Women's soccer team, can visit any time they like :-)  

                    And Britney does have a pooch. A small one, but it's there :-).

                    "Don't call yourself religious, not with that blood on your hands"--Little Steven Van Zandt

                    by ChurchofBruce on Fri Apr 01, 2005 at 07:35:05 AM PST

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            •  Heh... (none)
              I'm not precisely a man, but i am attracted to women. I dislike the "starved waif" thing also. I always like the "before" pictures better, too.

              I don't even necessarily like the curves. I also like flat stomachs (more the athletic, even six-pack style, abs than "starved" though) and smaller chests, but not people who look like they're about to snap in half. That's just painful to look at, for me.

              I guess apparently some people like it, but it seems almost like a fetish to me.

              The Shapeshifter's Blog -- Politics, Philosophy, and Madness!

              by Shapeshifter on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 10:42:06 PM PST

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              •  I like athletic women, too (none)
                and, though they may have washboard-ab stomachs, very few of the ones that attract me are skinny. Above I used Amanda Beard, the swimmer, as an example. She was in the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She's not skinny, she's just in great shape. There's a difference.

                And a muscular stomach isn't flat, it's just not fat. There's definition there. The ones that are held up as some kind of ideal--have no hips, no ass, and the stomachs are concave.

                David Spade once told a joke about this. But it could be very offensive to some people :-).

                "Don't call yourself religious, not with that blood on your hands"--Little Steven Van Zandt

                by ChurchofBruce on Fri Apr 01, 2005 at 07:43:20 AM PST

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        •  Some good points (none)
          Women dress for other women, a lot of the time.  We're our own worst enemies & do a lot of self-sabotaging with petty competition.  I have to say, I've always been the type to prefer the boys' clubs to the girls' clubs.  There's a serious problem when cronyism among men runs companies, professional societies, nations, the whole world (which it does), and I think we have to fight against that.

          But, on the other hand, it's been my experience that more guys are more upfront about competition and say what's on their mind, rather than playing backstabbing and jealousy headgames and keeping you guessing.  I've had a number of women coworkers and colleagues my own age who've made it plain as day that they dislike me, for no unearthly reason whatsoever.  And hey, there's nothing like when some girl's boyfriend hits on you and you try to politely extricate yourself from the situation, and then the girl is pissed off at you for it..

          I pay close, close attention to the fashion and beauty industry, because there's an artfulness to it and I love beautiful clothes, and because I sell vintage clothes on eBay sometimes and one has to know what the market's like in order to be successful at it.  But the industry is deeply judgmental; there's little in the fashion and beauty industry in America that seems devoted to the pure pleasure of it, of the joy in putting together interesting outfits and the confidence one gains from taking care to look one's best.  Elle magazine is not bad, and I think that's the French influence - more emphasis on looking good for one's overall mental and physical health, for one's own sake, rather than as competitive sport.

          And I see this weird depressing aspect even to the clothes on many women, all of which are seemingly meant to make the wearer as inoffensive and timid as possible.  There are so many women stuck in ugly, unflattering clothes as if they've just given up on themselves, there are cutesy cutesy things for women who'd rather come across as harmless and childish (dear lord, the kitten sweatshirts) or who want to still look like teenagers, and there are super feminine clothes (cf the 40 year old Sarah Jessica Parker's new mega pink ad campaign for Gap, in which she sings brightly about how much she loves being a girl!)  What a mess.  F a Carrie from Sex and the City trying to be harmless and adorable all day long so she finds Mr. Right.  Our culture sucks sometimes.

          •  I never (none)
            was into make-up or high fashion, or any fashion, really. More of a natural look type, ranging from earthy to dramatic. The most I wear is eye-liner. But  especially when I was young I would encounter guys who expected me to have the body of a Playboy Bunny or something, and were overtly annoyed that I didn't - as if I'd personally betrayed them by not looking the way they expected me to naked.

            I don't get the social climbing through marriage thing at all. When I got married, my husband was a bus driver.

    •  i don't want to make this men versus women (4.00)
      I think men are infected with the body  hatred issue, too, as several men have commented on here.
      What I'm trying to get at, as I keep trying to get at, clumsy and stubborn as I am, is wherethis need to control bodies originates. I'm offering Genesis as one possible text.
      One thing that I think is interesting, when you  look at Church writings about the body, is that women are frequently seen as the temptation that leads otherwise spiritual men into the degradation of fleshly delight. Often, Eve is held up as the first temptress. If there is misogyny involved, I see it as being about (as GrandPoobah and I have discussed downthread) a certain shame about the body. And I think that shame manifests itself in a lot of different ways. Eating disorders being one possible response. I'm not trying to declare man as villains here. I'm a heterosexual woman. I love men. I'm trying to figure out why we hurt our bodies so much. That's all.
      •  Why women hurt their bodies so much? (4.00)
        Women's bodies have been asked by culture to carry far too much meaning and do way more cultural "work" than they were designed for.  The bodies and the women inside them, buckle under all that pressure.  

        My tag line has always been that there's a hell of a lot of cultural baggage we are asked to squeeze into a pair of control top panty hose, and that's the reason the things are so damned uncomfortable.

        In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

        by a gilas girl on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 05:09:16 PM PST

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      •  I'm with ya (none)

        I obviously didn't agree with your approach entirely, but I agree it's a question worthy of struggling with.

        "If Jesus returns, Karl Rove will kill him." (Harvey Wasserman)

        by proudtinfoilhat on Thu Mar 31, 2005 at 07:22:27 PM PST

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    •  I'm a little stunned at this statement... (none)
      Is the insistence on sexual exclusivity deplorable when men do it (as in wanting virgins to marry) but OK when women do it?

      These are not remotely equal things. The desire for fidelity is about intimacy in a context of emotional safety, not ownership. The desire for a virgin is about a person's past, not their present, and has other connotations that are fairly demeaning to a woman's sexuality. I mean this specifically as it refers to cultures where men are not expected to be virgins. In Pakistan, there are still enclaves where women are stoned for the cirme of being raped, because their "honor" is seen as a possession of the family.

      As to the matter of finances, it is hardly a ridiculous notion that when you marry someone and form a family, the resources are shared. The traditional family unit is about a division of labor. If a woman raises children and runs a household, providing for the man's stability and that of his progeny, she is entitled to share the wealth he is able to earn and maintain, in the context of that marriage. Families are, among other things, economic units. It's hardly objectification to desire an economically stable environment to raise your children, or pursue any other goal in the context of sharing a life with someone.

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