Apologies for the long delay in posting, some real life got in the way, but now that things are looking up, I wanted to return to writing.
So, without further ado…
I was on Twitter just now, and came across one of those generic “10 Things Men Don’t Care About” articles, which dating advice advocates love to tout. It involved such gems as: We don’t care if you wear makeup, or we don’t care if you don’t look perfect, or we don’t care if you drink, what you eat, etc.
I suppose there are people who need these messages, either because they are surrounded by a culture where men do degrade women for not eating daintily or for daring not to wear concealer over their faces.
But I always feel that these articles are missing the point.
In particular, the option of “we don’t care if you look perfect.” Like, who said I only want to dress nicely, do my hair and perhaps touch up makeup and accessorize just for your eyes? Personal appearance is a means of self-expression, and it’s frustrating for anyone not to nail the look you want to project.
As for the apocryphal stories of women who sleep with makeup on so their significant others never see them without it, I guess there are people who do that. If there are, it’s probably not a vanity thing so much as the logical conclusion of living in a society which tells you constantly that your face doesn’t look right by itself, that you are not pretty or worth looking at, that you are unprofessional, if you don’t blend the palette of your coverup just so (to ensure your face isn’t obviously a different shade than your neck, of course) and attend to the most delicately traced lines of your eyeliner and lip liner to perfection.
We as women have to live in a world which is constantly hostile toward us. Often it’s other women who are judging us and policing us for not using the right kind of makeup or not having the best fashion sense. But let’s not kid ourselves, men do it too. The author of the piece I read was writing for an audience of women about what a man you might go on a date with will think of you, but we have to interact with men outside the dating world, too. Male bosses, principles, police officers, bus drivers, store attendants, whoever, will react to us a certain way depending on how we look, and feel fine with treating us poorly if we don’t measure up to their standards of what a woman should be.
I have had men, both here in America and abroad, tell me specifically that my appearance is determining how they will treat me. In my case, it’s usually said in a way that is meant to be complimentary or rewarding. I dress in a very feminine style, tending toward pretty rather than sexy most of the time. And men will project their impressions onto me, saying that I clearly respect myself because I’m not wearing something “slutty” like other girls, or that it’s nice to see someone embrace traditional clothing, not like those tomboys. I doubt these same people would voice their disdain for someone wearing a short skirt or a low-cut dress to her face in most situations, but since I’m in the “respectable” category, I get to hear how superior I supposedly am.
This is not flattering, because it signals to me that if this same man saw me in a low-cut top and mini skirt, or in a baggy t-shirt and yoga pants, he would think less of me. Even if their immediate thought isn’t “Do I want to fuck this girl or not” my appearance will help determine how I’m treated by others when I walk outside my door.
I realize that male gaze is so normalized that it’s sometimes hard to remember that women do things for reasons other than to attract a man, but please, enough with the condescending articles.