Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A Word for the Men

A comment on my previous post drew attention to the body-image pressure facing women in America and suggested we might ease some of this pressure if men understood the food/body struggle that most women experience daily. While it might be helpful in some regards (my husband would finally understand why "I absolutely cannot go out looking like this"), I don't think the problem can be fixed by making men taste the same bitter drink. Whoever the ambiguous "they" driving this engine, I honestly don't think it is men. Yes, one could invoke the law of supply and demand and say that what men want is what is put out. But I think that men get caught in the claws of the monster, too. They are actually taught what to find attractive in a woman. And with advertising and film as sexualized as it is, it's hard to not want what we see.

Often, to be honest, we women perpetuate the feminine "ideal"; we claim to despise the idol and then bow down to it. I've several times quoted a female speaker I once heard who said "All mothers should be at least 15 lbs. overweight", but in the end I wouldn't mind too much if my children had to lean on a bony shoulder.

Women also make resistance to societal pressure hard for one another. We are very critical of eachother. We compare ourselves to eachother. We measure every woman against the Cosmo Goddess. When a guy is with a woman who is less than ideal we wonder "why is he with her?" but when we see a beautiful woman with an ugly man we assume he has "character". I am more afraid of what women think of me than of what men think.

Back to the "Ambiguous They". What it comes down to is the dollar. Men and women alike shell out extravagant amounts of money in pursuit of phantom perfection. But if gold is the fuel for the engine, who is the engineer? It's us, it's them, it's advertising firms, it's the fashion industry, the movie industry, it's the giant of consumerism itself; all of which are made up of ordinary men and women. The whole seems to be greater than the sum of it's parts. That's why it's ambiguous.


Anonymous said...

I don't think women and men are all that different in this respect. I overhear my girl friends comment all the time about how some guy they are checking out is "hot" or how they would love to be with a guy who looks like such-and-such an actor in Hollywood. And yet most of the guys they are sitting next to listening to them speak cannot come close to living up to those standards. We can't all be 6'2", dark, handsome, wealthy, charming, speak with a European accent, and wear Kenneth Cole and work out at the gym at least 5 days a week. And if you don't meet her friends' ridiculous standards they'll approach her while she is mid-sentence, whisper in her ear that she can do "better than that," grab her arm and tell her it's time to go home. How subtle.

Our culture is sick. And we can't get enough of it.

Rachael said...

I suppose that makes us sick, too.

To be fair, we haven't got it easy. Or more correctly, we've got it much too easy. Do you think Tsunami victims are busy planning their next Kenneth Cole purchase? Do you think women starving in Africa are wondering how to get "the perfect body"?

Our blessings are our curse. We think that anything is attainable, whether by hard work or hard cash and most of us believe that if we want something, we should have it. We've cradled our lust for posessions, money, power, sex - and have created an insatiable monster. We're saturated with fulfillment of desire and all we feel is discontent. This is a thread that runs through my thoughts almost daily. How can we use and enjoy the great wealth and freedoms our society affords us while still retaining our humanity? While keeping proper priorities?

Well, I've effectively changed from a rant about body image to a rant about consumerism, greed, western society, ethics... maybe I waited too long to start up a blog... I hope I can make myself shut up.

Michael Ciani said...

When I see a beautiful woman with an ugly man, I don't think he has character; I think he has money!

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your level headedness. As a Buddhist I deal in what CAN be known, not speculation. Your posts are clear, and congruent with replicatable research. You piece on Dr Spock, was thoughtful, and relied on facts...excellent mind. Even your assessment of the way many Christians (people) will use misinformation to drive their point, warmed my heart. This was not because I dislike Christians, but because after more than thirty years of Dharma, I have come to know that behaviorally, there is honor and dishonor practiced in the name of many faiths, including mine.

Three cheers for a good mind!

Michael H. Mason

Rachael said...

Michael H. Mason: Thank you for your sincere comment. Somehow it slipped by me before and I suspect you posted this months ago. I also supspect this is more encouraging to me now than it would have been then.

And how true: "there is honor and dishonor practiced in the name of many faiths". Let us strive for honor.