Here’s the thing. Men in our culture have been socialized to believe that their opinions on women’s appearance matter a lot. Not all men buy into this, of course, but many do. Some seem incapable of entertaining the notion that not everything women do with their appearance is for men to look at. This is why men’s response to women discussing stifling beauty norms is so often something like “But I actually like small boobs!” and “But I actually like my women on the heavier side, if you know what I mean!” They don’t realize that their individual opinion on women’s appearance doesn’t matter in this context, and that while it might be reassuring for some women to know that there are indeed men who find them fuckable, that’s not the point of the discussion.
Women, too, have been socialized to believe that the ultimate arbiters of their appearance are men, that anything they do with their appearance is or should be “for men.” That’s why women’s magazines trip over themselves to offer up advice on “what he wants to see you wearing” and “what men think of these current fashion trends” and “wow him with these new hairstyles.” While women can and do judge each other’s appearance harshly, many of us grew up being told by mothers, sisters, and female strangers that we’ll never “get a man” or “keep a man” unless we do X or lose some fat from Y, unless we moisturize//trim/shave/push up/hide/show/”flatter”/paint/dye/exfoliate/pierce/surgically alter this or that.
That’s also why when a woman wears revealing clothes, it’s okay, in our society, to assume that she’s “looking for attention” or that she’s a slut and wants to sleep with a bunch of guys. Because why else would a woman wear revealing clothes if not for the benefit of men and to communicate her sexual availability to them, right? It can’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that it’s hot out or it’s more comfortable or she likes how she looks in it or everything else is in the laundry or she wants to get a tan or maybe she likes women and wants attention from them, not from men?
The result of all this is that many men, even kind and well-meaning men, believe, however subconsciously, that women’s bodies are for them. They are for them to look at, for them to pass judgment on, for them to bless with a compliment if they deign to do so. They are not for women to enjoy, take pride in, love, accept, explore, show off, or hide as they please. They are for men and their pleasure.
Under the current ‘tyranny of slenderness’ women are forbidden to become large or massive; they must take up as little space as possible. The very contours of a woman’s body takes on as she matures - the fuller breasts and rounded hips - have become distateful. The body by which a woman feels herself judged and which by rigorous discipline she must try to assume is the body of early adolescence, slight and unformed, a body lacking flesh or substance, a body in whose very contours the image of immaturity has been inscribed. The requirement that a woman maintain a smooth and hairless skin carries further the theme of inexperience, for an infantilized face must accompany her infantilized body, a face that never ages or furrows its brow in thought. The face of the ideally feminine woman must never display the marks of character, wisdom, and experience that we so admire in men.
Sandra Lee Bartky, Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power (via sociophilia)
It’s the disconnect of being trained since birth to look a certain way, only to have dudes turn around and go, “Don’t you know we hate all that stuff on your face?” Like it was our idea! Like women collectively woke up one day and thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to slap a bunch of chemicals and dyes on our faces every morning from now on?”
We’ve got a multi-billion dollar industry doing their best to remind us daily that we need what they’re selling, so don’t act all befuddled about where we got the idea that we looked better this way. Plus, it’s not like men don’t still expect us to look beautiful. They just don’t want us cheating with cosmetics. Hope your face is naturally flawless!
And while we’re talking, don’t you ladies know how annoying it is that you’re all hung up on your weight? Sure, we expect you to have a great body. But don’t be one of those lame girls who orders salads on a date. We like to see you eat!
Most of the time, when men say they prefer “natural beauty,” they don’t mean that they’re ready for us to start leaving the house the way we roll out of bed in the morning. They mean that they want us to look perfect without appearing to try.
Basically, it’s a trap.