How do I put into words a concept that after weeks of pondering, and multiple attempts at writing, I can still only try to wrap my brain around? A concept that I feel, but struggle to put into proper and coherent thought. A concept in which I believe, yet it’s difficult to surmise the fact that I actually believe it.
I honestly don’t know. But I am going to try. For my own benefit, if for no other reason. This is at least my eighth attempt at putting this together, and I’m still unsure if I have properly articulated what I feel needs to be said today.
Strong words do need to be said, though. Please hear me through to the end. Because we have a problem.
Women are ugly.
Women are fat.
Women are bad mothers. Women are bad wives. Women are bad daughters.
Women are lousy cooks. Women don’t keep their houses clean enough.
Women have too much cellulite in their thighs. Their abdomens are too flabby. Their under-arms are too Jell-oesque.
Women are terrible singers. They are terrible dancers. They are terrible public speakers.
Women are stupid. Women are scatter-brained.
Women are weak. They are powerless. They are defenseless.
Women don’t dress well enough. They don’t have clear enough complexions. They have too many freckles.
Women don’t have full enough lips. They don’t have skin that is soft enough.
Women are too dominant. Women are too passive.
Women are too mean. Women are too nice. Women are nothing but doormats.
Women aren’t good enough. Women will never be good enough.
Women are, simply put, worthless.
Yes, they are all these things. If, that is, I am to believe the very words that are constantly being spoken by women themselves (which I don’t). These are their words. And I’ve heard them declared again. And again. And again. To me, to other men, to other women, and for all I know to their pets and their plants.
Worthless. What a concept. To hold no value. To be less desirable than a can of dirt. Are you freaking kidding me? Every single statement on this list, including the worthless comment, was a declaration that at least one woman has made to me, for whatever reason. I bet there isn’t a statement above that we all haven’t heard at least once; most likely hundreds or thousands of times. Why would any of these horrible, degrading beliefs spill across the lips of any woman?
What hurts me the most is that most of these things have been said to me by more women than I would care to count.
Get real for a moment, ladies. How many of these statements have you yourself said or thought? Be honest. Go through the list, one by one, and admit to the number. I’m genuinely curious. I’m genuinely sick about it. How many of them have you said or thought just since you got out of bed this morning?
[sigh] I am upset, but I’m not really angry at you. Just frustrated. Just sad. I understand the reason you constantly let slip these damaging statements. I understand the reason why you actually believe these things. I understand the real reason you feel this way. And the real reason breaks my heart.
Because of that, my message today is not directed at you. It is written to the men of this world.
Guys… It is our fault. The blame lies with us.
And, frankly, I think a man is the one who needs to point a finger and begin a conversation that could actually fix this problem.
I pray to God that every person who reads this forwards it to every man that they know, and that even a sliver of those men take a moment to read what I am about to say, because it’s time that the men of this world make a change. It’s time we make a bold declaration against everything we’ve ever been taught. It’s time we go against the grain for the sake of our precious and incredible counterparts.
I ask you seriously, men. Do we not realize what we have done to the women of this world? Do we not recognize the atrocities we have committed?
We have destroyed the very beauty that women are…
Dan said the following:
"We’ve replaced that beauty with a standard that is, and always will be, impossible for them to hit."
No, men have not changed the beauty standards. Those who wish to make money have learned what attracts men _and_ women, and have accentuated it. In fact, one will find that most fashion trends, including the trends of appearance, are driven by women. At one time, it was the anorexic Twiggy, now it is the big-bottomed Kim Kardashian.
"Let’s give our “real” women a fighting chance, guys."
To what? To be attractive to us? What do you think the multi-billion dollar fashion, makeup, self-help industry is about? Or are you implying that men should dismiss our own internal urges, that, for the sake of your sense of well-being, as a man who acknowledges that he is less attractive to women now than he was in his youth should feel better?
Do you know what make a less that stellar looking woman irresistible? A stellar character and personality. I'm still smitten by a woman that I met 25 years ago, and she was not a looker.
Better than telling men to suck up, promote the notion to women who have the desire to be attractive to men to develop her character, her personality, to learn to take charge of initiating and creating the kind of relationship that she wishes to have. She is, after all, an _adult._
Oddly enough, while I've read many articles of the type that you have posted, I've yet to find (and I have looked!) for articles by and for women that advocate looking for low-status, or financially impoverished men.
"If men never stopped. If men never looked. Do you honestly think women would have this problem?"
Yes. "The problem" as you refer to is as influenced by female competition as it is by a male's innate response to his environment.
"To the “real” women of this world. I owe you an apology,"
No, you don't. Neither do I. You may owe an apology to specific individuals that you have actively harmed but none other, and certainly not to an entire demographic. Your error is that you attempt to take responsibility _for_ women's responses while attempting to appear responsible _to_ women.
"It wasn’t anything but the media that made me this way."
For me, it was an extremely hot girl that I, in a pubescent, hormone soaked state of hypnosis imprinted on when I was at the peak of puberty. Should we blame all women for this one hot girl who happened to show up when I was hormone peaking? This is the spirit of your essay.
I recognize that you are feeling compassionate. I recognize that hind-sight and poor reasoning combined with your own fears makes you want to change the world. This is very normal, and very wrong.
You are assigning responsibility where it doesn't belong. You are taking inappropriate responsibility, you are asking men to take inappropriate responsibility.
The notion of a "real" woman, is just as false as the notion of a "real" man. The former forgives all natural flaws, the latter condemns them all.
Compassion? I'm in your corner. Kindness? Certainly. Thoughtfulness, tact and consideration? You betcha. But the denial of reality, the narcissistic assumption that the word revolves around your sex and that we should take inappropriate responsibility for women's character development and it's effects? Sorry, brother, you're on your own with that.
Totally agree, this post touched me the first time I read it. And years late I still love it.
I love my body whether it is thick or thin, and I respect myself, my God, my spouse, my kids, and those around me enough to wear pants that are " a little looser". If anybody doesn't' like it, I don't care. I like it, my kids think I am beautiful, my God sees me as the me he made and loves, and I am who I am. I wouldn't want to be anyone else.
Beauty is a standard created by men and women follow to gain their approval. Women actually
think altering their appearance actually attracts men to love them. That's not what the men they attract really think. It's about power. Beauty standards have changed throughout the centuries. Crushed feet in China or stiffling corsets in the 1800's were to make women powerless. Now the standard has changed to young skinny waifish girls or fetishised breast size, or even giant bulbous behinds. It is always the same. Power.
Women that pander to insulting themselves give up their power to be better humans. Men that follow these fetishes are seeking clout amongst other men. Those types of attractions never last. Freckles? How shallow! They only lack respect for themselves and attract men that will never respect them.
Our society is reenforcing lack of self respect every day. Men mock the guy with a chubby wife. A weak minded man goes home and resents her, and tells her to lose weight. He lost clout with other men.
I don't even want to get into the passive/ dominant woman. Just watch American Beauty for that. People should be validated for their contributions.
@irenepetty1 Nonsense. You are merely repeating Feminist dogma. What men find attractive is no more power-based than women's desires, if you intend the sense that "choosing a certain type grants power." I do know that women tend to choose men who _have_ power, and thus they, by dating them, borrow that power, but I've yet to meet one male who has ever said "I'm attracted to X because it grants me power." Your claim is simply false on its face.
How can a man who is not heterosexual speak for heterosexual men as though he has been guilty of the same "crimes"? It would be like a lesbian speaking to women telling women that they need to cut men a break because the lesbian happens to be a woman and is someone that makes her qualified to speak on women's behalfs. This blog is only relevant to a women in that they believe that it is a heterosexual male that has some how reached some form of enlightment. Sorry to say that your heterosexual male companions will not instantly develop femine -like sensitivities. We are unfortunately and fortunately not wirednthe same. It is why we are so attractive to the opposite sex and so frustrating. I by no means believe that this difference in wiring should excuse our attempts at improvement.
@Cailifal He's bi as well, which renders your argument more moot than it already was.
@Cailifal We're not "wired" at all; our brains grow organically from DNA that is almost entirely the same from one human being to another, regardless of sex. And every single study I've ever seen that has looked at sex differences shows that the range of behaviors, sensitivities, what-have-you overlaps far more than it differs between men and women. The myth that we're categorically different and can't change it is simply that -- a myth. Our society creates the impression of greater differences than actually exist by punishing men and women who don't conform to stereotypes about how they ought to behave. Which does make it hard to change -- don't get me wrong -- but it's a cop out, and a load of BS, to pretend we're incapable.
Yes. But no. I'm not sure men are the chicken or the egg. I feel that women carry a pretty impossible standard and women in media-power impose it. Do men follow with drooling lips, or do they instigate? Perhaps both. But only we ( girls, women, ladies, chicks) will be able to end it. Even if every man stopped thinking of women in terms of ideals, we'd still have them set for ourselves. So who sets them?
I understand what you're saying, who is the cause and who is reacting. However, you prove Dan's point. You list girls, women, ladies and "chicks", is that meant to be a term of endearment? What is a :"chick" if not a girl, or women? What is the difference between ladies and women?
Wow! This is so incredibly accurate and well articulated! Thank you Dan!! As much as I try to love myself for who I am and not dwell on my imperfections, and as much as I recognize that it seems men are wired to admire every attractive woman that crosses their line of vision, I can't deny that it does generate the very thoughts and assumptions you describe every time it happens in my presence. I think you described the dialogue it generates in my mind better than I could have myself, lol.
Dan, first I want to say how deeply I appreciate you writing this article. These are difficult concepts for men (and many women) to grasp, and you've presented them eloquently and from the heart.
The only quibble I have is small, but I think an important one. It has to do with "going back in time" to when women didn't hate their bodies, and didn't hate themselves. The fact is, women have been treated as property and playthings for thousands of years. We'd be hard pressed to identify any era in recorded history that includes women as co-creators and equal to men. There was a time when women weren't valued only for how they'd look on a magazine spread, because there were no magazines. They were, however, only valued for how well they could please their husbands, and how many offspring they could produce. They certainly weren't valued for their contributions to Science, the Arts, or progress. So, rather than looking back to a time that never existed, I think the time has come to create a new future in which all of humanity can thrive, and no individual is oppressed. Men can, and will, benefit from the healing of women's hearts.
Articles like this one are a great start. Thanks again, so much. The world you're creating is the one my sons inhabit in my wildest dreams.
Thank you for this. Sometimes people seem to forget TV and Magazines aren't real. No woman can look like a Maxim pin up girl all the time, have a home that always looks straight out of House and Gardens, cook like a chef on The Food Network, have a full time job, raise kids like June Cleaver/Super Nanny, and act like a porn star as soon as the kids are in bed. I know that sounds ridiculous writing it down, but I have heard multiple men talking about what they want or expect out of their wives, including my own husband. This pretty well covers it. Its unrealistic. Every time you are annoyed with whatever you think your wife/girlfriend is lacking, just think, some guy out there has a significant other that has/does exactly what it is you think your spouse should, but he still thinks his is lacking.--This goes for women too. People need to quit focusing at what annoys them about their significant other and appriciate them. Nobody is that "perfect someone" you've foolishly imagined in your head
I only hope that women have the self esteem to not allow themselves to be made into something they are not. I do not believe in any version of sexism. We are not here to knock the other down, but to build each other up. You are what you believe yourself to be and if you believe yourself "worthless", then it is YOU who must make that change in thought and do not rely on others to do this for you! My personal thought on this. NOONE MAKES YOU WHO YOU ARE BUT YOU!
"Dress shabbily or cheaply, and they remember the dress. Dress impeccably, and they remember the woman."
Dan, this opened my eyes wide. And then it made me cry. And then it made me write this: http://www.carieharling.com/?p=1947 . You are one insightful man.
O.o i must've missed this memo...my hubby is sexy as hell and isn't anywhere close to your description ;) but I do agree...there are self image battles in both genders.
Hey Miranda - my Mother also taught me amongst other things, to walk on the outside of the pavement, to open car doors, hold a chair, offer a coat - one in particular date, opening the car door was met with a barrage of abuse... I'm sorry you have to endure that sort of attitude every day, is this at work? Glad someone appreciates manners, and sees it for what it exactly is :))
Dominic, if you held the door for me (good manners aside), I would be pleasantly surprised. A true gentleman is a rare thing nowadays and a real woman appreciates a gentleman. That being said, sexism is in fact still apparent everywhere. I experience it almost daily.
Fantastic post SDL! To those saying that women must take responsibility for their role in this crazy, media fuelled misconception of "true" female beauty, SDL does say that in his post, and I agree. Everyday I look in the mirror at my postpartum body and try to focus on the beauty of it. I tell myself that I created a life and what's more amazing and beautiful than that? I struggle daily with self-acceptance/love because I want to BE an example for my daughter. I want her to grow up happy in all areas of her life, including her self image. Yes, us women are stepping up but what I love about this post is that SDL is also stepping up. I remember early on in my marriage, my (now ex) husband and I were out for wing night and there was a beer poster in the bar of a scantily clad, airbrushed woman, and my husband said to me, "now see, if you amped up your workouts a bit you could look like that. You definitely have the potential". I was a size 2 at the time and had, up until that comment, felt very confident about my body. I've struggled with my body confidence ever since. When I pointed out to him that I WOULD look like that if I had a team of hair and makeup personnel and a professional photographer, he rolled his eyes and said that I "have an excuse for everything". Sometimes women can't win for losing. Thank you Dan for accepting and speaking up about "your" role in perpetuating the media fuelled, impossible standards that women are expected to meet. To those who read this and want to comment about male standards, I'm not in disagreement with you. The post was about female body image and the role men play, so my comment is simply in keeping with the topic posted.
Dan, I'm with you 99.99% of the time, but with this you've lost me. We aren't living in the 70's anymore where sexism and objectification is rife (unless this is still the case in the US?), I really do think that you're tarring us all with the same brush :/ Real women? Aren't all women real women? Tall, short, fat, thin, blonde, brunette, red head, and everything in between? Also, we really can't overlook the fact that as a species, we're *all* programmed at a subconscious level to seek out what we perceive as being the most fertile mate. 'Objectification' to a degree, by both sexes, is always going to happen at some point. But please, don't fuel the man hating fire. It's at the point now where I don't know what sort of response I'll get for holding a door open for a woman. I'll hold a door for anyone, my mother taught me manners as a child but some how that can be construed as sexist..
As a woman who hears that I’m not good enough from my husband on a regular basis, I want to thank you for writing this.If there is a negative scale on self-esteem, that’s what I have at this point.I will be sharing this with him…I doubt it will get through to him, but a girl can dream.
@anonymous As someone who has been there, no a girl shouldnt dream. A girl shouldnt settle for anyone who doesnt appreciate them. This aint no Disney movie. There will be no happy ending. If he had wanted to share this opinion, he wouldnt be the way he is. You cant change him.
I am bawling right now. I am the woman saying all the things you first listed, except I'm too skinny, not too fat. What an eye-opener, and thank you for posting.
Your guy is an idiot, honey! It is not a guy thing!!! My ex was addicted to porn and he eventually step outside the marriage to pursue other things. Too much porn leads people to stray. And you are worth more than that! Thank the Good Lord my husband now has no interest in that bullshit!
I read both the women and the men and you nailed it head in for me in both. I try not to belittle my husband. I don't for the most part, but it occasionally slips. Thank you!!!!
I read this to my husband and our boys..I then heard our oldest son, 17, reading it on the X box to his friends and talking about "real" women...thanks for writing and putting it out there.
I think it popped up again due to the slayings of those Women in California by the 'nice guy killer' whose manifesto blamed the Women he killed for not having sex with a "nice guy" when he apparently 'did and said all the right things - girls claim they want in guys' but still got no where with them. It drove the feminists into a foaming rage , of course, because they guy was, aside from a killer, an expert troll - and thus the battle between the sexes and over objectification was reignited - and I think this is why your article got picked up again .... People trying to find justifications, and or sort out their feelings on the matter, and this post really hit home on several fronts in that regard. I remember reading this years ago too.. but re-read it again when it showed up here , as you, to see how well it held up given current events.. I still think a lot of it holds true... A lot of the self deprecation, we do it to our selves, it's in our minds.. Aside from that, Women, not just Men, do plenty of 'objectifying' each other.. It actually made Me want to see your take on that whole situation, and what you think about that objectification... because in my Mind, that is really what this is about - societies unreal expectation of Males and Females, not just their bodies, but their actions, expected, and learned..
I have issues with article:
1 - You spend two-thirds of it basically saying that women's entire self-confidence depends on what the men around them think, boiling down the entire female psyche and goal into 'being what men want'.
2 - After stating over and over that men are at fault for giving women unrealistic things to live up to and that we need to change that, you turn around and say that it's the media's fault men do this.
3 - You end by shifting at least part of the blame (if not all of it) back to the women by asking them to give us men what we -really- want (that is, what you have just stated we are too brainwashed to know we want...).
What I see you saying here is: "I'm a man and I control how women feel, and the media has told me what to like so that I'm degrading women - please, real women, make me desire what you have instead of what I currently desire so I can change myself and make you feel good again."
A man has no more power over a woman's self-worth than she lets him have; a woman has no more power to change what a man desires than he gives her. Your kind of thinking is just another side of men feeling they are somehow above women.
And I'm sorry, but 'the media' didn't do this to us - we created the media as part of the society we have been building for millennia. 'The media' as it stands today in pushing beauty ideals has only been around for a century (and has not held a unified front at all, really), standards of beauty and belittling of women have existed for much much longer than that. Has it gotten worse with global media? Yes and no. Previously, standards for beauty were created and maintained culturally and locally and took longer time to spread but was often even more unrealistic and damaging (take a look at chinese foot-binding, european corsets, the obesity ideals of some pacific islands, various extreme body modification-ideals in africa). These days, the beauty ideal is spread faster and to a much bigger part of the globe and become much more homogenous in the western culture and those seeking to emulate it (other standards exist in other cultures). And, look at how fast the ideals have been changing - we get new standards every few decades instead of every few centuries.
Some of these ideals are hard-wired into the human biology - things we are genetically programmed to respond to (for example symmetry, health and fitness; but one of those things is 'rarity' - we desire that which sets someone apart from the norm in order to increase genetic diversity - another is 'status' - we desire the physical characteristics of those perceived as having high status (celebrities, in this day and age), while other specific ideals are purely social constructions (though if these do not fit what we are predisposed to like).
Either way, you can't blame either men or women, and certainly not 'the media' - we as a society are to blame, as a whole. What we have today isn't the result of media exposure in the past few decades, it's the result of centuries and millennia of human society. (You can only blame the media in so far as we human beings want to fit in and want to do as we are told by those we perceive as our superiors).
You are absolutely correct in one thing, though: we all have to individually lead by example in order to create a change. Be the change you want to see in the world, and all that. We can't do that by claiming power over other people, though - we only ever have true power over ourselves, individually.
@RTAllwin i am yoinking this and using it. thanks for doing the leg-work, dude! Well said....
@RTAllwin Thank you. My response wouldn't have been nearly as cordial as yours. So thank you for saying it and for saving me from what most certainly would have been a poorly received rant.
I have been a rebel since day one. I recognize many of the statements, and I still have a few of them in my head (there were at least three that I've been actively suppressing in recent days/weeks/months.) But I used to be one of the women that men turned to look at, and for me the fight has been a bit different. It was obvious to me that men wanted what was on the outside, and didn't much care about what was on the inside of me. I did a self-portrait for a college class once, and I refused to include a body. I drew pictures of what I think about and care about and find interesting. My whole love life has been about searching for a man who will actually listen when I talk to him. Have I found one yet? ....in a word, no. Not really.
Its a primal instinct to look at something "sexually appetizing", when it's put in our faces, men and women do it. I think that women who think those thoughts of themselves (which I've indulged in as well), have to recognize what they are doing and to not give anyone power to encourage this way of thought. If women would gain strength from recognizing those devastating ideas and disarming them by saying "why am I thinking this way. I am a good mother, I am worth attention, I am a beautiful person. Sure I may have some scars and I may not be a thin as I used to, but I'm also not vain, and I'm not ugly inside." Give yourself examples of all the great things you do constantly. Downplay the mistakes you make and praise yourself for all the good things you do.
Since my divorce I have been constantly working on this because it's empowering and makes me realize that if what a man wants is the "perfect looking woman" as far as what society portrays, well, good luck with that. I think what we all need to learn is there will always be bullies, there will always be racism, there will always be vain heartless people. No matter what anyone does. These men and women will always exist, even if they dwindle down to small numbers. What we need to do is learn strength, break cycles of negative thinking, teach our sons and daughters how important their inside is. Telling your daughter "you're beautiful" should come secondary to "Wow, look how far you've come in your reading/math (whatever). You're such an intelligent girl!" or "You helped your friend up when they fell, what a great person you are." Same with boys. Men, treat the women around you with respect and love... if you feel like that person doesn't deserve it, move on. Don't keep destructive relationships around just so you aren't alone. Our children see and mimic what they see adults do. Keep that in mind if anything. If you portray a strong happy person regardless of what those around you say, do, think. You will have strong happy respectful loving children, regardless of who they encounter in life. They will be too strong to give anyone power over them. I can probably go on but I need to take a shower now, LOL!
30. My number was 30. All of which I have said about myself at some point in time. This article is such a refreshing take on something that is so difficult for women. I appreciate it more than you know. I appreciate the fact that you tell men to stop looking. (I do think it is naturally ingrained for males to be visual though) I appreciate the fact that you challenge them to look, and appreciate, the real women in their lives. I also appreciate the fact that you challenge us, as women, to reveal less. I have been touting this philosophy for a while now. What guy doesn't want that mysterious allure? I think women that cover more can probably be more confident because it takes them out of the competition altogether. Its taken me a good 30 years to realize this, but I am so glad that I have. Keep thinking. Keep writing. Keep questioning. You are making a difference and I love you for it!
Yes yes yes... Makes sense! I always tell boys I work with that society has not been fair to them... Expecting them NOT TO CRY when they feel the same feelings as girls do. They're always surprised. Guess it'll be a long time before there is true equality on all levels
You are coming from a place of compassion which I do appreciate, but it was disappointing when you stated that it's men's job to rescue women from feelings of powerlessness. Apparently, women actually ARE powerless in your eyes or you'd see that women have to rescue themselves. Instead, men need to rescue themselves from their own powerlessness against these rarefied media images of women, for their own sake. A man's own quality of life is damaged when he lives in an unattainable fantasy world that destroys his ability to appreciate a real woman.
I agree that this is a major problem but I also feel that women tend to judge each other much more harshly then any man ever will. I am a big woman and I have been married more than once partly due to my own issues and partly the men involved..I have been put down, ridiculed for my size...but not only by men..doctors tell me I am healthy and I have no weight related issues then they tell me I must lose weight to be healthy..well damn...make up your mind..didn't you just say I was healthy? The craziness is everywhere! We live in a world where media and now even news casters are told not to be racist or prejudice and then they go off on a tangent about how everyone needs to be thin to be healthy! Thank you so much for posting this..it is well worded and very thought provoking. But don't be so hard on yourself or other men we are all guilty of falling into these media traps myself included! I consider myself very lucky and blessed these days since I do have a man who loves me for who I am and not what I appear to be. Someday I may learn to love myself the way he loves me and someday I hope to see myself and all of the people around me in the light of truth. For now I try each and every day to look for all the is beautiful and positive in this world. I know I will slip up but I also know I will keep trying! I wish you all light and love since that is truly what keeps me moving forward.
You know, I try not to fall victim to these self-deprecating thoughts and statements. But I have to say, when I'm getting ready to go out, I feel beautiful and confident. When I get where I'm going, I still feel beautiful and confident. When a gorgeous woman passes by, I think " Wow, she gorgeous!" I'm not intimidated. Good for her! The problem sets in when I see a cute guy, make the eye contact, give the sheepish smile and then wait to see if something will happen..... That's when my confidence falls apart and I feel too inadequate. And it's because guys don't give the 'less than perfect' woman a shot. Talk to me, or my friends. take a moment. What's wrong with us???