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Fuck Politeness

This is a revolution, not a public relations movement

[E.T.A – I have been thinking about how unfocussed/incoherent the post is. I’m not trying to say that there aren’t women for whom ‘Women’s bodies are more beautiful’ is a truth. I’m not trying to say that women’s bodies aren’t beautiful. I’m also not trying to reinforce the idea that only bodies that show a significant – nay, ludicrous – amount of work to obtain/maintain are beautiful. I am just trying to look at what goes unspoken underneath a woman saying ‘I’m straight but I think women’s bodies are more beautiful’ when – as it seemed very much at the time – she’s referring to a very specific *kind* of ‘woman’s body’. At how much work goes into creating and maintaining that idea…it really is all over the place, this post]

I dunno why but I was thinking back to a group of acquaintances together over drinks when one straight woman said ‘Women’s bodies are just more beautiful’.

At the time another friend said ‘No, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, it’s how we’ve been conditioned to think about it’.

That rings true to me. Beauty and sex are represented by and large in society, in media, in movies, tv, filmclips by women. Desirability is located in the faces/bodies/hair of women, their smiles, their mannerisms, their legs, their breasts…

Not just any women either. YOUNG, YOUNG, YOUNG women. So their skin is clear and bright and taut and glowing in a way that’s simply not possible past the age of say 23. But even the y0ung women with good skin have expert makeup piled on. Even the naturally thin have to diet and exercise and work hard for those bodies. And even those bodies: the very young, the dieted, exercised, buffeted, lasered, smoothed bodies get airbrushed. Even those with manes of glossy hair get hair extensions, fake eyelashes.

In essence what I am saying is that ‘beauty’ is not located in ‘a beautiful woman’, it’s in this ludicrously unobtainable-for-the-vast-vast-majority over-produced version of ‘beautiful woman’, a version that the woman in question works really fucking hard for. And then is ‘improved’ in all sorts of ways: fake tans, laser hair removal, makeup, air brushing, plastic surgery. Like when they airbrushed and photoshopped the shit out of Jessica Alba for the Campari calendar. Jessica. Fucking. Alba! Take away some non-existent waist, add more cleavage, change skin tone, widen eyes. FUCK! Can we not let Jessica ALBA alone?

So every day women are subjected to a barrage of these ‘beautiful women’ as the standard to which they’re compared, to which they *should* live up to. And for the poor old ‘average woman’, hell even for the ‘beautiful’ women, there is a lot of work involved in going anywhere near this stereotype, we’re talking hours and hours and hours of grooming, of shopping, of lasering, of exercise, of makeup, of accessorising, of contemplating outfits, of teetering in heels.

But for men…well for men, even in media…there are a couple of stupidly good looking men. But they’re just that. Stupidly good looking. For the most part, the ‘cute guy’ in the tv show, or the movie, or the film clip doesn’t really wear a tiny bikini or get his gear off, so he’s got a nice face…and sometimes a good set of arms. Sometimes they’re not even stupidly good looking. Sometimes they’re ‘goofy cute’ or sometimes just kinda average-to-funny-looking with some good lines or charisma.

And well, outside of media…well…for a good looking man to be seen as beautiful, he showers, brushes his teeth, puts on some clothes, and hell if he’s going all out, perhaps some after-shave. And men’s beauty will get noticed. Oh, he has nice EYES, or YIKES did you see that smile?? Or ‘Doesn’t Phillip SMELL NICE??’. Yes, I know that there are pressures on men as well. But a large spectrum of ‘types’ are considered sexy and what I’m trying to get at is the same level of work is not demanded.

But back to media etc: a range of men from allegedly not attractive, through to ‘yowsa’ are represented in tv. Where women predominantly have to be staggeringly beautiful to appear in tv/films, the type of beauty that requires a lot of work, for the most part, the men in tv, even the ‘attractive’ men don’t have to spend as much time and effort at being eye-candy.

Which is where True Blood steps in. There are male bodies in that show that require work. Like hours and hours and YEARS of dieting and exercise! They’re either naturally hair free or they’ve been waxed/plucked/buffed to oblivion. And I want to be clear: I’m not trying to say that some bodies are better than others or that people should just work harder or whatever. What I’m saying is our images of bodies, and of beauty are shaped by this continuous barrage of images. And then our ideas about whose bodies are beautiful is shaped by that barrage. And the whole ‘WHY do some bodies count as beauty and IS THAT OK’ issue to one side for just a moment: is it in any way possible that women will say that women’s bodies are ‘more beautiful’ because they’ve been soaked/immersed/drowned in images of naturally ‘beautiful’ women: naturally beautiful YOUNG women, naturally beautiful young women who have to NEVER EAT MORE THAN FOUR CHIPS (I’m looking at YOU Dita Von Teese – yes she said it, she’ll just NEVER have that next chip – only fattie mcfatfats do that) to keep working, naturally beautiful very young women who never eat chips/what they want to and must exercise a lot a lot, and THEN must have hair extensions, laser hair removal, fake tans, hair extensions, fake eyelashes, the latest jewellery and other shiny bits and pieces. And…well…say Seth Green, or Ben McKenzie/Adam Brody…cute yes, but really, where’s the indications of the work they do to stay toned/ripped/’hot’? Well generally we never get to see their bodies so we don’t know.

And then in True Blood you’re like ‘Holy fucking HECK, HOW did you get a body like that…no, really…HOW??’. The bodies are so astonishing that for a while you’re like ‘Well I…think that’s attractive, I’m still stuck on huh?’. And yet, that level of over-the-top-worked-for body is represented as just kinda normal for women, day in, day out, in ads, movies, tv shows, film clips, and in the way fashion displays bodies. Fashion simply doesn’t display men’s bodies in the same way. And nor, generally speaking does media. Yeah okay, a Beckham ad here, an Absolut ad there…but those STICK IN OUR COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS because they’re like ‘WHOA!!’, they’re the exception rather than the rule. And on the one hand that means we’ve got our noses continually rubbed in it: ‘this is beauty and you’ll NEVER EVER FUCKING BE IT’, and on the other, when we think about ‘women’s bodies’ we often think about magazines and media: girly mags, Who magazine, celebrities etc. And when you think of men’s bodies there simply is not the same level of saturation of ‘MENS BODIES ARE TEH HOT’, and even where it’s played it’s rarer, and even where it IS played it’s frequently bodies that don’t require the same level of work. Now again, whether bodies that require more work are more beautiful has to be left to one side again, because we’re indoctrinated to think that those bodies are more beautiful. And we’re indoctrinated to associate that kind of female body with beauty and desire.

I guess I’m just saying that ethics and complications to one side, if exposure were more equal, and demands on beautiful bodies more equal (and this is STILL only equal in terms of idealised/overworked/sterotypically beautiful/cis-gendered/male-female dichotomy equal), would that shift people’s answer? Who the fuck KNOWS what kind of body Clooney has? And who the fuck cares? He’s a sexy man. He’s got that chuckle, those crinkles around his eyes, the grey, the whiskery bits, a way of looking at people with warmth and flirtation…but you see what I’m saying? Dude is an INTERNATIONAL sex symbol and I’ve got no idea what his body looks like. Because men can be sexy for all kinds of reasons and men don’t have to show us their bodies to be considered sexy, they don’t have to jump through the same hoops.I mean I don’t even know what his ARMS look like! Whereas I know that woman opposite him in Up in the Air has a typically gorgeous body with very slender arms, because even in the clothed scenes, her body is much more on display simply by way of fashion.

It is entirely possible that I’m talking out my arse here. And it goes nowhere to redressing ablism/dichotomous gendering/compulsory heterosexuality/race etc. But I do sometimes wonder…if all the media worked like True Blood, where you saw a lot of male and female bodies, some of them more realistic and some of them more ‘how the eff?’ if things would shift. If men would maybe ‘get’ a little of the comparison stuff and how it can affect you. If ‘beauty’ and ‘desire’ wouldn’t stay located in the idealised female body (I think I’m on the path of advocating something just as problematic here)…that perhaps what was being said was not in the end ‘women’s bodies are more beautiful’. Yeah, it’s probably a totally fucked up idea that’d just end up with (white, hetero, able bodied, cis-gendered) men looking at their own bodies and feeling suddenly and startlingly ‘inadequate’ and all kinds of body issues. There are times though, even if the desire is unworthy, where you just for a moment want to go ‘See?? See how it feels to be compared to something you know you can never be? Something you move further away from each day?’.

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