This is a response to people who think saying women are very into their appearances is sexist. Sure, all generalizations aren’t fair. ALL OF THEM. (see what I did there?) But I got thinking that maybe the sexism arrow is missing its mark…
My practical experience says that every single woman I’ve ever known has been concerned with their appearance. Even the women who didn’t feel they were in the mainstream, and wanted to rebel against what a “typical” woman was supposed to look like, took pains to make themselves attractive to themselves, and to other outsiders. They’d dye their hair with candy colours and tattoo their skin with significant images. But very few of them took the lack of interest, or clueless indifference of the men I’ve known.
Men frequently buy bulk packs of the same socks, underwear, deodorant, etc. We wear whatever is clean, or clean enough. We duct tape our falling apart shoes. We dress with practicality at the forefront. Sure, there is a push to add to our wardrobes with wacky socks, funderwear, or designer clothes, but that’s generally considered “metrosexual”. It’s a gender difference. Even though it may be changing, hardly any men wear make up, or need closet space that rivals a female counterpart’s.
I think people get caught up in WHY this is, looking to blame men or women for this “negative” perception of women as appearance oriented. Is it men who demand physical beauty from a mate? Or is it the self-loathing woman who needs to stand up to these patriarchal ideas? I think both are wrong. Instead, I think the problem lies in HOW we talk about this difference.
Men (who have written most of the history books), have suggested that the highest point of a civilized society is art. Artists channel muses or gods into pieces of work that connect emotionally with the audience and often make a deeper point. Chimps and chumps don’t make Sistine Chapels. Okay, so if art is such a high point of civilization, why is making yourself into art shallow? Why are knowing the names of lipsticks and this season’s clothing different than knowing the names of paint pigments and Pantone swatches?
Is it because they are taking other people’s clothes and just putting them together in other ways? No, because collage and mashups are art.
Is it because it’s temporary and a new version is made (at least) daily? No, because today’s biggest art movement is street art, which embraces the ephemeral.
Is it because it’s often to woo a mate? No, because a LOT of art is made to impress the opposite sex. Why else does every teenager want to join a band, MC, etc.?
Is it because it doesn’t make a comment on society or the human condition? No, it can make a comment, like the aforementioned candy coloured hair that Duchamps society to question what is beautiful.
Is it because it’s too mundane, everyone does it? No, because it’s art to paint another bowl of fruit, naked woman, or redraw superheroes in slightly different outfits. Only the really great people break the mundane, like Lady Gaga does with fashion or Pablo Picasso did with paint.
Is it because the canvas of the art is the person’s own body? No, because performance artists create whole new characters to inhabit, plus dancing is art.
Is it because it’s mostly something women do and guy’s don’t really get, and we’re sick of waiting forever for you to get ready? I think that’s the one. We’ve made it legitimate to call a looks-driven person shallow, but a canvas-driven person a prodigy.
So, next time you think of a woman’s interest in her appearance as shallow, remind yourself it’s no different than someone who’s drawing in the sketchbook every day. They’re engaged in the same struggle between hounding obligation and fun, expressive experiment that artists face with the blank page every day.
I really shouldn’t leave the house without posting another comic.