Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Faces vs. Bodies vs. Fashions: What Are Men Looking At? (one woman's perspective)

Ouch!!! Progress or regress, times have changed as have female and male perceptions of beauty and attractiveness. In the 1970s the Twiggy fall-out set female perceptions about appearance, body beauty, curves and weightiness on its head and brought us to where we are today: a culture clash extremus with the Fat Acceptance Movement at one end of the continuum and celebrity uber thinness and plasticine bodies at the other and the average overweight American woman who is constantly dieting and failing to maintain her lost weight somewhere in the disgruntled, frustrated middle. Where do men "weigh in" with regard to women's faces vs. their bodies, vs. their fashions?

Women used to influence men's attitudes about womens' appearance and then forgot they had the upper hand and began "dressing for men." (I am discussing Western civilization.) Women through the centuries crushed their innards with restrictive corsets, stays and bra bindings, throwing out their backs and causing themselves great pain and breathing problems. They (1900-1930s) dressed "fashionably," in Victorian era styles, with corsets, petticoats and dresses covering their bodies from neck to ankle even during the summer. Such clothing insulated their bodies keeping the heat contained to excess and during a heat wave like the one that happened in the Northeast on July 4-12, 1911, numbers of women, underestimating the effects of excessive body overheating sometimes died (Phelps, 35). 

With technological modernization in the 50s through the 80s, women mangled their feet and threw out their backs with 3-4 inch heels. I inanely taught in Candies, a brand in the 1980s. I don't know how I did it walking up two flights of stairs (4x a day) standing for long periods of time and walking around the building and my classroom numerous times. And that wasn't as egregious as young women who dressed for work every day and walked the streets of Manhattan in high heels. Thank goodness, times have changed regarding sexy footwear. NOT! Well, at least women are "allowed" to come to work in comfortable, but fashionable shoes.

Ladies. Why are we doing this to ourselves?  Aren't we more savvy than gay fashion designers, marketing mavens, and fashion know it alls? What are we?  Bored? Materialistic? Insecure? Desperate? Judged? Inane? Self-absorbed? Are we doing this for the guys:  for our boyfriends, if we are single, or to make our husbands smile and be happy? Or are we fashion hounds to convince other women that we are beautiful...competitors who are in a class beyond comparison?  Do we need the latest styles? Do they really enhance how we feel inside? If they do, SOMETHING IS WRONG. What happens when that style gets old, and it gets old real fast...like next week after we have worn the outfit once and friends/coworkers/ladies who lunch praised how we looked and then moved on to the next topic, Susi's divorce?

I can understand if a wife is a trophy wife of a billionaire husband who must "keep up appearances." She must be "all that" physically (or at least fit and healthy) and intellectually. (One would hope she is not one step above pole dancer. Wreck my estimation of billionaires! I guess I am thinking of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.) But let's face it ladies, if the guys are straight, we have their attention! If they are younger generation, then women must be thin; how thin may vary by race and ethnicity.

For single, young men, body is crucial. This revelation came to me years ago. I had a small role in a college production of Carnival. A cast mate also had a small role, that of the harum dancer. Friends and I agreed that the young lady was not even unconventionally attractive to be jolie-laide, one of "the beautiful ugly." She was just unattractive, but NOT HER BODY. She was tall and slender. After the show I was standing next to her talking to someone else, when I overheard a gentleman who made it a point to come up to her, tell her she had a great body. I thought it interesting he didn't tell her she "looked great." Her body was his focus.

That's when I realized that what women wear doesn't matter all that much to guys (and believe me I've done my own informal surveys on this) unless the guys are gay, of course. However, the clothing should not be a burlap sack; it should show off a slender, lithe bod, a fit shape. Remember guys are more turned on by clothes off, not clothes on. Maybe it's about men being macho and related to who is interested in women's fashion: gay men. A young, straight male is not going to be discussing women's fashions. Same thing with straight men commenting on another man's looks. If I ask a guy, "Do you think he is good looking?"  If he is straight, he'll say something like,  "I don't look at other guys' looks," or  "I don't know?" or "I don't care." Ask a gay guy? He tells me at the speed of light if he thinks a guy is good looking. Same with men caring and commenting about women's fashion statements. They don't.  (Unless they want something from you or are being polite.) It's not the china pattern of the plate, it's the food in the plate that counts!

On the other hand women look at faces to judge a woman's and man's looks. And women mistakenly think men are the same. Well, it depends. ! I have a brother and nephews and guy friends. It's mostly about the body. Unless, there is something else going on. So if a guy tells you he is beyond body and looks at your face and deep in your eyes...grab him and hold onto him! He has transcended the casual "let's get together" mode and is stepping out into deep waters! Now, that's what I'm talkin' about!

Reference:  The Devil's Rooming House, M. William Phelps, Guilford: Lyons Press, 2010. 

No comments: