Mar 30 2010

Scum: not the real enemy

Sick of beauty? Dang it, me too. That’s why I’m posting on it more or less nonstop.

Blamer Magriff, reading yesterday’s post on how beauty is dumb, suggested that for crying out loud, people, shut the fuck up about beauty. She based her suggestion on the notion that writing about beauty merely perpetuates its evil power, like unto dropping delicious little nuggets of our splintered selves into its gaping maw.

The less attention we pay to how women look, one way or another, the better, at least for a while. And that goes for everyone. Stop talking about it already, it’s the ultimate sore subject, and everyone knows sores don’t heal if you insist on picking and picking at them.

Lard knows I love Magriff like fish sauce loves a spring roll, but I cannot get behind this thesis. To enlarge on the diseased skin metaphor: just as the treatment for a festering carbuncle is unlikely to include ignoring the carbuncle, so too might ignoring the hideous consequences of a critical aspect of women’s subjugation be unlikely to make it go away. I remind the Blametariat that, because women are an oppressed class, we don’t have the luxury of simply existing and lounging on the Lido Deck and traipsing around town as though our appearance were totally a politically neutral dealio and there was no global humanitarian crisis afflicting our entire population. That perk is reserved for the dominant class. We are an oppressed class, so everything women do, voluntary or no, is a political act. Is this tiresome? Painful? Exhausting? It sure is! That’s why I advocate immediate feminist revolt. Maybe then we could take a fucking load off, for crissake.

Anyway, I was motivated to complain about beauty for the second day in a row by a soap commercial on television. The soap commercial to which I allude is one of that insidious species of soap commercials that plays into women’s insecurities concerning our level of commitment to beauty and beauty products. In this ad, a group of women confront the horror of “soap scum.”

That’s right! You called it! It’s our old friend Dove!

Dear old Dove! Who can forget 2004’s surreal Campaign for Real Beauty? This devious advertising gimmick paraded conventionally pretty women and posed them crouching awkwardly in their underwear, rebranding soap model hotness to include a few more fat cells than previously allowed on TV. Dove called the models “real women.” They were meant to appeal to potential Dove butt-cream customers because the women were not the typical pubescent Slavic speedfreak toothpicks.

Internet feminists laughed and laughed. We were well used to this kind of schizoid women’s marketing. We cut our vagina dentatas on glossy women’s magazines where one page contains an article on the dangers of dieting but on the facing page is a giant ad for Lean Cuisine Bacon Alfredo Pizza (320 calories). Those 2004 Dove models might have had a little meat on their bones, but the message was same shit, different day: “Hotness is king! Buy yours here!”

The creepiest thing about it all was the camaraderiffic tone. The Dove company pretending to be your best friend and trusted confidante and professional life coach all rolled into a single “beauty bar,” existing solely for the purpose of helping you and your precious self-esteem be more beautiful than ever. Six years later, I’m still shuddering.

The Dove website is a fucking scream, by the way. Dork city! Check this out:

“As part of the launch campaign, DOVE invited women to rediscover the beauty in their own hair.”

Invited by an altruistic cosmetics company who cared for nothing so much as her self-esteem, Twisty discovered the Taj Mahal, a sunset on the beach, and a monarch chrysalis deep within the tangled web of her own hair.

Rediscovered beauty hair

And there’s actually a link titled “Real women react to soap scum.” No shit.

“So, Daphne, whatcha been up to lately?”

“Oh, not much. I got an internet video gig.”

“Doing what? Tickling kittens? Weeping piteously over Star Wars?”

“Nah. Reacting to soap scum.”

“Soap scum? Sweet!”

But back to the commercial. It’s set up like some kind of bizarro-world scientific study, which for some reason is being conducted outside using wacky equipment: life-sized woman-shaped mirrors with shower heads attached to their tops. The mirrors have cute flip hairdos. A bunch of women are “invited” — Dove is constantly inviting women to do moronic shit — to take part in the demonstration, which will reveal “the truth” about soap scum.

Dove puts the women test subjects to work right away. Cleaning, of course. What else?

“Every woman washed mirrors,” the narrator says, introducing the unlikely premise.

Cut to women diligently soaping up their weird woman-shaped mirrors. Cue the showers for a rinse.

Uh-oh. There’s unsightly white shit left on the mirrors! But why?

“Soap leaves soap scum behind every time you wash.”

Oh, no!

Yet, “you can’t see [the soap scum] on your skin …” admits the narrator.

So technically, what they’ve shown is that a substance purported to be soap can leave white shit on woman-shaped mirrors with shower heads stuck to them, and that actors can be paid to look horrified by this.

Happily for consumers who loathe and despise white shit on woman-shaped mirrors, Dove is “different.” As is demonstrated by a pretty, naked, decidedly non-scummy woman in a towel who caresses her cleavage with a sensual hand, Dove leaves skin “soft, smooth, and always soap-scum-free.”

Can you imagine being that towel model?

“So Miriam, whatcha been doin lately?”

“Oh, I got a job wearing a towel and feeling myself up on soap commercials.”

“You do this with a straight face?”

“It puts food on the table, OK?”

“But towel modeling? At your age?”

“Lucky for me Dove is an equal opportunity exploiter. As long as you’re really, really photogenic, towel models can be as old as 35, 36!”

The Campaign for Real Beauty has now morphed into the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which “was developed to help free the next generation from self-limiting beauty stereotypes [and] promot[e] a wider definition of beauty.”

Notice that, in promoting this supposedly “wider” definition of beauty, Dove is tacitly promoting an all-important corollary: that there will always be those hopeless unfortunates in the margins for whom the definition still isn’t wide enough. Meaning that this new fake commodified Dove beauty will continue to retain exclusivity and unattainability, while injecting a new dose of guilt: if you can’t manage to be beautiful even under these new, lowered standards, you can’t be trying hard enough, or spending enough money.

Here’s a little taste of some of the shitty shit that beauty does:

• It creates and reinforces the notion of the sex class.

• It creates and reinforces the notion of social status.

• It promotes pointless adversarial relationships between women, effectively isolating them from each other (divide and conquer).

• It promotes physically and emotionally damaging, dangerous practices.

• It genericizes women, transforming them from humans into interchangeable fleshbots.

• It infantilizes women, transforming them from humans into morons who seek baby-soft skin.

• It publicly communicates private information which may be used against a woman, including her caste, sexual availability, and degree of personal investment in patriarchal mores.

• It diverts women’s financial resources from things like health care and organic margaritas to the beauty industrial complex, to the tune of billions a year.

• It diverts women’s attention from stuff that actually matters, like global women’s oppression, to superficial, meaningless, neurotic rituals. One of which is that you must endeavor to be free of scum at all times.

So that’s why I’m writing about beauty again. If it doesn’t get some bad press once in a while, people might forget how bad it sucks. It sucks way worse than soap scum.


7 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. yttik

    If they want to impress me, I’d like a soap that clings to people’s bodies so they take it with them when they leave the shower.

  2. kristyn

    Holy shit. That ad campaign is so strange. Were it not for this takedown … well, I would have never seen it, but had I ever seen it, I would have not known what it was supposed to even MEAN.

    My favorite part is how women are supposed to be so dissociated from their own bodies that they empathize more with their scummed-up mirror images, then get freaked out when they make the connection relating said mirror image to their own physical selves. Whoa, what?

    Perhaps there is hope for me yet — it took me a while to divine what that ad was trying to communicate. That the women are not freaking out over the scum on the mirror, but seeing themselves and realizing via projection that they too are covered with scum.
    Or at least I think that’s what’s supposed to be happening.
    What. the. fuck kind of shit is this place we’re supposed to live in?

    Loved the photo of Jill rediscovering hair beauty, though. Will go to pieces for days just thinking about it.

  3. ashley

    Jill, the underwear photo is *clearly* “post racial” and bootified. And the woman in the red shirt zombie-walking towards the mirror is over 130 pounds. I just don’t understand what you WANT?


  4. slythwolf

    The lens flare makes the hair picture, it really does.

  5. girlfromthenorthlondoncountry

    Capitalism for beginners:

    – Think of something that really, really doesn’t matter, which it has never occurred to anyone to think of as a problem and that no-one has ever noticed;

    – Find a way of portraying this insignificant flotsam of a nothing as a deadly serious problem

    – Invent something that doesn’t solve the ‘problem’

    – Sell it to people (women) by convincing them the problem is them.

  6. ashley

    I did check out the website and the thing that stands out the most about beauty is how it’s marketed as enjoyment. We’re conditioned to think that our enjoyment is synonymous with feeling “beautiful”. There’s all this brainwash trash on the Dove site about “I feel more beautiful when I’m relaxed.” No, you’re feeling *relaxed* when you’re relaxed and but women are trained to equate the relaxation to feeling beautiful because of the brainwash that says the highest and only form of accomplishment, enjoyment, and freedom for us is to be physically pleasing.

    Being relaxed makes me feel relaxed and in repeated occurrences it makes it hard to give a shit about being “beautiful” or not.

  7. Summerspeaker

    A lucid and witty critique. I’m especially impressed by the images you’ve selected to compliment the text. The lens flare, as everyone has noted, was a brilliant touch. So are you back to semi-regular blogging? Or is that too much to hope?

  8. Tehomet

    ‘Not a typical pubescent Slavic speedfreak toothpick.’ Fantastic. I may have to get that tattooed on my fat ass. Ironically, as I was reading your post, one of the dogs accidentally stood on the remote, hitting the mute button, so regrettably I could hear Cheryl Cole in a L’Oreal shampoo ad saying, “Say it with me, girls: Because we’re worth it.”

  9. kristyn

    ashley, spot on.

    ”women are trained to equate [anything pleasurable] to feeling beautiful because of the brainwash that says the highest and only form of accomplishment, enjoyment, and freedom for us is to be physically pleasing”
    is particularly spot on.

    Women are supposed to equate pleasing physical sensations to beauty, perhaps because women are not supposed to feel pleasure for things that please THEM and instead are compelled to turn it into something that pleases SOMEONE ELSE. Such as, a man.
    Feeling relaxed wouldn’t serve a man. Feeling beautiful, however … now, that’s what serves a man, or all men. Bingo.
    And that’s probably why it’s structured thus.

    Meanwhile there exists those pleasing physical sensations women are ”supposed” to feel guilty about.
    Almost no one says they feel ”beautiful” after, say, they eat a giant slice of cake. Except for someone like me, but I mean less of ”I feel like I am beautiful” (which would make no sense in context) and more of ”I am having a beautiful feeling” (which makes much more sense).

    It is so creepy, this patriarchy. Like living in a dystopian horror film all the time. It’s a wonder more people don’t see through it.

  10. Panic

    but women are trained to equate the relaxation to feeling beautiful
    There’s a class structure to this too. If you can only relax by finally achieving whatever beauty standard is set up, then you have to have spend a lot of money. Of course, one never reaches this standard (such a funny context word for something that is so far out of reach!), since many rich women spend money through their lives on the beauty lie. But to us plebs, the rich have so much time! So many yachts! They must have it so easy. Maybe if we emulate them by spending money, we too can “relax”?
    I’m articulating this poorly, but it’s making me want to start the revolution, say, nowish.

  11. Shelby

    That picture of the beauty in your beautiful hair (and you) was bladder leaking funny Jilly. So good to have you writing again.

  12. Sarah

    I’m sure Jill has addressed this point in-depth somewheres, but I want to know more about why, oh why, lady-mags always have glossy women’s magazines where one page contains an article on the dangers of dieting but on the facing page is a giant ad for Lean Cuisine Bacon Alfredo Pizza (320 calories).

    It’s not just a content-vs-ad-copy problem, and I’ve wondered about it before. There are often articles about positive body image next to photos of rail-thin, photoshopped and airbrushed supermodels, presumably all chosen, written, edited and laid out by the same “newsroom” staff. I just don’t understand a business model that relies on walking a weird creepy thin line (pun intended) between ugly-shaming and vanity-shaming. How do they make money? Aaaaaaaargh.

    I guess girlfromthenorthlondoncountry’s intro-to-capitalism explains part of it, but what of the articles about the dangers of dieting/the need for positive body image? Why do the editors of ladyrags even bother? I bet they do studies. EVIL studies. Of doom.

  13. Sarah

    Oops. I broke the quotey-thingy. Apologies.

  14. Cheryl

    “Notice that, in promoting this supposedly ‘wider’ definition of beauty, Dove is tacitly promoting an all-important corollary: that there will always be those hopeless unfortunates in the margins for whom the definition still isn’t wide enough.”

    So true. Because what insecure consumers crave even more than feeling beautiful is feeling MORE beautiful than someone else.

    I’m so glad you and InfoMania’s Target Women are calling all these ads on their absurdity.

  15. Jezebella

    Sarah, way back in the stone ages, when Ms. Magazine switched from taking ads to subscriber-support-only, they ran a long and eye-opening expose on the ways in which advertisers bullied women’s magazines into having control over the editorials. This was probably in the late 80s, and I’m certain it hasn’t gotten any better. Once you know to look for it, you can see how and why certain ads are placed vis a vis content. Sometimes it’s bleeding obvious (Lean Cuisine opposite diet article), other times a tad more subtle.

    What kills me are the magazines with covers featuring 50% articles about losing weight, and 50% recipes for delicious desserts to make….for your family, because you can’t eat them, or you’ll get fat.

  16. Sarah

    Oh my gosh, yes. I know just the ones you’re talking about — it’s as if they follow some kind of diabolical cover design formula that always includes a giant close-up of a gooey seasonal dessert, an cover model of a Z-list actress holding her old “fat” pants, and 12,000 diet tips that involve gentle walking and “magic” foods.

  17. Cimorene

    Thank you. Trying to explain to wee non- or proto-feminists why beauty is bad is exhausting and confusing.

    “But I like being pretty.”
    “Ok but you’re missing the point, which isn’t about the you or the liking, but about the problems of pretty.”
    “Why do you hate pretty people? Why don’t you want me to be happy? I like being pretty. You don’t want me to be happy. You are oppressing me. You are the oppressor.”
    And so on.

    I think pretty, for me, is the most brain-splitting part of the world and my space in it. I hate pretty, for all the eloquent reasons Jill has laid out. I of course also hate being called pretty, because it calls attention to my status as sex class human, and reminds me of my own complicity in the patriarchy, both shaming and guilting me. But it also, mind bogglingly, makes me happy. It’s a real mindfuck to be gratified and horrified simultaneously because of the same flippant comment about how I “look so nice today.”

    But then, mindfuck and patriarchy are like totally BFFs.

  18. Lauren O

    Oh, I thought you meant SCUM, like, Society for Cutting Up Men. Turns out you meant actual scum.

  19. Kali

    Yay, thank goddess Twisty is back! Now I can procrastinate on that thesis with style.

  20. nails

    I saw something sillier than the lady mirrors. Yeah, really.

    It was a commercial for bleach. It said something like “your toliet looks clean, but if you pour this stain revealing dye in the bowl, you can see that the stains are still there”, telling ladies everywhere to bleach their toliets. Why the hell would anyone pour stain revealing bleach in a clean looking toliet?? I read The Feminine Mystique last year, and it was extremely relevant. I went into it thinking, “okay, this was written quite awhile ago, and will probably be a good glimpse into the experience of women from that period of time, so it will be worthwhile.” It did that, but the section on advertising shows how little any of it has changed. The pushing of neurotic cleanliness as a measure of femininity is in full swing. IBTP.

    As far as discussing beauty- we have to. Hardly anyone figures out this kind of thing on their own. American women especially have a difficult time stumbling upon the kind of cross cultural comparisons that show ‘beauty’ for what it really is. Critique of beauty is hard to do without critiquing consumerism as well, so serious criticism is hard to come by in mainstream media. Most is of the ‘love yourself anyway’ variety, which says that there IS a perfect way to look, but that you should like you anyway, and that products will help with that self love. This is Tyra Bank’s bread and butter. You know that you are reading BS of this variety when the word “flaw” is used seriously. I am a youngin, my media was saturated in self esteem building pro-woman body positive hypocrisy. What really happened was that you had a whole new set of lies to recite about your freakish fitness or beauty routine, about how its really about loving yourself or improving yourself or what ever. The articles always enforced effort towards beauty as a moral issue; where food is indulgence or rewarding or splurging or spending of calories, instead of eating. Dieting was still virtue, thin still perfection. It was just a way to rob people of the language needed to discuss their experiences genuinely, completely polluting the words used to genuinely critique beauty as a harmful social construct.

  21. Taylor Seim-Brown

    My first thought after watching that commercial was, “So women should stop using soap and start bathing with Windex?” That commercial is stupid, and I’m not happy that it’s on Hulu. If it wasn’t, I’d never see it!

    I guess I still haven’t bought into the theory that physical attractiveness is an idea that is sold to us. Full disclosure: I am not a woman, and only have an outsider’s perspective. I say that it’s not sold to “us” because it’s pretty obviously not just sold to women (how many regular looking guys are in D&G ads?). But that is beside the point, because I agree that the idea is sold to women more.

    We can look back to a time before commercials, and capitalism, and see that beauty was still an attribute that people cared about. Hera springs to mind, and I think we can agree that the people who worshiped her had never even heard of Dove. That’s not the best example though, the Greeks weren’t exactly egalitarian. So let’s go outside of humankind, we’ll notice that beauty is a concern to other animals as well. How do peacocks choose their mates? How about baboons? In fact, how about most animals? Physical attributes, attractiveness among them, play a role in mate selection in pretty much every species with eyes. The hypothesis that humans can completely move past it is one that will require evidence. It doesn’t matter that it might have negative consequences, which you’re right, it does. It’s still hardwired into all of us.

    I consider myself a feminist, and I agree with your premise; less value should be placed on physical attractiveness, especially for women. But let’s be realistic, who wouldn’t prefer a sexy partner? That is a real problem that we have to overcome. And what your definition of sexy is doesn’t matter. If the new definition of sexy is women who are a bit heavier than that will still be an ideal they will strive for. You’ll see, as you did in the 50’s, ads for products that will help you “thicken up”. Then we’re marginalizing thin girls. Really though, who wouldn’t prefer an attractive partner? Who, when imagining their ideal mate, wouldn’t put the perfect personality in a body that turns them on? (This question does not apply to anyone in a serious relationship, these people sometimes say things like “my current partner IS my ideal partner, and I wouldn’t change him/her even if I could”.) This applies to women too, by the way. If you don’t believe me try being a fat guy. I know fat women have it worse, but that doesn’t mean I’m not constantly spurned by the opposite sex. Until we can remove our genetic predisposition to attractiveness we will always have people vying for each other’s affections by trying to get closer to beautiful.

    I am not trying to troll. I actually do read this blog, I didn’t just pop in to rain on the parade. I just have some questions. If there was a ‘contact us’ option I would have e-mailed this, not posted it as a comment. My e-mail is Taylorseim@gmail.com, I would be very happy to continue this conversation with anyone interested in private.

  22. nails

    “I’m sure Jill has addressed this point in-depth somewheres, but I want to know more about why, oh why, lady-mags always have glossy women’s magazines where one page contains an article on the dangers of dieting but on the facing page is a giant ad for Lean Cuisine Bacon Alfredo Pizza (320 calories).”

    It is because the advertising is what pays for the magazine, the amount you pay to purchase the magazine would never sustain the company. The customers are the product being sold to the advertisers, and the magazine facilitates this. So the magazine has to play a game where they keep the magazine readable, but do not anger the advertisers by undermining their sales pitch. This is why the articles are so half hearted. They are there to make readers feel like the magazine cares or that they are being informed or some other nonsense. Or maybe so that they can be seen as promoting ‘health’ or self esteem, its all fluff intended to make readers feel soemthing positive without really thinking at all. The people writing these articles are either genuinely concerned and trying to get some important information to women who are on perma diets, and who end up not being able to say much outside the feel good mindless style of message, or those who are sad enough to believe everything that is written (and likely promoted and published because of that). Most media plays this game. There is plenty of money to be made off of consumers who want to avoid diet danger as well. Vitamins or any product that pushes itself as a health enhancer will benefit from the idea that dieters can be put in danger if they are not careful. Worrying about your diet (which makes it impossible to think critically) helps sales more than it hurts.

  23. ashley

    “Like living in a dystopian horror film all the time. It’s a wonder more people don’t see through it.”

    yes! alientating when you do and they don’t, like walking through a pack of zombies…

    “I mean less of ”I feel like I am beautiful” (which would make no sense in context) and more of ”I am having a beautiful feeling””

    It really IS out of context when you start to self-identify, isn’t it? It’s almost like, what does beauty have to do with cake, soap, or weight? but through the entrenched denial it seems like EVERYthing is about beauty. I hope to become more identified with my reactions-living from the inside out, rather than continuing the reverse.

  24. awhirlinlondon

    Dear Nails – Two things, I think. The first: they take all advertising they can get unless it detracts from the way they are trying to position themselves: i.e. “Vogue,” or “W” is not going to be taking ads from Wallmart. Too low rent and would damage the brand. (I’d be curious actually – does anyone know? — would Walmart want to advertise in Vogue or W?) Second: The editorial and advertising departments know that for most readers, these magazines are aspirational – i.e. the overwhelming majority of women who buy them can’t possibly afford the clothing in them, do not live the lives portrayed and do not remotely look like the models therein, even when said magazines are doing one of their “age” issues (and don’t get me started on the “shape” issues containing women who are still conventionally beautiful but one fraction of a thousandth of a standard deviation from the standard models compared to the shapes of the readership). As such, the readership is happy to lap up advertisements and articles that inform them how, theoretically, they can buy or do something that can help them resemble the impossible creatures/lifestyles portrayed. It’s a perfect circle, really. “We know that you all “struggle” with X [whatever X is] and you want to be/have the perfect X, which we are seducing you into admiring in these glossy pages, therefore we are helping you both realize your failure in not being/having X [hell, we’re whipping you, our willing audience into thinking that X is the ne plus ultra and that you’re a class/race/sex failure without it] and offering you the “opportunity” to (think) you can achieve it.”

  25. Mimi

    Yay! You’re back!! :)

    Didn’t know where else to post this!

    I have nothing else intelligent to add.

  26. humanbein

    Taylor, I have a book to suggest to you: John Stoltenberg’s “Refusing to be a Man”. It will explain a lot about the social construction of sex roles from the viewpoint of a really feminist-friendly human being who rejected masculinity in favor of humanity. That is, unless you think rejecting masculinity means embracing femininity, which is just switching one cultural construction for another.

    A lot of what you are asking is like asking “Why shouldn’t woman cater to my culturally-constructed desires?” You can’t help feeling this way, of course, since you’ve been raised in the same culture we all have, but examining it more critically than that will really open you up to a more empathetic idea of what women go through to cater to your artificial desires. The idea that woman need to be desirable at all times so that you can feel the heightened sense of desire that you are addicted to is actually one of the easiest to identify male privileges imaginable.

    If you get a ton of scornful, angry responses to your post from women who are bitter and resentful about the place you think they should occupy from your viewpoint of privilege, it might be instructive for you to realize that once a woman wakes up to the full horror of compliance with the fuckability mandate we call “beauty”, that it’s almost overwhelmingly oppressive.

    Or maybe you should start with Shulamith Firestone’s crazy, amazing, flawed, yet groundbreaking and revelatory “The Dialectic of Sex”. If you think that pornography is harmless fun that you can’t possibly live without, as most men do, I think you might get some instruction from “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity”. It helped convince me to end my addiction to porn.

  27. goblinbee

    “This is why the articles are so half hearted. They are there to make readers feel like the magazine cares or that they are being informed or some other nonsense.”

    Nails, you are on fire!

  28. phio gistic

    “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful!” – still the most classic beauty ad commercial.

    “I am what beautiful looks like.”
    “You are not.”
    “Women should be jealous of each other’s ‘beauty’ and feel inadequate to the point of hatred.”
    “You can buy this product to try to look like me.”

    Also a reminder that Dove is owned by Unilever, the same company that owns “Axe” products, which have some of the most overtly misogynist advertising currently running. I wonder if Unilever has one big advertising team? It would be a hilarious place to work, if you didn’t get whiplash from the incessant cognitive dissonance. Maybe someone will make a TV series out of it 60 years from now.

  29. hero

    Why do people like Taylor come on here and include the phrase “I do read this blog” when they (he) obviously, excruciatingly, comment in a way that reveals utter ignorance of the rules for posting (which is one of the most brilliant, enlightening, and engaging reads on the whole internet, by the way, as well as being a PREREQUISITE FOR POSTING)?

    Why why why why why do they think they can still inform us of the “outsider’s position” when we have had that position seared into our flawless skin, shoved down our willowy throats, and pounded onto our expensively-conditioned heads since the Dawn of Fucking Time?!

    Taylor: you are why we are here. Why are YOU here?

  30. yttik

    Kids around here are now using Axe body sprays to light themselves on fire. Needless to say, attempted self immolation can be dangerous. What baffles me is the response from schools and parents, we must ban this practice and educate kids about the dangers. There is no discussion about why someone might be motivated to try this, it’s simply presumed they don’t know any better. Well, the injuries are kind of sad, but I can’t help thinking there is a message hidden in all this somewhere. Girls are not prone to this insanity, it seems to be only striking teen age boys. Perhaps all that soap scum girls are lugging around acts like a fire retardant.

    Regardless, this is what happens when you promote hyper masculinity and misogyny. The male half of the species becomes hell bent on self destruction. Patriarchy is unhealthy for everybody.

  31. Phledge

    Humanbein, I am glad that Taylor stopped by if for no other reason than for the fact that you mentioned these titles. I’ve been in the market for books that address the void left once men abandon the patriarchy-approved concept of masculinity, and it sounds like the Stoltenberg might just do the trick. Thanks!

  32. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Hero: Because he has not yet discerned that we don’t give two turkey turds for his “Outsider’s position”?

  33. Pansuit Sally

    Speaking of horrific Beauty2K ads:


  34. Comrade Svilova

    Humanbein hit upon most of what sprung to my mind when I read Taylor’s questions. The only thing that I would add is that the problem with looking to genetics or biology for an explanation for what we find attractive is that we live in a world that is over-saturated with images that construct a vision of attractiveness that has nothing to do with biology — instead, it has everything to do with socially constructed images that serve capitalism. What we find desirable is not some unique aspect of individual personality but the result of the society of the spectacle that permeates our every thought — unless we work incredibly hard to see past its messages.

  35. Rae Kay

    The thing I find most annoying about Taylor’s comment is mistaking Hera for Aphrodite/Venus.

    On a happier note: it is splendid to see The Artist Formerly Known As Twisty return to dispense such truthiful truthness again! Like water in a patriarchal desert, this stuff.

  36. Magriff

    Jill, I got no beef with pointing out the ucky underpinnings of capitalistic exploitations of culturally mandated appearance standards. That would be asinine, and totally un-Magriff. What I did have a beef with was the descent the commentariat briefly took into their own brand of mandating. (I believe the phrases “sensible heels” and “neutral lipgloss” were prescriptively tossed about.) What I really meant was, it’s beyond easy to make women feel self-conscious and bad and generally picked at re their appearance. So, if you’re talking in a public space about beauty, double-triple check what you’re saying for anything that might make some woman somewhere feel worse about herself than she already probably does.

  37. Taylor Seim-Brown

    Thank you for your book recommendations.

    I’m here because I realize that I have been brought up with biases that I’m trying to shake off. I’m not outwardly sexist. I don’t make sexist comments, I don’t have notches in my bedpost or anything like that. But I know that sometimes I think things I should not. I read this, and other feminist blogs, to try to open my mind and dispel these thoughts.

    I’m on your side. I’m using my real name, I gave out my e-mail address. The feminist cause is one I believe in. Please trust me when I tell you that I am not now, nor will I ever be the enemy. I respectfully submit that my questions are valid ones. For example: who, when imagining their ideal mate, wouldn’t put the perfect personality in a body that turns them on? Or, if there is some flaw in that question itself please let me know, I am here to learn.

    Antoinette Niebieszczanski:
    My outsider’s perspective is the reason I’m here. I’m trying to change it to an insider’s perspective.

  38. ashley

    @Taylor-no one on this blog has ever questioned sexual attraction in and of itself. the point of Jill’s critique of beauty, both social and commercial, exists to point out the ways in which beauty as a social construct now exists to limit and oppress women.

    I’m not sure we can concretely say why peacocks mate, whether it’s all about feathers or what, not actually being peacocks and any analysis forthcoming from humans will be subjective based on our experiences. What most of us simply believe is that instead of women experiencing life through our own lens of enjoyment we are expected and forced to experience it through the lens of how other people see us. as a man it may feel like you experience the same kind of expectation, but it’s not the same. there is a huge differential between genders on the value placed on looks.

  39. Judi

    The incessant selling of “pretty” trains us to judge each other by our looks. Doubtless this judgment is a natural and even necessary thing, but ubiquitous advertising deeply reinforces it, to our detriment.

    I don’t want to judge people—especially women—by their beauty compliance, but I can’t help having learned what the culture works so hard to teach. I’m trying hard to unlearn. My new motto:

    Eschew aspiration.

  40. DaisyDeadhead

    Twisty, I visit your blog for lines like this:

    meant to appeal to potential Dove butt-cream customers because the women were not the typical pubescent Slavic speedfreak toothpicks.

    LOL and you never disappoint me!

    I am currently wondering (after seeing Molly Ringwald’s surgically-enhanced bug-eyes at the Oscars) how women can be actresses when they have deliberately paralyzed all of the muscles in their faces w/Botox and collagen and can’t show any emotions/facial expressions except dumbfounded surprise. Have you ever watched any of those “Real Housewives” on Bravo, when they start to cry? It’s very bizarre, since only part of their faces move, and they cry with their eyes wide open.

    Is that supposed to be more attractive? It’s not, it’s scarier than hell.

  41. Saurs

    Peafowl, people. Peafowl. Peacocks are the gaudy ones and penhens the less gaudy ones. All are adorable and loud.

  42. Cocodamolly

    But Jill, lens flare makes everyone beautiful.

  43. JetGirl

    “We cut our vagina dentatas” is the best line ever. I just wanted to express my appreciation.

  44. JBT

    Taylor, images of beauty are entirely socially constructed. Your images of what constitutes “beauty” are assembled for you by the culture of patriarchy, and then, they are implanted in your brain by various means. The truth is that you have no idea of what “body turns you on” that wasn’t forcibly determined by the totalist patriarchy. You live in a world where women’s subordination is eroticized and presented to you without cease from all sources, public and private, from religions (Leda and the Swan, Lot’s daughters, Aisha, etc.) to literature, to music, to film, to advertising, to the Sciences and on and on and on. This mind-fuck makes most people unable to see woman-hatred for what it is. It is so normalized in our world that those who rail against it are termed “feminazis,” “man-haters,” and on and on. The beauty cult, with is myriad rites, is just another expression of enforced pornification and glorification of the hatred of women.

    Ultimately, it tells women that they will be judged, like cattle at a livestock show. The glorification of beauty and cleanliness has a religious narrative as well. You can mind-fuck people into believing that they should be judged and that the tiniest speck of dirt or failure (scum says it all) cannot be hidden from the all-seeing eye of the father god. Worse, the mind-fuck can even make women surveil themselves: “OMG! I gained 10 pounds! Am I still worthy, Big Daddy?” “Oh noes, I can only get 10 rings around my neck instead of 12; do I deserve to eat this week?” The mind-fuck convinces one to believe that there is a heavenly reward for compliance: “My virtue will be rewarded and celebrated if I have that labioplasty (Oh yes, women are told that it is healthier and cleaner)!” “I can keep my job!” “People will listen to me!” Images of women who “have it all” are held up to be emulated, until the all-seeing Man decides they must be punished for some indiscretion; for women the indiscretion always springs from merely wanting too much, being greedy, or deciding to take up more space (“Kirstie Alley gained 50 pounds!”). Of course, this narrative of value and judgment is everywhere, even in the pseudo-scientific evolutionary psychology or in its evil twin, sociobiology. Well, peacocks like big tails, so get in line everybody. It couldn’t be clearer that this is the way, the truth and the light. It’s natural.

    No, it’s the most unnatural mind-fuck, evah. Patriarchy is a mind-fuck that causes us to prey upon each other, to force one half of our species to assume the burden of physical existence that cannot be transcended, so that women must dedicate themselves wholly to purification of the human stain. Taylor, I don’t expect you to completely understand what I’m saying but here are some resources to get you started:




  45. Sarah Jane

    Hi Twisty. I just discovered this blog, spent the last hour reading it and I have to admit- I fucking love you.

  46. Level Best

    Yes, JetGirl, that phrase deserves to go down as one of the funniest feminist phrases ever.

  47. ashley

    peafowl. :)

  48. Foilwoman

    Once again, nothing to add, but so glad Jill/Twisty/The Amazing Author of This Blog is back and posting. Oh, the whole beauty thing is why middle age is so good. For once, it’s pretty easy to just walk away.

  49. Jezebella

    Oh, Foilwoman, if only it were so. I’m not having too much trouble with it, but my long-time friends (I’m in my early 40s) are starting to botox and chemical peel and boob-lift and “fight their aging”, as if that’s even possible. It’s impossible to talk sense into them, because it’s such a fraught and emotional topic. The fear of being not-pretty is powerful stuff. Pretty, in case we haven’t mentioned it yet, is the province of the young, and it gets younger all the time. There is no “pretty” after a Certain Age.

  50. Jezebella

    Taylor, if you’re really here to learn, then you need to shush. Shhhhhh. Listen.

  51. Saurs

    Sorry, I called peahens “penhens,” there. Whoops.

  52. Comrade Svilova

    “For example: who, when imagining their ideal mate, wouldn’t put the perfect personality in a body that turns them on?”

    From what I know of this blog, one of the questions that readers of the blog would ask is *why* a particular form of beauty turns someone on, where does desire come from, and why do we think that certain forms of being are “inherently” or “naturally” or “truthfully” more attractive than others. For many men, the idea of being with a woman who doesn’t shave her legs is disturbing and unattractive. There’s nothing “natural” in that preference; it’s a complete social construct.

    I guess what I’m responding to is the question I believe you’re asking about whether there are beauty standards that have some natural or inherent value. The answer to that is no. Beauty standards are unnatural social constructs to support patriarchy, capitalism, and the dominant ideology. Just because someone finds some quality attractive doesn’t make it really, truly, inherently attractive.

    In addition to blaming patriarchy, what I see on this blog that interests me is constantly questioning patriarchy and the “norms” it tries to naturalize (usually with total success). If you’re asking me whether I prefer my partner to be conventionally attractive, I would respond that I constantly question that preference and interrogate my own assumptions about what has value. I know that most of the things that we are told have value don’t naturally or inherently have value but are merely socially constructed values which serve to manipulate and oppress the un-privileged class(es).

  53. sam

    The thing I find most annoying about Taylor’s comment is mistaking Hera for Aphrodite/Venus.

    I thought he intended to write Helen, but maybe that’s because I’m currently reading “Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood”.

    However you slice it, he’s trying to give a historical anecdote about a fictional woman.

  54. Kiuku

    Yes. Just go to foxnews.com. It’s full of “men who do shit” and an entire section devoted to women’s looks. It’s the sex, section. And it’s all about and their looks, whether hot or not.

    This is what men think about women, but somehow they start to convince themselves that it is what women think about men and themselves; that we really want to be beautiful for them, that there was ever a such thing as natural female competition for men.

  55. Kiuku

    it would be friggin hilarious for an internet feminist to make a mock foxnews site, where it is completely backward, just for people to see how actually disturbing and wrong it really is. Have one half of it “women who do shit” and the other half men posing in suggestive positions that objectify them, a couple limbs here or there, men faces plastered with huge smiles and tons of makeup with a head tilt, and a couple with no makeup comparing the two. And only men in that section. The above section is serious with women who do shit.

  56. Jodie

    Out there in nature, it’s the males who have the colorful plumage to attract the females, who are mostly pretty drab.

    Humans have it backwards.

  57. yttik

    “…who, when imagining their ideal mate, wouldn’t put the perfect personality in a body that turns them on?”

    I don’t want to trigger anyone, but one major problem with patriarchal beauty indoctrination is men being culturally conditioned to find children sexually desirable. That’s what half this crap is about, shaving your legs so you resemble pre-adolescence, having smooth “baby” soft skin, being so thin you look like a girl who hasn’t filled out yet. This is a culture that does not like adult women, that considers 21 yr old women over the hill, that idolizes the sexualization of children, both boys and girls. Ask the Vatican.

    So when imagining the ideal mate, nobody gets to do it in a vacuum. We are all influenced by the cultural dictates that have taught us what is desirable. What we view as beautiful has been programmed into us for most of our lives.

  58. Taylor Seim-Brown

    Rae Kay and Sam:
    When I wrote Hera what I meant was Hera. Remember how she got pissed when told she wasn’t as beautiful as Aphrodite? I do, so I thought her an apt example. The fact that she’s a fictional goddess only furthers my point that beauty was important before capitalism and commercials. She’s made up, but they still gave her traits that most men in the western world would find desirable today.

    Comrade Svilova:
    You got my point exactly correct. Thank you. However I still disagree. I am not a scientist, but I’ve read enough books about evolution (as part of my rejection of religion) to know that we have desires hardwired into us. Not all of our desires are hardwired, obviously. I didn’t get my desire for a better golf club on the savanna. But I got the principles that make me want a better golf club there. There’s an evolutionary reason that women like diamonds, and it’s precisely because they’re inherently valueless and difficult to obtain that they’re so valuable. To reject the best available science out of hand is silly. The important thing is that we have brains big enough to reject these desires, and that’s what we need to do. But saying we don’t have these desires from birth doesn’t help anyone. Matt Ridley’s book The Red Queen is a great place to start, for anyone interested. You’ll also learn about neoteny, which will go a long way towards explaining infantilization.

    Education without questions is not education, it’s indoctrination.

  59. liberality

    The idea that woman need to be desirable at all times so that you can feel the heightened sense of desire that you are addicted to is actually one of the easiest to identify male privileges imaginable.

    That’s it in a nutshell!

  60. Greenconsciousness

    Scum is real – use Dr Bonner’s soap – not tested on animals – no scum = and use the Skin Deep Toxic Data Base to check out the kill level of all the other crap made by patriarchal killer corps to use on your body.


  61. goblinbee

    Taylor: “There’s an evolutionary reason that women like diamonds…”

    That’s quite an assumption there, buddy.

  62. humanbein

    What you call “the best available science” I call skewed cultural theorizing based on biased assumptions, Taylor. I do agree that rising above animal behavior is the kind of aspiration we can all get behind, however.

    I looked over Shulamith Firestone again and I think you should start right there. She takes a position from the start that oppression starts from biology, and takes it to some radical new places that feminism is still struggling to come to grips with.

  63. octopod

    Taylor Seim-Brown, permit me to generalize your statement and thus make it more useful:

    There’s an evolutionary reason that women people like diamonds status symbols, and it’s precisely because they’re inherently valueless and difficult to obtain that they’re so valuable.

    Also, I’m not so sure I believe that the ideal “beauty” attributes men gave to Hera were the same attributes a man today such as yourself would idealize. It would seem that the sculptors chose models for their goddesses who generally had small breasts and shoulders, wide waists, and broad hips (see: Venus de Milo among many others). If we go by the authors, too, age was not considered an obstacle to beauty (see: Penelope of Ithaka). Hardly the same beauty ideal as today. The existence of some beauty ideal, on the other hand, and the assumption that people will want to adhere to it (men and women both, in that time and place), is common to both as you observe. Important not to confuse the two ideas though.

  64. octopod

    Well, my strikeout tags failed. Alas. (They were on “women” and “diamonds” in the second paragraph there.)

  65. kristyn

    I fucking hate diamonds. Guess science was asleep the day my genes were assembled.

    Oh wait. There’s this other thing. We call it ”culture.”

  66. Jezebella

    Oh, christ. “Women” “like” diamonds?? And men don’t like shiny useless stuff that confers status? Give me a fucking break dude, and go back to square one. Fail.

  67. Amananta

    We need an “evolutionary psychology bingo card”. Or has someone made one already?

    I’m a woman and I don’t care about diamonds, at all. Does that make me a freak?

    Please someone help me anyway, this whole thing is helping too, but I’m a woman approaching 40 and lately i find myself having insane thoughts like “Maybe I really should scrape together my meager cash and pay someone to inject paralyzing toxins into my forehead because I SEE WRINKLES!”

    Please, someone slap me silly.

  68. Laughingrat

    Amananta–there’s tons of anti-oppression bingo cards linked here:


  69. Summerspeaker

    Ah, evolutionary psychology. While reasonable in theory, in practice that discipline too often serves as a way to justify the patriarchy through an appeal to nature. The research on the subject remains contested. Evo-psych studies commonly include a whole litany of dubious unstated assumption. Current neuroscience suggests a much greater plasticity in the human brain than most evolutionary psychologists acknowledge.

  70. Amananta

    Thank you!

  71. Foilwoman

    Jezebella: My sympathies to you regarding your friends fightin their forties. Some of my friends behave in similar ways, but really, we can only be responsible for how we approach things. I have plenty of friends who dye their hair and honestly believe that certain expensive moisturizers will keep them young-looking. While there are things I can do or say to try and change their perspectives, all I can really do is deal with my own attitudes.

    Only speaking for myself, hitting my late forties has been liberating from the expectation of beauty compliance.

  72. kristyn

    Also, to head off the shitstorm of ”you women are just stupid and thou dost protest too much” that is foreseeable the minute any woman ever argues with a man who worships the god of science —

    I know what you mean. I know that ”diamonds” was just a metaphor, at least I fucking hope it was. However, the women on this blog have been thinking about and doing research on these topics for a good long time, boy. It’s ironic that you admonish Antoinette about the perils of indoctrination, yet proceed to embrace evo-psych — a very shady pseudo-science — seemingly without question.
    And please don’t mansplain irony to me, as I turn a phrase for a living (not that you’d always know it by my casual writing).

    Also, your dropping of the religion bomb comes to this. So you’ve rejected religion, Magnanimous. Many women here have rejected religion for a long-ass time. I personally have thought it was a heap of shit for about twenty years, and am not yet thirty years old. Although I may be wrong, I can’t think of a single woman on here who has spoken of being ”religious.” So if this is a straw feminist you’d like to erect, here’s preemption of that.

    The line of thinking that holds everything not in direct worship of science — which is essentially the penis, if you think about it, a discipline which is regarded by many as a rock-hard monolith of inviolate power (please kill me for typing that even with heavy irony) — to be therefore backwards and ”religious”, is akin to the thought process which holds Barack Obama as the furthest left of all American politicians and thus everyone in opposition to or disagreement with him as a ”conservative.”

    Please do not patronize us. We get enough of that.

  73. sam

    Remember how she got pissed when told she wasn’t as beautiful as Aphrodite?…She’s made up, but they still gave her traits that most men in the western world would find desirable today.

    The desirable traits of being a jealous, vengeful, second-rate beauty mostly known as the ballbusting bitch who murdered her husband’s lovers and their offspring?

    Yeah, that about sums up the way men characterize women too married to be virgins (Athena) or whores (Aphrodite). It doesn’t say anything worthwhile about universal beauty or desire, however.

  74. nails

    Cavedude idolizer Taylor says he has ‘read enough books’ on the subject, but hasn’t read any against it, apparently. The criticisms of evolutionary psychology’s capacity to explain much of anything are everywhere. Hell, scientific american covered this forever ago. Major problems include the fact that we cannot really know how early social structures worked, how consistent they were, how much of an effect it has on current man, the rate of change of the mysterious effect(if we change quickly then it makes the cave dude conjecture kinda unimportant), we do not have adequately close ancestors for comparison. Evolutionary explanations of biological and anatomical changes are friggin rigorous. It seems like it has been impossible for me to find evolutionary psych studies regarding gender that do not focus on western ideas as a default. Other cultures have legit third genders and such, or there are the walking marriages of the musou that undermine a shit ton of conclusions about the ‘nature’ of jealousy for men. You know, all that shit about how guys will get mad if they don’t *know* the offspring is theirs? Yeah. there are tons of people living in ways where it isn’t even a consideration, and they look after their female relative’s children. I could go on and on.

    Just a warning, Taylor- this is my preliminary attempt to introduce you to the problems with EP. I am not going to debate or argue with you, I don’t have the patience for this anymore. You can go learn on your own if you want, the info is out there. Im not going to help you outside of this.

  75. Ginjoint

    Women like diamonds. Then he recommends yet another book by yet another white guy, to better educate ourselves.

    Jesus tap-dancing Christ, Taylor, STFU already.

  76. JBT

    Lo, Taylor Brown is so seeded with patriarchy, conscious or no, that in only 3 posts, its putrfaction seepeth forth. Of course, it’s easy to believe wholeheartedly in the bullshit which rationalizes and justifies one’s privilege and supremacy. Ev-psych does this amazingly well, not because it is true, but because it’s easy. The same old prescription of female subordination but now (fanfare of trumpets), with Science!

    There is also the lovely tone: “Well, I get my information from the holy fount of Science (I read books!); I don’t know where you silly girls get yours. Oh, and BTW, I do so know a thing or two about Greek mythology.” Misogynist, please. You clearly don’t know from whence comes your thinking. The questions you would be asking as a feminist (as you claim to be) are much deeper: Why are peacocks, who are presented in ev-psych as demonstrating what men wish to believe, selected to make the point, rather than beavers or hyenas or wolves or even our closest primate relatives? Why would Greek religious practice (it was not merely ‘mythology’ at the time) deify competition between women based on physical appearance? Contrast this with Minoan mythology. Are you really surprised that the Greeks, a militant bunch of elitist pederasts, would tow the patriarchal line to such a vile degree? What do I, a physician, need to learn about neoteny from you, punk? As a feminist, surely you understand the life-long expectation for the female to embrace a nonthreatening, neotenous appearance. Why, those who can’t do it successfully enough, given the innate evil that patriarchy ascribes to us, have been burnt at the stake, have had their genitals mutilated, gotten their faces doused with acid and on and on. Will you next be justifying child porn because the human species, according to some pseudo-scientist who just wants to vindicate his pestilence, is attracted to youth? The devil of patriarchy can quote science as well as scripture. Given that we live in a patriarchy (uh, hello, is anybody home?) both are used against women.

    I sincerely hope we have heard the last from young Taylor Brown. Here is my scientific hypothesis: men talking shit to women is a universal constant.

  77. awhirlinlondon

    A humble plea: this was a glorious thread and it’s being derailed. Whether the man is sincere or not (I thought he was until he started chaneling Marilyn Monroe on the subject of diamonds) is irrelevant. IBTP is not a feminist primer. Period. End of subject. Please.

  78. polly

    It’s true soap does leave scum, if you have hard water, it’s the limescale stoopid. The solution? (if you live in an area with hard water). Get a water softener. Or move to an area with soft water. Sorted.

    Dove? Don’t buy ANYTHING from Unilever, until they stop this crap. Sorted.

  79. PandanCat

    Why am I not surprised that our male visitor turned to evo-devo as part of a rejection of religion? Every time I troll– er, I mean, engage in civil conversations with clueless lads on the internet, they haul out their cool nihilism to show how they’re not like those deluded religious nuts. Probe a little deeper and all they believe in is the biological imperative. You know, like the categorical imperative, but not half as clever. Anything that goes against this article of faith (homosexuality, feminism, abortion, a national health care system) is deemed sinful.

    Obviously, this includes rejection of beauty standards. I was tickled a monkeybutt-pink to see the last post, as I had just finished a particularly satisfying troll– er, intelligent debate — on the very subject of beauty and gender. My next venture will be even more successful, thanks to the brilliant blamer brainpool.

    Speaking of mindfucks:

    Nevertheless, most contemporary reports stress the women’s independence and vitality: “The women are described as ‘fine-looking’, ‘buxom’, ‘of good appearance’, ‘a comely-looking country girl’, or as ‘enjoying the fun and frolic heartily'”.

    So what are they talking about? Pole dancing? Marathons in heels for some kind of sexy cancer? Extreme depilation? Why, it’s wives being sold in a cattle market by their husbands as a form of divorce in 18thish century England! Wikipedia is no bastion of radical feminism, but I’m praying to the good lard that today’s article of the day is a well-documented joke. IBTP.

  80. Awhirlinlondon

    Also. JBT, nails, yttik, humanbein, ginmar and so many others – and of course Brilliant Jill – I can’t tell you how much I admire, enjoy and respect you and how grateful I am to have your thoughts and voices in my life, however textually. Thank you all from the bottom of my toes.

  81. Awhirlinlondon

    Also. JBT, nails, yttik, humanbein, ginmar and so many others – and of course Brilliant Jill – I can’t tell you how much I admire, enjoy and respect you and how grateful I am to have your thoughts and voices in my life, however textually, much as I wish it were personally as well. Thank you all from the bottom of my toes.

  82. Jill


    Believe me, when you hit 40, wrinkles are the least of your problems.

  83. Jill

    Well, I see that it’s time to boot Taylor offa Savage Death Island. I’m not sure how he got up in here in the first place. He’s ineligible for citizenship for many reasons, not the least of which is his painful invocation of ev-psych in support of his offensive argument.

  84. Sylvie

    Are Taylor and the troll voted out some months (years) ago one and same person?

  85. Helen Huntingdon

    I haven’t had this good a round of gasping, helpless laughter in a few weeks — Taylor, you’re a marvel — I haven’t run across such a spectacular example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in a while. You haven’t got the faintest idea what science actually is. Nor logic, apparently.

  86. speedbudget

    I love you all. That is all.

  87. Helen Huntingdon

    I just can’t stop laughing. The last time I ran across a Dunning-Kruger as spectacularly unaware of his utter incompetence at basic reasoning was when a whackjob decided that he was willing to gift the EE faculty in my department with his brilliant idea for an invention: His notion of a handy portable weapon was something that would fire an adhesive photovoltaic array at a person, then a laser at the array. He thought my question of how he proposed to cart around an inconveniently large building to house the power source was just obstructionism.

  88. Comrade Svilova

    Now that I’ve been mansplained about science I know so much more! :-) :-)

    Seriously, though, this thread became the basis for a fantastic discussion with my mostly-evolved (jk!) partner, and thank you so much for the laughs and the excellent intellectual nutrition, Jill! Yesterday we spent about five hours hashing out questions of the validity of evolutionary psychology and he finally admitted that — although he sees some possibly “biological” basis for certain desires — the way those desires are coded, expressed, discussed, satisfied, etc., is completely socially constructed. Next time the goal will be to hear these sweet words: “it’s all a social construct.”

    Couldn’t do the same with internet trolls (at first I thought he wasn’t a troll, but resistance to listening to women plus mansplaining…?), but … I’m happy about a (partial) win for feminist theory in my own household.

  89. Uppity

    Standards of beauty are so changeable and wavering, precisely to keep us all on our toes, I suppose. The current North American standard has zero zilch nada to do with reproductive advantage – just the opposite as yttik pointed out. Underweight, preadolescent females are not fit to have a passel of babies. If reproductive advantage had anything to do with beauty, OfJimbob Duggar would be on the cover of Vogue.
    In feudal Japan, women stained their teeth black and shaved their eyebrows. Beauty is culture not biology, and culture is Patriarchy.

  90. Helen Huntingdon

    I can’t figure out how the ev-psych loonies are still alive; shouldn’t they all be dead of E. coli by now? Since we’re biologically programmed to eat raw meat and all.

  91. Ginjoint

    OfJimbob Duggar. That took my breath away, Uppity.

  92. humanbein

    One good thing about the occasional Troll is that it brings out some witty barbs like “Misogynist, please!”

    Nigels are particularly reluctant to allow that the culture can influence them to the point where they can’t stop themselves from turning to look at a bleached blonde, even though evo-psych can’t really explain away artificial hair color (any way but as another justification of pedophilia perhaps.) Yet they snort and sneer when women complain about the same uncontrollable impulse to adhere to the beauty standards they’ve been brainwashed into against their will.

    The beauty thing for men and women is exactly the same unyielding compulsion. Happy are those who rise above it.

  93. Jezebella

    Oh, JBT, I have missed you. Brilliant post.

  94. Mary Tracy9

    I just wanted to say thank you, Jill. I’ve been a feminist for many years now, but I wouldn’t have come up with half as many points as you raise in this post.

    So thanks, and keep up the good work :)

  95. kristyn

    It was great when Taylor disingenuously reminded us that we all knew his name and email now, so clearly he was putting himself out on a limb.

    Because it’s definitely internet feminists who are best known for finding out the names and emails of men, posting their photos and addresses on the internet for all to see, and precipitating death threats against said men and their families and children. Eventually those ousted men have to retreat from the internet, close down their blogs, and possibly even move out of state/seek police protection.

    Oh … oh, wait, actually, it was the OPPOSITE that happened. And a lot of us remember when it did.

    Insinuating that feminists are hostile and/or violent is another classic derail, as recently discussed at length over at Nine Deuce’s blog. It’s rather sigh-worthy how unoriginal men are almost all of the time.

    Now, how can we women keep from dissociating and going blotto over soap scum on our mirror images?
    Which, by the way — Doc Bronner’s leaves ‘scum’ too, and in a famously big way, though it’s typically noted as ‘residue’. All soap does this. Suggesting perhaps that it’s not such a fucking big deal.

  96. copykatparis

    “There’s an evolutionary reason that women like diamonds”

    oooh, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. Comic gold!

    But nowhere near as marvelous as “cutting our vagina dentata” and the Slavic toothpick lines. Ah, what a relief to get a fix of Jillwit after so long!

  97. Tierney

    I can’t figure out how the ev-psych loonies are still alive; shouldn’t they all be dead of E. coli by now? Since we’re biologically programmed to eat raw meat and all.

    Their love of “nature” doesn’t extend to them all killing/maiming each other, either. All of the nature documentaries explain that only the surviving “alpha” male can mate with the females. They can’t all be the alpha male.

  98. Hermionemone

    What a wonderful discussion on the evil of beauty as a concept. Thank you, Blamers, especially Jill, for instigating this topic, and indeed, the entire wonderful site.

    As a transwoman now in my 50s, I may be doomed to live perpetually in a state of false consciousness, but living as ‘some kinda woman’ is working out much better for me than when I tried but couldn’t find a way to obey the demands of manliness. I never could stomach the idea of doing what it takes to be one, or even see it as possible, though I know I received, however passively, many benefits of male privilege, autonomy and opportunities, relative to my female peers, especially my sister. Thanks, Humanbein, for the links to John Soltenberg.

    Anyway, making the decision to emigrate to the Land of Women, a transperson needs to shore up her confidence that she’s doing the right thing. For me and many others that has meant flirting with essentialism: somewhere in my brain must be a Nucleus of Female Identity that got mixed up during embryonic development, which in the fullness of time, has become undeniable, and the only way to reconcile myself to myself is by hormones and extreme genital modification to become who I really am. But after that I want to be my all-natural self (for me, no boob job, facial reconstruction or anything besides ongoing hormones and laser/electrolysis to zap my former beard).

    Essentialism leads to sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, which seem to provide explanations one can use to justify drastically changing one’s behaviour and life direction ‘because it’s natural and, however tragically, hard-wired’.

    One of my embarrassing moments early in transition was getting into terrific discussions with a committed feminist lesbian doing women’s studies at university (with whom, since I was now officially queer, I had no heteronormative front to keep up). Anyway, I now realize I was fulla shit and she wasn’t, but at the time I was still used to stirring up arguments for the fun of it, and EP seemed more scientific and logically developed ‘from first principles’ than humanist sociology, where the philosophy is constructive and relativistic. I appreciate the ‘gender is all a social construction’ argument now, and am far less committed to the hard-wired gender identity nucleus idea. Whether by genetics or by post-natal development and (sometimes traumatic) life experience, there are many things that re-assort peoples’ mental configurations and assure diversity in human personalities. But subjectively my trans identity sure felt like an imperative rooted in biology, and I needed to believe it at the time. Sorry.

    It was a stage in my conscious development, and led me to where I am today, not exactly living in bliss but at least I like myself and try to live and act in sincerity and kindness. Taylor may have right motivations and intentions, but still needs to work through some things before rejoining the feminist discussion.

    The ‘prettiness is wrong’ meme has been melting in my brain for a while now doing some re-wiring. I’d been thinking that being pretty (or as pretty as one gets as a 50 year old tranny) is not a bad thing, shows my solidarity and community with other women, helps me blend into female humanity. At last, freedom to dress in colours, reflect one’s mood of the day, show appropriate courtesy in business and social situations. It seemed like a good thing.

    I guess I’ll still do some stuff, like wear mascara & lip balm, and I like my long hair, but now if it enters my head to wear a skirt or my ‘nice’ shoes I’ll have to consider it more deliberately for its practical effects on other people. Playing into the ‘pretty’ meme really is shoring up the oppressive norm and objectifying myself. I see the moral argument to stop doing it, but instead of ‘Right on! that chick is resisting the patriarchy’ I fear that the reaction will be ‘Check that out over there, is that supposed to be a guy or a hag in drag? Lets go kick it and see if it has nuts.’ Well, it’s a concern! Mascara at least makes clear which side of the fence I’m on, and if I do it right, deflects attention. ‘Nothin special over there, just another Coug’.

    Thanks again for the insights, and good luck repelling wild pigs, rattlesnakes, scorpions, Scolidopedes, plastic poopatroopers, rednecks and other varmints, Jill. I love this blogsite! You are a remarkably multifaceted and hilariously intelligible person, and your smart, smart-ass commenters are fun and erudite too. Please forgive my gaffes, I’m still learning.

    Ex-EP enthusiast

  99. LisaB

    I think this thread rocks. I consider myself a pretty informed feminist, but I’m by no means a scholar. So, I always learn something on here, even when we’re schoolin’ trolls. Thanks everyone.

  100. wiggles

    I’ve always been bemused by the ads for Dove’s underarm deodorant and its promise of sexually enticing armpits.

  101. wiggles

    “Really though, who wouldn’t prefer an attractive partner? Who, when imagining their ideal mate, wouldn’t put the perfect personality in a body that turns them on?”

    Advance apologies for TMI, but the bodies that tend to turn me on belong to heterosexual males and sometimes kind of butchish females, and the people in those kinds of bodies use the least cosmetics of anybody.

  102. S

    Thanks for your thoughts on this, Twisty. As a longtime reader of more fashion-friendly feminist blogs, this is an idea I haven’t thought much about. I just checked out Sheila Jeffreys’ book *Beauty and Misogyny*, and I’ll be thinking a lot more about the performance of femininity and power dynamics.

  103. Helen Huntingdon

    Taylor, a little hint: Real Men don’t drink sissified water from the tap; they drink it untreated from whatever puddle happens to be handy just the way their ancestors were programmed to.

  104. Satchel

    Kristyn: Although I may be wrong, I can’t think of a single woman on here who has spoken of being ”religious.”

    I’m afraid you ARE wrong, although admitting this out loud has made me very unpopular on various feminist discussion boards.

  105. Josquin

    I love actual beauty but I hate “beauty”. I hate the endless loathsome burdensome parade, everywhere on looks, of images of women, women, women, in poses of coy appeal, in painful shoes, in tight shirts, with shiny fragrant hair, always straight and often blond, with gooey lipstick, with surgically stuffed breasts, in plunging necklines and bare arms in cold weather, and more and more and more painful shoes. It weighs on me. I hate that when I watch the TV show Lost, the women may have messed up hair,torn clothes, and mud and blood on their faces, but they WILL ALWAYS have low cut tops, exposed cleavage and push-up bras. It tires and exhausts me. When I come to Jill’s it all makes sense, but still, but still, I feel such pressure to dance to the demands of patriarchy in regards to “beauty”. Yep, true confession. It is so fucking freaking flipping difficult to give up femininity. Trying to, though.

  106. Kiuku

    I suspect that men are innately not attracted to female bodies. If there is anything innate at all in human males,it is fear and aversion of women. Men have to be indoctrinated with sex, or, like some parts of the world, it is concealed completely so they don’t know what they are getting into before they can’t get out of it. I suspect that men are homosexuals by nature, and that their system of hierarchy is simply sanitized sex. for human beings, sex is deeply psychological. They perform the act with women, in order to breed, but psychologically men are having sex with eachother. This is where “women are for breeding”mentality comes from. They hate women, but have managed to twist up their misognyny of women into their sex drive so that they can perform the act. They fear and loathe women’s bodies. Their sex drive is primed, and must continually be reinforced daily. The act of sex itself with women is ritualized misogyny. They get off on the psychological misogyny acted out in sex. Meanwhile they are making sexual love to eachother. They seriously literally have sex with eachother -through- women.

  107. DaisyDeadhead

    Taylor: There’s an evolutionary reason that women like diamonds

    For some reason, this strange remark reminds me of Grace Kelly’s intrepid sleuthing in REAR WINDOW, when she tells Jimmy Stewart that she knows Raymond Burr’s wife was murdered because “No woman would ever leave town without her jewels!”

    I didn’t get that one either.

  108. ashley

    it’s definitely time to shut the piehole after this one but kiuku I have to say, that is so true. I’ve often noticed that the sheer amount of junk that men require women to shellack on, wax off, draw over, conceal, obscure and fake points to something very like that. they’re definitely not attracted to what we’re really like, at least at this stage of the patriarchy-what does the ev-psych camp say about a men “evolving” to mate based on a set of characteristics that are not even naturally occuring? durr.

  109. ashley

    I mean “men”, not “a men.”

  110. Portia

    Did you see Raquel on Oprah? Wonder what she would look like photoshopped onto a grasshopper.

  111. yttik

    Kiuku, you bring up a good point that’s going to take far more feminist study to really define and explain properly. But there is an element of patriarchy that perverts and distorts male sexuality, so we do see cultures with intense misogyny, where male homosexuality is oppressed and yet rampant. And perhaps it’s not really homosexuality at all, but rather an unnatural response caused by so much repression of anything viewed as feminine.

    I’m walking a fine line here because I really do believe that homosexuality is something physical, a gene, a twist of biology, a deliberate act of nature. However, there is all this other stuff that is falsely perceived as homosexuality, (again the Vatican comes to mind,)that isn’t at all, it’s simply abuse of power, suppression of the feminine, misogyny that has become so perverse, vulnerable men simply become substitutes for the women who are usually targeted.

    If you think about the patriarchal programming that boys grow up with, (girls are icky, ugly, stupid, etc,) it’s a wonder some men develop sexual feelings for us at all. But many do in spite of all the negative programming. I think that’s a good argument for why sexual orientation is probably innate, although not nearly as rigid as we like to believe.

    I did have a laugh about the possibility that perhaps nature really only intended 10% of men to be interested in reproduction. What if the majority orientation was really homosexual and all our troubles stem from the patriarchy trying to force heterosexuality on too many of them? It’s an interesting theory that would certainly turn things on their head.

  112. JBT


    Well, I’m officially a retiree now. I decided I just had to do something besides play Plants vs. Zombies. There’s a zombie on your lawn.


  113. nails

    I didn’t really go after that whole “why wouldn’t you want the most attractive partner?” thing when contemplating the choices of dudes past. The profound level of ignorance needed to say that just hit me; does he not understand that picking a sturdy woman was a lot more important? The work needed for people to survive has been all around physically demanding for most of human history (it still is in most of the world). Infant mortality and death during childbirth were a huge problem (and still is, most places). In those conditions beauty would probably be just about the last thing on the list. Just going camping is enough to get someone thinking about how hard and labor intensive life has been for the majority of humans, and how far we have come to have the time and infrastructure needed to contemplate the things we do. It takes a disturbing degree of egocentrism to see the world of the past the way this dude does.

  114. FemmeForever


    I concur. Your theory also explains why straight men are so intensely homophobic. They know they are attracted to men, but gay men bring their attraction to the fore and straights become terrified they won’t be able to conceal their attraction and thus blow their all-important false image.

  115. speedbudget

    It’s interesting the intersection of homosexuality and misogyny has come up. I remember reading an article once about the male culture in Saudi Arabia and how there is a lot of hand-holding and intimate, almost sexual contact among the men there. The theory is that because the women are locked up out of sight and there is this unnatural divide that the men act out with their male peers in ways they wouldn’t in a more free, less misogynistic culture.

    nails: Infant mortality is still a big problem here in the United States. I won’t go into why, but you can guess.

    I’m almost sad Taylor got booted off the island. Couldn’t we keep him around for comedic effect? Bring him out of the cage once in a while and put a traffic cone on his head (LOL JBT) and drink margaritas while he mansplains to us?

    Taylor, hint: alpha males only occur in societies wherein there is one male for a large group of females. In those societies, the male is usually much, much larger than any female, like gorillas, for example. That’s how ACTUAL SCIENTISTS know from the fossil record what kind of societies existed. Human males are not exponentially larger than females, so I think your theory is busted. No surprise there.

  116. TheMaskedBlamer

    This blog has inspired me today. Someone left an eyelash curler in the restroom at work. I’m sick of looking at it; I threw it in the trash. Peace out.

  117. humanbein

    All the speculation about men, misogyny and homosexuality veers dangerously into evo-psych territory. If you take away the idea that men are hard-wired by nature into any specific sexuality, outside of the need to get off, then you can speculate about the various ways society directs men into different sexualities. Personally, I doubt that sexuality is hard-wired, either gay or straight. We simply can’t know how a person develops a sexuality outside of a social construction, because it’s never been done.

    I think homosexuality is a natural reaction to a patriarchal society. I also think that all sexualities, once learned and burned into the brain, are unlearnable.

    But most of all, I have been convinced that all human sexuality is in a constant state of artificial stimulation, programmed into us by consumer culture and an unthinking adherence to patriarchal, authoritarian mores. If our culture were to change radically, we would all be desiring sex a lot less and enjoying it a lot more when it happened.

  118. hero

    humanbein, I believe you truly are a human being.

    And I’m impressed and happy about that. (Hey! There are some!)

  119. Bushfire

    PandanCat said: “Wikipedia is no bastion of radical feminism, but I’m praying to the good lard that today’s article of the day is a well-documented joke. IBTP.”

    Yes, it was in fact a joke. Yesterday Wikipedia did an April Fool’s Day page.

  120. nails

    I saw a weird bbc special about guys who are sexually attracted to cars. The dudes interviewed on the show said the same thing; extremely religious families discouraged them from expressing sexual interest in people because it is a sin. Their interest in cars during adolescence was encouraged though, and adjectives like ‘sexy’ were freely used when discussing sports cars and the like. These dudes were attracted to cars exclusively after that. There is a whole subculture of people like that who have conventions and shit. I am not sure what sexually cannot be, considering stuff like that.

  121. Amananta

    I don’t get the “wanting the most attractive partner possible” idea. Are people really so shallow? Do people not grow out of that particular kind of nonsense by the time they are about 25 or so? How many times must one pursue the most conventionally attractive, conforming person one can “get” (to use the term in the way people so often commodify other human beings) before one realizes that physical attractiveness is perhaps the least important thing about a person? At the risk of setting myself up to be slut-shamed, I’ve slept with lots of people, male and female, and some of the best partners I’ve had, in bed and out of it, were people you wouldn’t look at twice on the street, except maybe out of pity. Perhaps mere initial physical attraction is the be-all and end-all for most people in relationships. I would like to think, however, that this isn’t so, and that there’s more to people and relationships that getting a sexual thrill every time you glance at your partner.

  122. Jane Q Public

    Taylor is full of shit. Oh, if I had a nickel for every man who sought to impose his opinions under the guise of learning something, I’d have a least $2.50 by now. Asshole. Thank god he got the boot. So long, sucka!

  123. Greenconsciousness

    You all are brilliant and this is a good conversation especially as i work with women who load up with toxic, greasy, clown makeup and consider that it makes them pretty. In fact, it is a job requirement in the Nevada casinos. They feel ugly when their faces are clean and natural. But books have been written about it many years ago and these are those arguments — good to hear again but we can go further now, thanks to the Dialectic of Sex and Female Eunuch.

    I found most interesting the argument that men don’t really like women’s bodies. I think that can be taken one step further. I think that one of the ways sexism oppresses men is the burden of being a sex machine required to “satisfy” sexual partners or be labeled a loser. As a result women do not take the power to satisfy self and men are required to deliver satisfaction.

    Additionally, homosexual men who never desired women control the fashion industry. So as a cover for a lack of desire men require extreme standards of beauty to cover for their non desire. The burden is on women to get them up and the fault for non performance is also on the woman.
    HERE IS WHAT I THINK IS TRUTH that low level sexual desire is natural and normal for heterosexuals, after an extended adolescence. But the actuality of sexual desire like the reality of natural bodies is of no use to the merchants of desire.

    So I am interested in an extension of the arguments that is as follows. In actuality, before and after adolescence, absent twisting by pedophilia or physical abuse which becomes sexualized, there is a very minimal sex drive easily satisfied by masturbation. However, the marketing industry and the porn industry need to perpetuate the myth that 24/7 sexual desire is what makes the world go round and not being virile means you are not a real man or woman. And they will sell you something to help you rise to the occasions which in their view should be many. So the standards of desirability become more and more extreme just like porn.

    There is also another level to this discussion which has to do with keeping the body covered and sex a mystery in order to facilitate putting a price tag on seeing the human body. Dolls with no genitalia — religious restrictions… well that is a discussion of what to do to fight this sexism and for another time, Briefly, I will say we need more life drawing – more natural body visuals not airbrushed, regulation of the cosmetic industry similar to the cigarette industry (getting it off the screens of the media) and frank discussions about sexuality including dolls with genitalia not fake Barbie qualities. Dolls should teach anatomy not consumerism. The antidote to sexism is truth , not more myths,illusion and restrictions.

  124. JBT

    I think “hardwired,” is chosen as the descriptor because it relieves men of responsibility for how they behave: “I just can’t hep it; I’m a douchebag. Hee-hee, yippee!”

    I think the whole hardwired narrative is akin to a giant Indiana poop bubble. Genes, after all, are proteins which code for proteins. They do not have consciousness, – I know, I poked them with a hot stick in a lab, and they did not complain nor retreat – they do not have desires, i.e., “The genes want to further their chances at survival.” Nonsense! There are reflexes, like the rooting reflex and the startle reflex, that human neonates exhibit which help them to survive initially, but these are not complex behaviors at all. Indeed, these “reflexes” usually disappear once the whole organism engages in learning behavior. We are not entirely blank slates at birth, but what is written there is not very interesting. One is not born with an attraction to Slavic toothpicks.

    Of course, the hardwired crowd always brings up the so-called identical twin studies: identical twins, separated at birth and adopted by different families, who have stunning similarities. There is a famous case cited about a set of twins who smoked the same brand of cigarettes, married women with the same names, followed the same career, liked the same music, etc. Of course, what is not mentioned is that identical twins who had nothing in common outnumbered all other cases, but were excluded. The single extraordinary case which researchers found was a pair of twins from the 50’s, but again, what was not reported is that, way back when, only certain types of families were allowed to adopt. These twins were both raised in the Midwest in the same age and SES cohort. Chance alone predicts that at least one set of twins would have extreme similarity, especially with what we know about popular name trends (Emma was the most popular for girls in 2008), cigarette marketing to the young and the influence of SES and geography.

    In terms of beauty, the “genes are conscious” crowd likes to assert that, because body adornment is a feature of all human societies, it is innate. This seems a foolish generalization. Climate, after all, necessitates most of our adornment. We learn to cover our infants to preserve body temperature and to cover ourselves to avoid sunburn. Only with patriarchy does there come the ranking, the power narrative, the control and punishment associated with adornment. “Only royalty may wear purple” to “The slavic toothpick is the height of physical beauty,” is just another ongoing story of how to control and dominate in matters large and small. Our closest primate relatives enjoy grooming one another, but no chimp is forced to participate. Failure to groom does not subject a chimp to rape or harassment or denial of food or death as it does human females. For that, we needn’t blame genes. It is patriarchy once again.

  125. ivyleaves

    Hermionemone, Thank you so much for your post. For some reason, the topic of transgender is really big on my mind, because I think it is emblematic of the horrors of patriarchy that people feel the need to make physical changes to their bodies to feel fully human or fully comfortable being themselves. I have suspected for some time that this is a sort of self-destruction in service to patriarchy, but am loathe to voice this much because I am not oppressed in this exact way and would never want to add to the oppression of transgendered people by talking about something I don’t really know that much about. As I told my son once when he brought up the topic and how he felt it was somehow wrong – society(ies) are so fucked up about gender that I could never tell someone else how to be in this world, so I have no negative judgment about the individual, only what forces make them feel that surgery, drugs, cosemetics are a solution, whether they end up using breast augmentation, makeup, heroin, testosterone, or genital reassignment to solve the problem for themselves.

  126. drsnacks

    Speaking of lady-mags has anyone heard of http://www.thefrisky.com – I’ve been obsessed with and in awe of it for days. It’s like an intense parody of regressive patriarchy-validation except genuine and well-written. Subject matter like this is common enough but what sets this apart is the sheer volume and production values – it’s updated dozens of times a day, the site is gorgeous, and not being old-media based its writing can go deeper than fluff dictated by advertisers, meaning it whiplashes between between the frivolous and the grave all in the same tone.

    One standout example is a question from their “Dear Wendy” column (an advice column where the author though ostensibly advising women is represented by a cartoon drawn in a submissive ‘come-hither’ expression):“Should I Tell My New Boyfriend I Was Raped?”

  127. wiggles

    “Oh, if I had a nickel for every man who sought to impose his opinions under the guise of learning something, I’d have a least $2.50 by now.”

    I know, right? If you want to learn, you shut up and listen.

    The discussion about male sexuality is interesting. I think most guys are more “bi-curious” than they admit, but the P dictates that they be heterosexual and homosocial.

  128. dillene

    Humanbein (and a few others) brought up Shulamith Firestone, and I have heard her books mentioned on this site before. I just ordered a used version of “Dialectic” on Amazon, and saw that there was a new title being advertised: “Further Adventures of the Dialectic of Sex: Critical Essays on Shulamith Firestone” (http://www.amazon.com/Further-Adventures-Dialectic-Sex-Shulamith/dp/0230100295). It comes out in August. I know absolutely bupkis about it, but though you might like to know.

    Sorry if this is old news.

  129. io

    Kiuku, I respectfully disagree with your statement, “If there is anything innate at all in human males, it is fear and aversion of women.” I can’t tell, actually, if you’re even being serious, but it does have a whiff of evo-psych illogic.

    Male human creatures are just as dependent as female creatures are on their mothers and aside from cultural conditioning (or perhaps cases of abuse) should therefore not have an innate, biological fear of women/female bodies. The fear men do wind up having? IBTP.

    (Also, to back up previous comments: women are in prime physical condition to have healthy children around 26 years old, nutrition etc being available. The 18-y-o “ideal” bandied about by evo-psych goobers is pure bs.)

  130. Summerspeaker

    Perhaps I should blame my genes, but I find the whole notion of sexual orientation profoundly baffling. I understand it intellectually because I have to, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m attracted to people. Firestone’s vision of sexuality after the revolution continues to resonate in my mind. (I disagree with her suggestion that male-female pairings might be more common in such a society because of the supposedly physical convenience, but she didn’t seen terribly convinced by it either.) Without male supremacy and the gender distinction, they’ll be no need for even the concept of sexual orientation regardless of how folks decide to engage in sex acts. People will have sex or not have sex as they please, with whomever they please.

  131. JBT

    For women, there is a lot to be said about beauty. What troubles me most about it is the sheer misery it causes to women, even those who claim to enjoy various beauty prescriptions. “Beauty” seems an outward expression of an inner sadism. Most women are tortured all their lives by that inner voice: “You gained five pounds-you’re pathetic, you fat pig1” I have struggled all my life to rid myself of the inner patriarch, that tyrant who preaches ceaselessly, “You’re not good enough. You’re ugly. You suck!” Whether one indulges in “beauty” rituals or not, it is next to impossible to make this voice STFU.

    Gay, straight, bi or trans, this voice drones on and on. Only patriarchy could enforce its presence within our very consciousnesses. When I was young, I was told by well-meaning people, “Don’t worry. Someday, someone will come along who will recognize your inner qualities;” I guess I was a lost cause. Other girls were treated much more harshly: complete rejection for failing to measure up to random standards, battery, rape, shunning, etc. What brutality, what sheer fucking insanity! And yet, because we live in a patriarchy, in our inner lives, we do it to ourselves. We absorb the judgments placed upon us, and carry them like an albatross around our necks, all the days of our lives. I want freedom from this tyranny! Fuck beauty and every goddamn thing about it! And fuck the Taylor Browns of the world who want to legitimize this sadistic, fascist cruelty.

  132. helzeph

    “I suspect that men are innately not attracted to female bodies. If there is anything innate at all in human males, it is fear and aversion of women. Men have to be indoctrinated with sex, or, like some parts of the world, it is concealed completely so they don’t know what they are getting into before they can’t get out of it. I suspect that men are homosexuals by nature, and that their system of hierarchy is simply sanitized sex.’

    Yep, kiuku, men suffer from danger aversions to adult women, I often think when they go on about us being beautiful, what they really mean is bearable. All that effort just to be passable. The one thing you can be assured of, we would not be encouraged in our attempts to be beautiful if there were any real power in it.

  133. ew_nc

    When Taylor posted his email address, my first instinct was “He probably posted that in hopes that he could start a hook-up with a “freaky feminist chick” under the guise of wanting to be educated!

    humanbein, I love what you said about us not really knowing what our sexuality would be without social constructs. I’ve been thinkin’ on that one for a while now.

  134. nails

    Woah there ivyleaves. You are trying to explain the experience of trans people when you don’t really know what it is. I encourage you to look into it and talk to some of em, because you are displaying an extremely stereotypical attitude about trans folks. You say that you aren’t trying to judge any of them, but when you repeat the same old transphobic crap you are not helping any of them feel unjudged. You are talking about people who often spend large portions of their lives trying to not transition, because of the social consequences. When transitioning is the only thing that brings relief,and when this is a long standing condition that exists cross culturally in a consistent percentage of the population, I am forced to conclude that it is largely biological. Oh, and the need to ‘pass’ is (in varying degrees) about safety in addition to gender identity. The truth is that these folks get killed for walking down the wrong street and looking trans, so they have to try really hard.

  135. nails

    dr.snacks- I analyzed an article from the frisky awhile back, I found it via cnn.


    “Dudes do x, while ladies do y! lolz!”

  136. Kadin

    Is it necessary to call thin women “pubescent Slavic speedfreak toothpicks”?

  137. shopstewardess

    Kadin, yes it is, provided –

    a) it’s true,

    b) it’s funny, or

    c) it’s thought-provoking.

  138. Kiuku

    I forget who said it but I totally agree and think that men want to look as different as possible from women, possibly because they fear being attracted to their own gender, and their own homosexuality, which, instead, gets acted out in way acceptable to them, where it isn’t obviously sex. I mean, to me it’s obviously sex that they are engaging in with eachother an d I suspect that they do not want to accept homosexuality in the present culture because it runs counter to their newly found “it’s natural” argument for female suppression. Therefore women must look like aliens and dress up like bugs, because if a man looks any bit like a woman a man might find himself attracted to him too. Only, this is totally unreasonable and doesn’t actually keep men from being attracted to only men, since it is and never was female features that attract men.

    Men don’t actually naturally appear much different than women. The size difference is negligable. They simply do not have breasts because they have 2/3rd the genome of a female. That’s really it. A lot of the time they go bald quicker. What can you really say about the male body?

    In America men give their male children growth hormones to grow bigger and supplements to achieve male fitness.

  139. Helen Huntingdon

    Actually, a rather staggering number of men have bigger boobs than I do, and I’m nowhere near flat-chested.

    Which only lends more credence to the theory that we must be artificially made to look alien so they can avoid dealing with their own homoeroticism. How many men claim to just love boobs of any kind? So then they must mean man-boobs as well, right? Since there’s such a rich supply of them around?

  140. Kiuku



    I wish we had a true matriarcy or true egalitarian society with both men and women in it to look at in the case of male homosexuality, but they’ve all been destroyed by the Patriarchal mess.

    In hunter gatherer, close to egalitarian societies like Native Americans were, the populations were pretty low to suggest either enormously high infant mortality, or there just wasn’t a whole lot of sex going on.

  141. yttik

    It’s kind of amusing to consider the possibility that nature intended us to be homosexual or even non-sexual with only the occasional quirk of nature producing somebody interested in reproduction. But when I think about it, this would be much more logical then the belief we have today that het is the dominant majority. People in the ancient world had very primitive forms of birth control and yet it was not really until farming that we saw these huge families. Human babies are really a lot of work, dependent for years, not very productive, definitely anti survival. There is no way people in the ancient world could have had 25 kids beginning at age 15 without being on a path toward extinction.

    Regardless, we do know that ancient people spent most of their time in the pursuit of food and shelter, not artificial hyper sexuality like we have today, thanks to the beauty industry and patriarchy. I almost wonder if some of those ancient fertility ceremonies weren’t designed to remind them that somebody is going to need to sacrifice themselves, start considering sex, and reproduce if the species is going to continue. It’s hard to even imagine a world where sex was not in your face 24/7, but it is a distinct possibility.

  142. Humbert

    “this kind of schizoid women’s marketing”


  143. Daniel

    Hey Twisty,
    I agree with you these commercials are bullshit but I have an issue with your terminology.

    At least to me, beauty is an essential thing, a Platonic form. It’s not beauty that’s the problem here, but enforced artificial standards that declare themselves solely to be the beautiful, to the exclusion of its other expressions.

    I worry that by investing these terms with an offensive connotation (same thing with ‘pretty’ in a recent post), you’re roping off too much of the everyday language from use.


  144. Gayle

    “Without male supremacy and the gender distinction, they’ll be no need for even the concept of sexual orientation regardless of how folks decide to engage in sex acts. People will have sex or not have sex as they please, with whomever they please.”

    I think you might be on to something. Interesting point.

  145. Unree

    Kiuku: “Men don’t actually naturally appear much different than women.”

    Totally true, and another data point: those male speaking voices that supposedly “break” or “crack” like geological formations? Cultural at least as much as anatomical, or so I read in an article about 20+ years ago. It said that boys purposely speak with a deeper voice when they reach puberty. Speech by deaf teenage boys is an indicator of what male speaking voices would sound like without imitation.

    I can’t find a trace of this piece anywhere online. Just more of the same testosterone-larynx sermon we all get dinned in. Deep authoritative voices are from Mars and high-pitched nasal ones are from Venus, dontchaknow.

  146. mearl

    This thread is on fire! I have learned more by reading this blog, complete with both the unparalleled posts by Jill and the arguments and references by Blamers, than I have ever learned in school or independent study. I love it here and want to live here. It’s like a Savage Death Island of Sanity. I raise a taco to you all, and I’ve got nothin’ else to add at the moment.

  147. Hector B.

    Unilever scum! Zest was the first soap to say “Soap leaves a soap film.” I always expected the next line to be “But Zest leaves a Zest film.

  148. Judi

    Unree: your comment about male voices brought to mind an observation that’s been bugging me. It seems that the women’s voices that I hear on radio and TV in the last few years are generally higher pitched and girlier than in decades past. I have no way of knowing if this is just a change in my own perception, or if it’s real. Anyone else have a similar observation? Is patriarchy forcing us to make our voices “pretty” too?

  149. Crowfoot

    Yes, this thread is a great relief to read! I fear I have little to add except a tangential note: hunter-gathering actually only takes about 4 hrs a day. People with this life-way work way less and eat way better than the people who took up farming.

    A part of the colonialistic/racist notion our culture maintains about it’s supposed superiority is the idea that farming is more civilized, more stable, less dangerous and easier than being a hunter-gatherer, like those icky brown people. Not actually true. Not actually even remotely true. So not true that modern archaeologists (including myself) scratch their heads wondering why on earth people would start farming in the first place.

    The lower populations of hunter-gatherers is perhaps partly due to their general habit of breast-feeding their babies for years, as opposed to 6 months or so for industrialized and/or farming people? You’re less likely to get pregnant when you’re still breast-feeding?

    Of course, yttik, you point about ancient peoples not being as obsessed with sex as us is probably correct (I only say probably because it’s impossible to determine). It’s really rather pathetic, how our culture goes on, or rather, how men go on. It’s as if they’re stuck in some kind of sexual adolescence. What was it that Dworkin’s husband, John Stoltenberg said? That the only way men can really prove their manliness is when they fuck women, so they’re obsessed with it? Because manliness is fleeting and you must struggle to achieve and maintain it.

    Unree, very interesting point about the sociological aspect of the deepening of male’s voices. It’s interesting how we subconsciously change our voices – I remember being aware of how I was lightening my voice when I started dating my last boyfriend, and how he commented on how deep my voice sounded when I came back from a woman-only week-long retreat. I tried not to do it, but kept on anyways. IBTP, natch.

    (Ok, this “little to add” comment became huge! Sorry.)

  150. Orange

    Two things:

    1) Don’t want soap scum on your skin? There’s a solution! Don’t use soap. Bonus: Skin will not dry out as much in dry weather. (Confession: I do use soap myself.)

    2) Jill’s biceps are pretty, what with the muscle definition. Clearly I need to work my arm muscles a lot harder.

  151. Carolyn

    Kiuku, yttik, others–thank you for the ideas! This business about hypersexuality/fertility not being typical is really, really interesting. And yes, the differences among people are far more pronounced than the differences between genders–one thing I’ve wondered for a while is how we tell the difference between a male voice and a female voice. I can only think of a handful of voices I don’t automatically assign a gender to (Peter Hart on Counterspin is one example), and I don’t think pitch is the only signifier, but I can’t make out what else is.

    Also, though the topic seems to be dead I’ll ask anyway since I really want to know–does anyone know any works/researchers on sexual dimorphism in humans, or evo-psych in general, that can be trusted to assume women are actual people? A couple of people have been recommended to me (Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is one I can think of off the top of my head) but even those sound like bullshit too. (I actually asked a similar question on the ‘endless thread’ in Pharyngula a while ago and as a result haven’t been back to that website since–I hope it doesn’t have the same effect here!)

  152. drawclose

    Long time reader, first time commenter … love your blog.

    Beauty, a nebulous concept that we are trained to only ascribe to other people because the familiar reflection of our own image in the mirror makes us willing to reject it. Somehow a commodity outside of ourselves, not related to who we are but instead to the thing-ness we display to other people.

    Love this post, and the comments thread.

    Hate an industry built on getting women to mutilate ourselves for some invisible audience that women are brainwashed into believing is watching (and grading!) women all the time.

    Also, someone wrote about “putting the perfectly attractive personality inside a sexually desireable body” … I find people’s character to be beautiful, their determination, their curiosity, their sense of humor. That’s where beauty comes from.

    Someone with a perfectly arranged, spiked, glossed, botoxed thing they walk around with and display to others as a status object … its like they invited me over to their house and the sitting room has plastic covers on their couches and everything is covered in dust. People afraid to laugh because it gives them wrinkles? Good grief.

    Dove soap? Barf. That crap’s not soap; its a bar of petrochemical perfumes. Gimme Dr. Bronner’s any day.

  153. ashley

    well that pried the ole piehole back open.

    “Beauty” as a concept IS patriarchal, IS oppressive.

    go research Plato for misgynistical relevance.

    everyday terms are patriarchal and oppressive. word.

  154. Jill

    Check out that Daniel guy up there, mansplainin about “beauty” as a “Platonic form” and how it’s “essential” to him personally! Lard, these guys just don’t quit!

  155. hero

    You mean Daniel isn’t to be hearkened unto? I was planning on hearkening unto him.

    Plato is my faaaave! He’s all about if you lead a GOOD life, you get a reward, but if you screw it up, you have to come back as a woman, for punishment. Oh, love me some Timeaus, baby!

  156. JBT

    I don’t know about ol’ Doc Bronner. Have you ever read the label on the bottle? It’s a real trip to meshuggahville.

    Puir, wee Daniel just loves him some elitist, Greek pederast BS. And the heartfelt concern about “roping off too much of the everyday language from use,” is comedy gold. Zounds! I was going to brag that my rose bushes are looking beautiful, but now, I realize I’ve insulted them. Oh, well. At least I can leave reality entirely behind to enjoy the roses as a Platonic form. That’s so useful, Danny-Boy. I suspect the pipes, the pipes are calling yet again.

  157. Jill

    I suspect the pipes, the pipes are calling yet again.


  158. Jill

    But now I’ve got that damn song stuck in my head.

  159. Jezebella

    It’s so entertaining when someone comes to visit from the planet Philosophy 101.

  160. JBT

    I’m sure it’s on the soundtrack in hell. But since we must express ourselves in platonic forms, lest the pure goodness of language be roped in, I suppose I should have posted a link to Yanni playing the Derry Air on the panpipes. Still, here is a link that will drive Derry Air to Hades, where it belongs:


    (She’ll be at the Carver Community Cultural Center, 17 April, in San Antonio, BTW!)

  161. TwissB

    Let the fellows at Land’s End (which used to confine its expertise to sailboat hardware) help us out here in their swim suit department. Announcing that “Confidence is Beautiful,” they continue “Welcome to the Anti-Anxiety Zone” and offer comforting reassurance that “We have a solution for every shape and a suit for every body.” Trying to suppress anxiety, the eye travels down the body-shape guide to Do’s and Don’ts for suiting up the Inverted Triangle, Rectangle, Circle, and skids to a stop at the Triangle’s mystifying command: “DON’T wear bottoms at your widest point, exacerbating hips.”

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  162. Carolyn

    Ha there was a whole post about that recently in my other favourite blog:


  163. Jezebella

    TwissB, Lands’ End editorial content, like that of all women’s wear catalogues, is awful, but they make a damned good swimsuit for us fat ladies (and I’m not talking about the slimming, squashing, hiding, anxiety-zone blah blah ones, just the basic tugless tank). If one was to refuse to purchase clothing from companies with assy editorial in their catalogues, it’d be slim pickings.

  164. TwissB

    @Jezebella: Agreed, but note that my post was simply an alert, not a suggestion to Boycott.

  165. vitaminC

    @ DaisyDeadhead

    Check this out: apparently Botox is causing film and television actors to work in a more stylized, less “Method” kind of way that’s akin to Greek drama. Huh.


  166. Frumious B.

    @Helen Huntingdon

    In fact, something like 50% of men have full fledged boobs at some point in their lives, frequently in adolescence. Breasts on men is seen as some kind of condition, but when we are talking 50% of a population, I think that condition should be called “normal.”

  167. Swanhilde

    This thread is dead now, but oh well–after reading, I have to comment–


    “I’m walking a fine line here because I really do believe that homosexuality is something physical, a gene, a twist of biology, a deliberate act of nature. However, there is all this other stuff that is falsely perceived as homosexuality, (again the Vatican comes to mind,)that isn’t at all, it’s simply abuse of power, suppression of the feminine, misogyny that has become so perverse, vulnerable men simply become substitutes for the women who are usually targeted.”

    Yttik, I am fascinated by this observation; thank you for sharing it. Incredibly(though I spent 8 years in Catholic school and am familiar with history), this has never occurred to me. Pseudo-gayness is really a bizarre–but prominent–phenomenon. How on earth could I have been oblivious to the link between homophobia, the P. urge towards oppression, and misogyny? Oh wow, I need to read about this.

    Thank you. Love this blog.

  1. Why I’m So Fucking Happy that I’m Not Conventionally Attractive « No Excuses/No Mercy

    […] post was inspired by I Blame the Patriarchy’s post here. Excellent […]

  2. persistent fictions « saepe

    […] whole series of posts over at I Blame The […]

  3. Boobs with Blogs | nonsequiteuse

    […] to help you, are several blog posts that deconstruct and tear apart that campaign for real beauty to buy Dove soap (and point out that the same company […]

  4. Spinster aunt continues to be irked by Dove soap ads « I Blame The Patriarchy

    […] complain about this company’s stupid ads all the time, not because they are the most outrageous (which […]

  5. Open Thread, with demolition

    […] So the news, such as it is, sucks in all departments. You can read it everywhere, but I suggest HERE, HERE, and HERE. Oh, and HERE. Her latest essay on the perniciousness of feminine beauty is an instant, send it to all your friends classic. […]

  6. beauty, folly, and the patriarchy « Gingerrrama

    […] “Scum: not the real enemy” (2010-03-30): starting out on shutting up about beauty, but mainly on Dove campaigns again, […]

  7. “Rebranding” feminism for dudes “who care that there are two genders” » I Blame The Patriarchy

    […] When one of the organizers admits that the goal of her rebranding contest is “to make feminism pretty,” one is hardly surprised. And if making feminism pretty emits a familiar, foul odor, your sneer-muscle will get a workout when I tell you that two of the judges turn out to have checkered pasts. That’s right. They were involved with the heinous Dove ad campaigns. […]

Comments have been disabled.