JUST BE YOURSELF: JUDGING WOMEN’S APPEARANCES

“There is simply no comparison between how women’s looks and men’s looks count toward how society values them as humans.” -Irin Carmon

How people talk about women’s looks in our culture is an important conversation to have, and I enjoyed Irin Carmon’s Salon article on Obama calling California Attorney General Kamala Harris “by far, the best looking attorney general.”

 

California Attorney General Kamala Harris California Attorney General Kamala Harris

Yes, women who seem young and are considered pretty by men obtain certain advantages in our society. That doesn’t mean that the purportedly progressive president of the United States needs to do his part to enforce all that. (Don’t get me started on “honey,” or “sweetie.” No, I can’t take a fucking compliment.) Yes, people notice and appreciate attractiveness in men and women, which is not incompatible with being smart or successful. But women, above all, are subject to a can’t-win calculus in which the desires of men, rather than their objective qualifications, determine how they’re treated — for better or worse. It applies wherever women exist in public, even when looks are entirely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

I would add to this article that it’s not just about desire and that looking young is not the blessing most people think it is, especially career-wise. I look roughly 10 years younger than I am, and I often feel that I’m treated young as a result, as well as looked over for opportunities I should be getting because my looks don’t read experienced enough. Many times, people have told me to change my appearance so that I look older: Get an older-looking hair cut (straight hair is best), wear a certain style of clothing, wear make-up.

Too often, the answer to getting what women want in our society is to change one’s appearance to fit a certain type, whether that type is “powerful professional,” “sexy girl,” “sexy professional,” “fresh-out-of-college,” etc. God forbid I’m judged on my professional and life experience rather than the way my hair style reads to others, or what my nails say about me.

The discussion about women’s looks goes beyond whether a woman conforms to a standard of beauty. So much more is being judged, which makes the adage “just be yourself” harder for women to accomplish.

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