Don’t get me wrong, I love men. Some of my closest friends are guys and I value their relationships more than anything. I have many men in my life who I look up to and admire very much. I’m grateful for all of them and am so lucky to hold a relationship with them with such a mutual respect and understanding.
However, just because I have guy friends and male figures in my life that I admire, doesn’t mean I can turn a blind eye to inequality amongst males and females in America. To be clear, me recognizing this inequality does not mean that I hate men in any way, does not mean that I think less of men in any way, and does not mean I’m unable to have open discussions pertaining to this inequality and/or lack thereof from any other person’s viewpoint.
My viewpoint comes from years of observing, experiencing and learning about this topic. I still continue to learn about it every day.
I wanted to address why I made a post the other day about a tweet that I saw. If you didn’t see my Instagram story, I put a picture of myself with a new short haircut and brought up a tweet that I saw saying “only women with long hair are attractive”. My response to that was “men ain’t sh*t, you’re hot no matter what”. I also mentioned the fact that, in our society, men are raised to view certain things as attractive versus unattractive.
I got a response from a guy that said something like this: don’t generalize all men because of what one man said, understand his ignorance and move on.
After responding that I didn’t find it acceptable to stay silent on an issue that affects the way people feel about themselves and ultimately live their lives, I got a rather aggressive response that led to him stating the following: there is no pay gap between males and females, women deserve to be paid less due to pregnancy, there is no ideal woman anymore as this isn’t the 1900s, and to top it all off, white privilege doesn’t exist.
Man. Oh. Man. To be clear, I did not address any of those issues in my story except for the image of an ideal woman on the most basic level. I was told that I was just trying to “make myself feel better” and that none of what I was saying was correct. When I tried to have a discussion about the issues he was addressing, I got berated and was told to “keep coming at me with your feministic views.”
Here are the top two reasons I chose not to ignore this man’s ignorance: accountability and awareness.
When I say that society has raised men to behave and to think a certain way, I am holding all of us accountable. I’m not blaming this one individual male who made one comment about a female’s appearance. In America, the image of the ideal partner, and the ideal self, has been formulating in the minds of every individual since they were children. We are shown images, told repeatedly, of what our society identifies as “beautiful”. The further we stray from these ideals, the more damaging it is to our self-perception and ultimately our self-value.
My favorite example of how harmful this unrealistic standard of beauty can be comes from an experience by Dr. Brene Brown. She did a project with a class of hers that had three parts. The first was to bring in their favorite magazines and cut out images that fit their “ideal look”. She noticed how every participant was taking bits and pieces of different women in order to create one ideal look. The second part of the project was to find themselves in these magazines. After flipping through magazines and finding only bits and pieces of themselves (a similar haircut, skin tone, etc.) the students gave up in frustration. The final part of the project was to ask the students “how does being invisible feel?”.
The answers that were given were all self-blaming. They said they couldn’t find themselves in these magazines because they weren’t good enough or, even worse, because they didn’t matter. They blamed themselves for not fitting the pictures they had created based on a learned idea of beauty. Based on a learned idea of value.
In just one sitting, these students went from cutting images out of a magazine to convincing themselves that they don’t matter in this society.
To go back to the tweet that said “only women with long hair are attractive”, I hope it might be a bit clearer the consequences these statements may have, and also why I chose to address it rather than to remain silent. We are reinforcing ideas that are demeaning to many individuals. We are reinforcing ideas that take away value from people who matter, which is every single person in this nation and on this planet. Beauty is, first and foremost, a cultural construct. Let’s work towards constructing a cultural view of beauty that looks at more than the surface. One that adds value to every individual rather than taking it away.
I didn’t get to touch on a lot of other subjects that were brought up, so if anyone would like to discuss anything else with me, please feel free to reach out!