Women and the Beauty Bind

woman-foot-chainsThe beauty bind is the dilemma that nearly every woman around the world, young or old, past or present, faces in their life. You probably already know a lot about the beauty bind or at least have some experience with it. The beauty binds refers to the fact that women are judged on their appearance no matter what. Whether the judgment is positive, negative, or neutral, there is no avoiding it.

Times have changed somewhat — the modern man also has to deal with being judged on his physical appearance. But his physical appearance is not used as a gauge of his worth and value as a person. Unlike men, who can be considered desirable based on other traits — a remarkable personality or bank account — a woman is judged mainly (and sometimes only) on her looks. Other parts of her may be considered, but only once her appearance is assessed for its worthiness.

The beauty bind is inescapable because whether or not a woman chooses to play the beauty game she is a contestant. And whether she is deemed attractive or not, her looks are used as a way give to or take away from her womanhood.

The Unattractive

A woman who is considered unattractive is denied her full femininity and power as a woman. She can be as intelligent and interesting as she wants, but if her physical appearance is judged as lacking, she is judged as lacking. After all, a true woman is pretty and feminine.

If she is particularly accomplished, her looks become a way to take away from her achievements. She is ridiculed and portrayed as less than — she might be worldly successful, but she’s still an ugly woman and that evens the score. Men and women alike are reassured by this and take solace in the fact that she doesn’t have it all.

The Beautiful

A woman who is assessed as particularly beautiful is also denied her full womanhood. She is made into a caricature and is not taken as seriously. Her looks are made the primary focus of her being; nothing else is as important. Others assume she has cruised by in life and doesn’t have much to offer besides good looks. Any successes she has are viewed in light of her physical appearance and given lesser value.

Although the beautiful woman is given certain advantages, she is also disadvantaged. Men and women envy the advantages she is given and women, who are also caught in the beauty bind, judge her even more harshly than men do. They too want to be considered part of the Beautiful Elite, but if they can’t, they can have some power over beautiful women by becoming their worst critics.

Few people discuss the beauty bind as it has become woven into the fabric that makes up most societies and is viewed as normal. But some people recognized that the major results of the beauty bind are not so beautiful. Self-objectification, female competition, and self-worth issues abound.

So what is the key to releasing women from the beauty bind? Well, that remains to be seen. In the meantime you could ask yourself if and how you contribute to the beauty binding of yourself or others.

See also:

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57 thoughts on “Women and the Beauty Bind

  1. Ouch! This is something I’m sure every female has dealt with including myself. I can say I’ve been on both sides. When I was deemed unattractive from middle school and throughout high school people made it known and would say and do some things that traumatized me. I had a lot of healing to do over the years because I was very self destructive due to a low self esteem and was very uncomfortable with myself. Then on the flip side when I became an adult I was viewed as more attractive and had many issues with people thinking I was not intelligent, that I was stuck up, I felt like I had to prove over and over that I was a hard worker and had brains in my head. I also felt the need to prove that I was down to earth and sweet. Thank God I let go of trying to prove who I was, its too draining and its a distraction. My solution has been to surround myself with people who are concerned with a persons heart and nothing else. I also don’t watch T.V. unless its HGTV and stay away from magazines, all that stuff forces people to think beauty only looks a certain way and creates false ideals.

  2. Hi Nikisha. 🙂

    “When I was deemed unattractive from middle school and throughout high school people made it known and would say and do some things that traumatized me”

    Ugh, kids (and adults, for that matter) can be terrible. And blind… how could they think you were unattractive? Even if you were a nerdy glasses kid, I don’t see how they could miss the beauty within and without.

    “I also don’t watch T.V. unless its HGTV and stay away from magazines, all that stuff forces people to think beauty only looks a certain way and creates false ideals.”

    Exactly. Great strategy. TV and magazines are huge pushers of the beauty bind (and beauty “ideal”). I just began watching TV a couple of months ago, for the first time in a couple of years. But I only watch TV drama (crime shows and the like). No “entertainment”.

    But I would think you need to read magazines to do your work and keep up on styles?

  3. I don’t keep up with style trends from magazines, I do look at blogs and do a lot of people watching when I’m out and about for inspiration :).

  4. good post. Not sure that the beauty bind is going anywhere though, it’s been the social currency for women for millenniums. women have had to contort themselves into the beauty ideal with literal binding such as feet binding and corsets while men haven’t had to do that. men are touted as visual creatures, most women want men, the cycle of trying to be “picked” is continued. viscious

  5. I’ve told this story before, but this topic warrants a repeat. When I was thirteen, I remember looking in the mirror and saying to my “Sherry, God did not give you any physical gifts, and so you had better focus on your intellect and social skills”. Well bless my little thirteen-year-old heart, although I was very successful in developing those skills, I effectively divorced my soul from my body – not a sustainable position. In my mid-thirties, I found myself feeling so unfeminine, and so I started paying more attention to my physicality. Fast-forward to today, I am in my jubilee year (50), and find myself following beauty blogs, and trying the looks on myself! It feels good to pamper me.

    One thing I avoided in high school was P.E. It is too bad, because based on watching my athletic younger sister and friends I see that physical activity during the pre-teen/teen years gives girls a powerful sense that their bodies are competent, and that competence beats pretty by a country mile …

  6. @Vonnie and Nikisha, how appropriate that two beauty/fashion bloggers would be the first to chime in. 🙂

    ‘men are touted as visual creatures, most women want men, the cycle of trying to be “picked” is continued.’

    There needs to be some official agreement between women worldwide to stop competing with each other over men… it’s ridiculous. Plus, if no one competes, then the beauty bind could possibly loosen; there would be less focus on appearance.

  7. Sherry,

    I remember that story. 🙂

    Like I’d responded before, I don’t advocate going the other route and disregarding appearance completely, especially if that leaves you feeling incomplete and unfeminine. I think the best and most healthy would be to find some medium. But I’m glad you came back to yourself, no matter how long that took.

  8. I was unaware of the beauty bind when I was a child. My parents rarely talked about the importance of physical appearance. They wanted me to be smart and educated. Only my grandmother insisted on physical appearance and called me beautiful.

    It became clear later that she’s one of the few people who ever called me beautiful. I soon learned that I am seen as unattractive. That wasn’t much of a problem till I reached 13 or so: believe it or not, being smart is seen as a great thing for a girl… Until she reaches puberty. From that point on, being smart (or good, or educated, or having great sense of humor, or great social skills) is seen as some sort of a consolation prize: those are great things, but you still don’t win the main prize.

    The weird (?) thing is, I never considered myself ugly. I simply didn’t see what’s so unattractive about me, but it’s not like that was the only thing people agreed upon that I didn’t get. I simply didn’t understand people and the way they think, so I just accepted it as one of those things that others can see and I can’t.

    I got used to this, more or less. It doesn’t really hurt anymore, as long as I don’t get sad looks when I go shopping for clothes, and as long as people don’t seem surprised that I am married and that I’ve dated before I met my husband.

    On the other hand, as privileged as beautiful women might be, being seen as attractive is not as fun, at least if you want to prove yourself in stuff that have nothing to do with beauty. Attractive women are often not seen as fully human; their opinion is often ignored and they are heavily objectified. This is something women who are not seen as attractive don’t have to worry about.

    A woman who is not seen as attractive is often ignored in social situations, but it’s often easier for her to be taken seriously in professional setting. (At least in my country: as soon as men don’t see you as female, and women don’t see you as competition, they see you as human and listen what you have to say. I don’t know about other countries, though.)

  9. The beauty bind has no effect on me. Beauty fades. I cannot change or contort myself for a man as there is no man that has been born that is worth it. In my household, education and brains was what was important.

  10. Mira,

    “…being smart (or good, or educated, or having great sense of humor, or great social skills) is seen as some sort of a consolation prize: those are great things, but you still don’t win the main prize.”

    Exactly. Great way to phrase it.

    “It doesn’t really hurt anymore, as long as I don’t get sad looks when I go shopping for clothes, and as long as people don’t seem surprised that I am married and that I’ve dated before I met my husband.”

    Uh, wow. That is just too much. But your country seems to have an even tighter bind than places like the U.S., if your depictions are accurate.

    “Attractive women are often not seen as fully human; their opinion is often ignored and they are heavily objectified.”

    Yes, they have to work hard to prove themselves worthwhile. And it’s a never ending process because every time they meet someone new they have to go through it again. Not just in professional/academic settings, but people don’t take them as seriously, in general, unless it’s about something having to do with beauty/physical appearance.

    “as soon as men don’t see you as female, and women don’t see you as competition, they see you as human and listen what you have to say.”

    I’d say that’s pretty true here as well re: professional settings.

  11. Hi Sandy,

    “The beauty bind has no effect on me.”

    It’s great that you can ignore it…I think it more women could actually ignore or simply not notice the pressure that is put on them via physical appearance, we’d all be in much better shape.

    “Beauty fades. I cannot change or contort myself for a man as there is no man that has been born that is worth it.”

    True. 🙂

    But sometimes women’s response to the beauty bind is not even about men, it’s just about being considered beautiful. Because beauty is an asset and a weapon; something that would give them a distinct advantage in life.

    “In my household, education and brains was what was important.”

    Some women come from similar families where knowledge was emphasized, but as they engage with the outer world, the beauty bind begins to affect them more and more.

  12. Alee,

    Uh, wow. That is just too much. But your country seems to have an even tighter bind than places like the U.S., if your depictions are accurate.

    Yes. Because it’s a bit more sexist and patriarchal (though not as much as it’s sometimes perceived). But the funny thing about beauty standards is that they are actually a form of self-hate: people here watch American (western) movies, TV shows, etc. and think that’s how really is, or should be. So they try to imitate that, and if you don’t fit the description, you’re doomed.

    I don’t think it works exactly that way in the US. For example, I know many American – and especially western European women – who don’t do the Brazilian wax all the time. Or (whites) who don’t go to tanning saloons. And who are still considered attractive (or at least not ugly). Not here! If you don’t wax your pubic area and don’t tan regularly, you are not seen as hot (you don’t “take care of yourself”). On the other hand, most of the people smoke; I barely know a few girls and women who don’t. Smoking is still seen as “cool” in my country and many women see it as empowering.

  13. Mira,

    “people here watch American (western) movies, TV shows, etc. and think that’s how really is, or should be.”

    Well, that’s kind of what happens here too. But it’s not extreme; most people realize that entertainers have access to all sorts of things that “regular people” do not and most of it’s smoke and mirrors anyway. Still, that doesn’t stop them from aspiring to be like them and doing what they can to get there.

    “If you don’t wax your pubic area and don’t tan regularly, you are not seen as hot”

    Hmmm… yeah, that’s not really the case for most people here. It’s not a must that you do those things. But a lot of the very suburban New Englanders do follow that principle.

  14. IME, I’m one of those women who’s considered cute enough to be “pretty”, but not so cute that I’m threatening. (Being short probably contributes to that–I went to get a physical last week, and my doctor said I can stop claiming to be 5’3”; I’m 5′ 2.5″. And this is with an afro! :-()

  15. Jasmin,

    I agree. Being pretty enough to be seen as reasonably attractive, but not too gorgeous to make men crazy and women jealous seems to be the best. Also, it’s a good thing since even a girl of average appearance (and most of the people are average looking) can make herself pretty enough if she chose the right way to dress and carry herself.

    You are short, but it’s not that bad. Interesting, that one is not seen as such a bad thing in my culture, as long as you’re a girl (and people are quite tall here, 5′ 8″ or 5’9″ is average for a woman).

    I am 157 cm, and I believe it’s 5’2″. When your guy is 180 cm (5’11”) it seems like a perfect height! 😉

  16. Jasmin,

    “I’m one of those women who’s considered cute enough to be “pretty”, but not so cute that I’m threatening.”

    Yes, you have a lot of that cute spunkiness in you. That’s the first thing I noticed about you, way back in was it ’09?.. Yup, ’09, its been quite some time. 🙂

    “I went to get a physical last week, and my doctor said I can stop claiming to be 5’3”; I’m 5′ 2.5″. And this is with an afro!”

    Lol. I used to think I was 5’6″, but I’m actually 5’7″. Well, at least you look about 5’4″. 😉

    Mira,

    “Being pretty enough to be seen as reasonably attractive, but not too gorgeous to make men crazy and women jealous seems to be the best.”

    The best for who? 🙂

  17. Mira,

    Is your husband 5’11”? That’s how tall Z is, but people seem to think he looks taller next to me.

    I always get made fun of for being the short one in my family, since neither of my parents are short. But, I think I take after my grandmother’s petite sisters, and that combined with the “Williams booty” (that’s my mother/grandmother’s maiden name, and all the women in our family have the same high, round butt) can be an interesting combination. 😉

    Alee,

    LOL, I don’t think anyone’s ever called me spunky. 😛 And like you, I can’t believe we “met” in ’09!

    My legs make me look taller in pictures and from a distance, but up close, no. 😦

    What’s funny is that living in SF, surrounded by short Chinese people, I thought I would feel tall/big. But even the Asian ladies I see on a regular basis (my doctor, pedicurist, etc.) comment on how small I am. My doctor said it’s a good thing I’m teaching elementary school, because by the time they get to 4th or 5th grade, kids are “chubby”, and they might smash me! 😛

  18. Jasmin,

    LOL at the “Williams booty”.

    You’re definitely spunky. Spunky people always use lots of smilies. 🙂

  19. Alee,

    The best for who? 🙂

    For said female living on planet Earth? 😀

    Jasmin,

    Is your husband 5’11″? That’s how tall Z is, but people seem to think he looks taller next to me.

    Yes, my husband is 5’11” and he does look tall next to me (he’s a bit chubby, though, so he doesn’t look that tall). He’d love to be taller, I know that.

    All of the women in my family are short, but I am the only one who has this kind of butt. I have no idea how I got it.

    You don’t look short, Jasmin: you have long legs so you seem at least 5’6″ tall. I knew you were short but I was still a bit surprised to see you standing next to Zek (who doesn’t look 6’4″, lol). Still, I don’t think 5’2″ or 5’3″ is THAT short. (Even though I am the shortest person I know, save for my mother, who is 5’1″). Then again, I am unaware of how I look compared to other people. I am always surprised to see how short I am next to others in photos.

  20. Alee,

    LOL, the smilies correlate to how often I smile in real life. 🙂

    Mira,

    I’ve never seen a full-length picture of you, but from the waist-up you look pretty thin to me, so I have an image of you in my head as a slightly-gangly, youthful-looking woman. I know you’ve talked a lot about being mocked for your size, but in my head I just can’t see it.

  21. “There needs to be some official agreement between women worldwide to stop competing with each other over men… it’s ridiculous. Plus, if no one competes, then the beauty bind could possibly loosen; there would be less focus on appearance.”

    That would be funny. Wouldn’t happen though.

    Men are just more visual creatures than women (usually). But being completely honest, in any school I’ve attended or at my job, beautiful women who do well in academics or professionally are wayyyyyyyyyy more hated on by other women (typically the less attractive ones) than men. Really, some guys might initially not have the best first impression when he meets a beautiful professional woman, but they usually get over that pretty quickly (usually, of course there’s always that creepy outlier). Other women will say the meanest and nastiest things behind her back though.

    Once at a bank branch I used to work for(bank branch employees make peanuts, so please be nice to these people) I recognized a woman who worked for me for her strong sales performance, (she was beautiful, but there was nothing going on between us, believe it or not she had a boyfriend and was not interested in me in the least), and a couple ummmm heavier coworkers started a rumor that I was giving her preferential treatment because she was sleeping with me, never mind the fact their numbers sucked. It was ugly, because it was a small branch and we all intermingled heavily, so whatever you tell anyone gets around.

  22. that guy,

    “Men are just more visual creatures than women (usually).”

    … Quit with this, okay? 🙂

    You’re giving me a headache. I always get headaches when people attempt to state as “fact” something which has been contradicted countless times. The most you can say is, “In my experience…” because that’s all you have anyway.

    Please don’t cite me any secondary source material to attempt to support your assertion because there are just as many that don’t, which is why it’s far from a fact.

    “beautiful women who do well in academics or professionally are wayyyyyyyyyy more hated on by other women (typically the less attractive ones) than men”

    Yes. It makes sense that they would be. It’s women who are caught in the beauty bind, not men.

    Men don’t have a reason to be envious because their worth is not determined by how gorgeous people think they are. Yet there are still men who do hate perceived beautiful women because they resent the advantages they think these women have.

    “Really, some guys might initially not have the best first impression when he meets a beautiful professional woman, but they usually get over that pretty quickly …Other women will say the meanest and nastiest things behind her back though.”

    I feel a “women are just naturally b*tchy” comment coming on… which is why I include the “See also” section whenever possible. 🙂

  23. I think that not competing with other women is possible. In fact, I would say that’s how I roll already. The things that I do that impact my appearance (exercise, using Latisse, applying makeup, selecting nice clothes, wearing my hair in Senegalese twists, getting my eyebrows done, having pedicures) make me feel better. I doubt they make me “more competitive!

  24. Sherry, yes, I think it’s possible. But it would take a lot of work because it’s a self-perpetuating cycle — women feel constrained by the beauty bind/ideal, they become competitive with another through appearance, their competition makes the bind tighter, they feel constrained, etc.

    And I think too many men believe women try to dress up to impress men. Some do, but lots of women keep up with their appearance to show up other women, not to look good for men. We all know men would prefer the fewest adornments possible, in any case…

  25. I’m afraid my opinion on this subject doesn’t chime in with conventional thinking. I’m a woman who’s been told all her life that she’s beautiful, and I’ve never felt a sense of competition from or with other women.

    I didn’t even discover that this was a conventional belief about women until my 30’s. It was only on becoming close to a gf who experienced the so called jealousy and resentment from other women that I even began to consider that concept.

    The conclusion I came to was this: If you see other women as your competitors in your race to attract the male gaze, then you will tend to attract their jealousy or criticism. If you don’t, as I didn’t, then people sense that about you and simply appreciate your beauty inner and outer instead.

    I’ve seen this again and again, beautiful women hounded and plagued by envy and bitchiness alongside equally beautiful women, who are appreciated by the women around them.

    So I really do believe it’s the attitude you give off. The best example of this was going to a professional gathering with said gf. Only men spoke to her (or rather flirted), and she was ignored by all the women in the place. It was like she had the plague.
    Mainly women spoke to me, and went out of the way to help me out and were eager to stay in touch. We were both at the same gathering but existing in 2 seperate realities. In her’s women are bitches who are jealous of her beauty and sexiness. In mine, women are comrades, compatriots, sisters etc.

    Interestingly along with her belief in the competition with women was a concurrent belief in female powerlessness in the world, with the lone exception of the sexual power that we can have over men, which she believed you had to exploit to get what you want from life.

    I on the other hand have a very different view of the genders and believe that women are inherently MORE powerful than men, but that patriarchal societies have suppressed that self knowledge, confidence and inner wisdom in women for millenia.

    So maybe what I’m trying to say is that the beauty bind exists first and foremost in individual women’s minds and is probably the natural outcome of an underlying belief that the only real power or status you as a woman can have in the world is gained through men both on the personal and professional level.

  26. Hi Kat, welcome. 🙂

    I’m afraid my opinion on this subject doesn’t chime in with conventional thinking.”

    That’s okay. I’m not really too fond of conventional thinking, if that wasn’t already extremely obvious. 😉

    “I’m a woman who’s been told all her life that she’s beautiful, and I’ve never felt a sense of competition from or with other women.”

    Well, that’s good. Female competition can be hurtful, so the less women who experience it, the better.

    “If you see other women as your competitors in your race to attract the male gaze, then you will tend to attract their jealousy or criticism. If you don’t, as I didn’t, then people sense that about you and simply appreciate your beauty inner and outer instead.”

    I’d say there’s some truth to this. Women who “flaunt” their beauty and use it as a way to disadvantage other women will not be shown mercy from these women.

    However, even if a perceived beautiful woman is nice and good, there are going to be a least a few women who envy her, IME. She might not notice unless it’s blatant. But we can see this with certain female celebrities who are sweet as can be, yet if you search for them online and go to certain places, they’ll be certain women who dislike them just because and write bad things about them. Women might not state it openly and they might not hate the woman, but it’s just the nature of the game that because they feel pressure to fit a certain ideal, they feel envious of those who do.

    “I on the other hand have a very different view of the genders and believe that women are inherently MORE powerful than men”

    Oh? I’d be interested in more info on this. 😀

    “So maybe what I’m trying to say is that the beauty bind exists first and foremost in individual women’s minds”

    Well, no, it’s not. There is plenty of research behind the idea that women are judged on their physical appearance, whether that is positive or negative. It’s a reality in most societies. However, I agree that the extent to which it affects you is directly tied to how much power you give it.

  27. I’m trying to bloody understand this article and it’s freaking eluding me!.

    Alee, there’s a serious disconnect with (what I’m reading so far as) your superficial like of socially “good looking dudes” and all these post that actually mean something.

    HELP!. You’re killing my humour….dead!.

  28. foosrock,

    LOL.

    It’s true, I like hot (to me) men. I don’t see a contradiction though — why should a person of either gender have to be judged on their looks alone, or mainly? Too much of one thing is never good.

    But I’d suggest you stop trying to understand me or connect dots… like I say, I’m everything and nothing. If you think of me as “deep”, then you’ll be puzzled by what you think are my shallow writings. If you think of me as bookish and intellectual, then you’ll be confused by my love of fashion and sports. If you think of me as talkative, you’ll be surprised that I’m basically mute with people I don’t know. And so on.

    So just don’t try! I was born to confuse people, probably. 🙂

  29. “Oh? I’d be interested in more info on this.”

    Where to start…This has been almost a lifetime of research for me.
    Some good books on this subject are:

    ‘The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering The Religion Of The Earth’ by Monica Sjoo

    ‘Women who run with the wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

    ‘The Language of the Goddess: Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization’
    by Marija Gimbutas

    A book about menstruation and it’s connection with female empowerment:-
    ‘The Wise Wound’ by Penelope Shuttle & Peter Redgrove

    A Youtube video series on ‘Ancient matriarchy ”

    A modern day ethnic group in China that still retains it’s ancient matriarchal culture

    Check out websites like the ‘Suppressed histories archive’ for loads of information about the incredible hidden histories of women all over the globe.
    http://www.suppressedhistories.net

    Especially their ‘Woman’s power’ dvd
    http://www.suppressedhistories.net/womenspowerdvd.html

    Thats just a little to get started with. 🙂

  30. Alee, I LOVE YOUR READERS!. Soooooooooo much interesting info!. Thanks Kat and all!

  31. “Men don’t have a reason to be envious because their worth is not determined by how gorgeous people think they are.”

    Is a woman’s worth determined by how gorgeous people think she is?

    It almost sounds like your agreeing with me that men judge women more on looks than women judge men on looks, but after this post. . . .

    “… Quit with this, okay? 🙂

    You’re giving me a headache. I always get headaches when people attempt to state as “fact” something which has been contradicted countless times. The most you can say is, “In my experience…” because that’s all you have anyway.

    Please don’t cite me any secondary source material to attempt to support your assertion because there are just as many that don’t, which is why it’s far from a fact.”

    . . . . I’m sure I’m mistaken.

  32. Intriguing post Alee. I think I agree most with Kat on this one. I believe this beauty bind is real and was put on women by men but women have done an amazing job of preserving it, perpetuating it and fiercely working to keep other women and ourselves bound in it. It’s kind of like the ‘slave mentality’ that some black Americans hold on to dearly today and the subsequent effects (coloracism, being called a sell out etc). Not equating the two of course.

    My best friend is Native American – Iroquois to be exact and he says that in his culture he is used to a strong matriarch. That is just how it is and has always been historically. It has been diminished of course due to modern day social mores and issues specific to that population but overall this respect for women is ingrained and it has absolutely nothing to do with physical beauty.

    I also agree that the power women have is as strong as or in certain circumstances stronger than that of men. However, it has been suppressed in the past and continues to be heavily policed today in many countries. We just need to look to the recent report put out on the most dangerous places for women to live in the world: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/15/worst-place-women-afghanistan-india. It also happens in the west, just look at the recent Slutwalks that started in Toronto because an officer said to a group that women should cover themselves up if they don’t want to be raped. Rather than telling men to not rape I guess we women need to ensure we don’t tempt men with our inappropriate clothing choices.

    I am also very weary of women who are not friends with other women and deem them ALL to be catty or conniving. Really, ALL women talk behind your back and hate you? Hello, common denominator is you so do some self reflection; no one should be above that. I feel these women are deep in this mentality or maybe they have just been so hurt by other women they are now jaded?

    I hope that I don’t perpetuate this beauty bind. I like make up, and doing my hair etc and these things make we feel good and honestly help me hide when I’m feeling like shite. However, I know these things don’t define me or my worth. If only more women and young girls felt this.

    Keep these posts coming! Could you do one on homophobia and the black population? If you care to of course 🙂

  33. *high fives Kat*

    Thank you muchly for the chock full of info, Kat. I will look through it.


    foosrock,

    “Alee, I LOVE YOUR READERS!”

    OMG, me too!! 😀

  34. that guy,

    “Is a woman’s worth determined by how gorgeous people think she is?”

    Is this a trick question?

    Yes, most cultures use appearance as a way to gauge a woman’s worth as a human being. This is not hard to see and there are plenty of studies on the matter which I’ve covered in the past and will continue to cover. However, of course a woman’s worth is not actually in how beautiful she is judged to be.

    “It almost sounds like your agreeing with me that men judge women more on looks than women judge men on looks, but after this post. . .”

    No, why do you always confuse nature with nurture? 🙂

    If men/people are taught to value looks in women, then that’s what most will do. That doesn’t, however, mean that women naturally don’t value looks in men. In fact, in cultures where looks have been given a greater importance for men, women show just how “visual” they can be.

    You have to be able to leave your frame of mind, place in time, and place in the world to truly understand these sort of things, that guy.

  35. Hi wanderlust 🙂

    “I think I agree most with Kat on this one. I believe this beauty bind is real and was put on women by men but women have done an amazing job of preserving it, perpetuating it and fiercely working to keep other women and ourselves bound in it.”

    Yes. Not to mention men do the same.

    “It’s kind of like the ‘slave mentality’ that some black Americans hold on to dearly today and the subsequent effects (coloracism, being called a sell out etc). Not equating the two of course.”

    I think that’s a workable comparison. In both cases we have the persecutor (that may be a strong word, but oh well) who creates a certain mentality and continue it in a milder form, but over time the persecutees also begin to perpetuate the mentality so it never goes away.

    “look at the recent Slutwalks that started in Toronto because an officer said to a group that women should cover themselves up if they don’t want to be raped.”

    I heard about that. I was just surprised that people got so riled up by it — don’t many women/men say similar things on a daily basis? I guess it’s terrible that I’m so numb to people saying things like that… Or maybe it was his use of the word “slut” that caused so much controversy? What a poorly chosen word.

    “I am also very weary of women who are not friends with other women and deem them ALL to be catty or conniving. Hello, common denominator is you so do some self reflection; no one should be above that. I feel these women are deep in this mentality or maybe they have just been so hurt by other women they are now jaded? “

    Indeed. I wrote about this in the past, I don’t know if you missed it:
    “I Have No Female Friends”

    “Keep these posts coming! Could you do one on homophobia and the black population? If you care to of course”

    Hmmm… I’ll consider that. It is an interesting topic. And the posts will continue, of course. 🙂

  36. Like I said elsewhere, it is not “natural” for women to be judged by their beauty. If nothing else, this human behavior is quite the opposite to animals, where males are the “pretty” ones. A male’s worth is judged on how pretty he his; his beauty is an important part of his manliness. Females are the plain ones.

  37. Ha, Mira, you should do a guest post on all of that. My focus in bio is more in the human realm, and even more specifically in the molecular realm. But it seems you have a wealth of information on the subject of animals and mating, and that would make a good topic to show the contrast.

    This would be after your post on Serbian men, of course. (Someone wants to know, “Do Serbian men make good husbands?”) 😉

  38. High fives back to you Alee! I’m loving this discussion.

    Wanderlust82, I would love to hear more about your Iroquois friend and his matriarchal culture and heritage.

  39. Yes of course men do it too. I just think that women do a lot more of the active work towards the beauty bind. Just my observation.

    ————
    I heard about that. I was just surprised that people got so riled up by it — don’t many women/men say similar things on a daily basis?
    ————-
    Yes people do, but I think the fact that it came from a police officer thinking he was offering sound advice. Also, I think it just fed into the fact that a lot of people do actually think this. So while his dumb comment sparked it, they wanted to bring attention to this mentally not being ok. I think (in the UK anyways) it was also tied to the fact that there is such a low conviction rate for rape. So it became much more than the initial comment which sparked it all.

    Hey Kat,

    This link gives some general history and under culture it has the most relevant information: http://www.tolatsga.org/iro.html.

    My friend’s parents still live on a reservation in Green Bay Wisconsin which I have visited many times. My friend also doesn’t identify as American really, only Aboriginal, or Native. I’ve been introduced to many cultural practices and it’s great. I’ve also been to many pow wows on his reservation and also some in Canada. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen Native dancing but he used to fancy dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mvy3gdfdn8g. Hoop dancers are also amazing to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46VIPeQvUj8&feature=related

  40. Wanderlust82, thanks for all the info. I just checked out the hoop dancing…incredible!!!

  41. Wanderlust,

    Women do most of the work towards keeping the beauty bind in place? Hmmm. That doesn’t agree with most studies on the matter. It might be that the ways they comply with it make it appear that way?

  42. I’m one of those people that can look fug or uniquely attractive depending on how much sleep I get and I’ve experienced both sides of the spectrum in adulthood. At this point, I try to barely notice oogling men and people who in general treat me better to an extent because of my looks…Mentally, I just don’t make a big deal about it. I make sure that the way I see myself when I’m not looking so great is the way I see myself when others like the way I look. I wish I could describe it better. It can be hard sometimes and I understand that I will get a temporary boost because of people in general just suddenly being really NICE and accommodating (not so much men nonverbal and verbal physical attraction — ok who am i kidding, unless they are hot) and that it has no bearing on MY SELF WORTH. I get it when I see it happen to other women near me, instead of me or other women around. It was a long, treacherous, soul breaking road to get where I am today. I’m not 100% where I want to be because I’m sometimes still apprehensive around people because I expect them to reject all of me based on how I look. But looking back, I know I have come a long way and I hope I can protect my nieces, cousins and daughters from going down the road I went.

    I’ve never said this anywhere but one of the worst feelings was when I realized that even my own father treats me a bit better when I’m looking better. It’s like he’s more proud of me or something. When I’m not looking so good, he would sometimes not even look me directly in the face which is what people in public do sometimes. And i’m thinking this is my own father. That used to hurt SO MUCH…but although it SUCKS, I now pretty much get it and I know he’s not perfect, he’s a human being and doesn’t have to worry about experiencing anything like what women have to go through. I still love him very much of course 🙂

  43. Alee,

    Ha, Mira, you should do a guest post on all of that. My focus in bio is more in the human realm, and even more specifically in the molecular realm. But it seems you have a wealth of information on the subject of animals and mating, and that would make a good topic to show the contrast.

    This would be after your post on Serbian men, of course. (Someone wants to know, “Do Serbian men make good husbands?”) 😉

    We did study animal behavior in university, but only a little, to help us understand human behavior and the nature vs nurture dichotomy. But I’d love to contribute, as much as I can.

    As for the Serbian men… I’m not sure what to say. The problem is, they are the only men I know, so I’m unsure what’s unique to them as Serbian men and what is general male behavior.

    I’d say some Serbian men make great husbands, and others… Not so much. But it’s always like that, isn’t it?

  44. Hi ddf,

    It is sad, but I don’t think your father is alone in feeling more proud of you when you look “good”. When looks are what separate the “worthy” women from the “unworthy” women, it’s easy to slip into that sort of thinking. Parents, realizing that their children will be better thought of if they meet conventional beauty standards, can sometimes be subtle (or not so subtle) in their encouragement of the beauty bind.

    Glad you like the post and comments.

  45. Mira, just kidding. You don’t have to write about either, but if you’d like to, you’re always welcome to!

  46. wanderlust, I’ll probably right about the topic sometime in the future, so we can discuss it then. 🙂

    But I don’t know if you were around for the anti-fat discrimination discussion… one study found that men would rather date a woman with problems with drug addiction than an obese woman. If that’s not putting value on appearance above character, I don’t know what is.

  47. Frankly,

    I think women are the worse when it comes to upholding beauty ideals towards each other than men are. Its almost like Black people continuing to blame their internal self hate and constant participation with colorism and such on slavery and how we were “programmed” by the “man” to hate ourselves. Same thing. Women put up all these guidelines and insults and ideals on what other women should look like, then fall back on the whole blaming men for creating these ideals.

    I get tired of the discussion b/c normally women do not want to admit they are the biggest perpetrators of crazy beauty binds and ideals that plague women.

    Most of the time when I read, hear or experience comments about some woman’s looks or appearance (in a negative manner) 99% of the time its coming from women or gay men. LOL. Most heterosexual men don’t sit and tear down women’s looks as many believe. Its WOMEN who do this. Now we can all say its b/c women are insecure b/c men created these standards, but that is not an excuse anymore. Either women stop judging and being insecure about themselves and other women and learn to accept beauty comes in all forms or just accept the fact that its women who keep this ugly issue of beauty binding going.

    I feel a lot of women enjoy being competive for men’s affection NOT b/c women are forced to see themselves this way but b/c it fulfills some crazy ego thing. And then we women want to play both ends of the stick by crying the blues that its “men who make us this way” BS. Tired of it. Time to own up to our issues as women and stop with the excuses and blaming men for why we are so caught up in keeping shallow beauty ideals going.

    I read women’s magazines ALL THE TIME. The editors and those in charge of putting models on the cover and such are all WOMEN. If women were so binded by beauty ideals, then why in their own publications and outlets do they uphold the very thing they complain men are doing? Men are not reading these mags – women are! So what gives? Why not put normal everyday women on the covers instead of super hot smoking celeb women? Mmm Hmmm.

    Most women don’t even realize what true beauty is. For a woman its really simple – if she acts like a lady and carries herself as such, she will often be viewed as attractive – even if she is not conventionally a “looker”. How a woman presents herself and makes an effort to enhance what she has naturally to make herself stand out is what real beauty is judged by.

    Live by the beauty sword die by it. And this is what women have created for themselves when they become insecure and start tearing down other women.

    You can have the prettiest face and nicest body, but if your attitude stinks, you have a negative demeanor, many will not view you as attractive and won’t want to be around you. Seen it plenty f times.

    Most men will find a woman beautiful if she exudes feminine qualities and grace and looks like she takes care of herself physically. These women also receive favor from men in many forms – especially protection. There is no way around it. She does not have to be even close to facially appealing or conventional for a male to find her beautiful. I have seen some women who were definitely not as facially pretty as other women but who were so sweet, kind, feminine and soft that men are like melted chocolate around these women and they want to protect these women. They have everyone eating out of the palm of their hands.

    There was an African girl on one of my jobs years ago. She had really bad braids in her hair (they were all over the place) , bad skin, and was not what I or anyone would call a “looker” in the conventional sense. But I thought she was soo pretty and attractive (despite her flaws of bad hair and bad skin which could be fixed) b/c of how she acted. I liked being around her b/c she was so fun and positive and had an uplifting spirit. She went off later to get a really good job and this girl had literally just moved from Germany like a year prior with no real job experience. She was driving some broke down Mercedes and just still had a positive outlook. That is what made her beautiful to me and everyone else. She was very likeable. And men responded to her quite positively. She was often favored by supervisors b/c she was sweet and kind. And like I said her appearance was far from conventional. Granted she also was in shape and not overweight which also helps. But that has more to do with health than beauty.

    It seems women want to keep harping on men upholding these insane beauty ideals, but really its time to admit its WOMEN who do this to each other b/c they fear competition or crave it and/or are simply insecure within themselves. And its not always b/c men make them that way. They choose this route for their own personal gains.

    So I say all that to say this. I don’t buy it anymore. That women are as binded by shallow beauty as so many suggest. Any woman who exudes confidence, is feminine, kind and has learned what works best for her physically, usually is going to do well in how others perceive her beauty.

  48. Neecy, I’m just getting around to this comment:

    “I think women are the worse when it comes to upholding beauty ideals towards each other than men are.”

    Oh, is that so? 🙂

    “Its almost like Black people continuing to blame their internal self hate and constant participation with colorism and such on slavery and how we were “programmed” by the “man” to hate ourselves. Same thing. “

    Similar, not the same.

    Let’s be clear about this: beyond slavery, white (and other non-black people) are not anywhere near close to free of prejudice about black people. No, they are not. I’ve reported on studies and surveys which show this.

    And all one needs to do is look around and see which sort of black people are the most hailed in non-black media — the ones that look the furthest from black, the ones that lack what are seen as “black” features. How then can anyone say that black people are the worst when it comes to colorism/feature-ism/etc when they take on this same mindset? They certainly play their part in upholding the “kinda black” beauty standard, and they are not blameless. But they are not alone.

    Now, with men and women, we have a similar dynamic at play. I don’t see men chasing after the “average” or plain women. I see them upholding certain kinds of beauty. So how are women worse than men re: upholding beauty standards? The difference, like with black people, is that women are more blatant in expressing which looks are not their ideal. Again, they play their part, and they are not blameless. But they are not alone.

    “Most of the time when I read, hear or experience comments about some woman’s looks or appearance (in a negative manner) 99% of the time its coming from women or gay men. LOL. Most heterosexual men don’t sit and tear down women’s looks as many believe.”

    Well, they don’t need to. I hang around plenty of heterosexual men, and their proclamations of “Oh, she’s a 10” or “That’s a dime” are as noteworthy as any criticism. Their attention to certain women and ignoring of others is also as noteworthy. Do you think women don’t notice which women are called beautiful by men and which are not? I think they do… I know they do. And they react in certain ways to this, ways in which people then call them insecure, competitive, etc.

    “Now we can all say its b/c women are insecure b/c men created these standards, but that is not an excuse anymore.”

    It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation. It happens all the time: oppressed groups begin to see themselves through the eyes of their oppressor.

    You seem to be blaming the victim. There are layers of backstory you’re skipping over or simply haven’t noted.

    “If women were so binded by beauty ideals, then why in their own publications and outlets do they uphold the very thing they complain men are doing?”

    Because they are caught in the beauty bind… duh. 🙂

  49. Absolutely brilliant article, thank you very much.

    I read your other article too, on self-objectification, and I know first hand that the beauty bind and self-objectification are precisely why I struggled to see myself as anyone of worth while I was battling food addiction and overeating.

    It was precisely because I was lovely when I was thin that I could not see anything of worth in myself as a fat person. It’s interesting that once I was stripped of my “loveliness”, I started becoming a person of worth, although I struggled to see myself as worthy to the opposite sex. But it was in this period that I started knowing myself and blossoming as a human being.

    Very interesting. Again, thank you for an excellent article of value.

  50. Hello Claire,

    You’re welcome.

    Appearance is important, but there’s more to a person than that. Glad you figured that out, even if you learned the hard way.

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