Women vs. the “Sexy” Woman

kate-upton-GQ In past posts, the phenomenon of competition and hostility among women was discussed. There are many theories on why women seem to dislike and compete with other women, a very popular one being that women are simply born to view other women as competition. Another, as discussed in the book Catfight, is that a competitive atmosphere is created by the gender roles placed on women and the human desire for inclusion.

There is another aspect to the reality of female competition — certain women tend to be excluded and hated more than others. These types of women can have female friends, but often they attract mistrust and ill will by other women. They are what I have dubbed the “Sexy” Woman.

The “Sexy” Woman

The Sexy Woman is a woman who draws attention to her sexuality and sees it one of her more attractive qualities, if not her only attractive quality. She can even be explicit about her desire and ability to draw others — particularly men — to her, with her “assets”. To the Sexy Woman, using what you were born with (or bought) to get ahead in life is no different from using your intelligence, hard work or talent. The Sexy Woman’s looks and body are herself. In other words, she objectifies herself.

As a result, the Sexy Woman is usually very popular with men, in the most basic of ways, and has male friends. With women, she is ignored, at best and notorious, at worst. Given this, she considers men to be more understanding and less hateful than women. She does not go out of her way to be friendly with women, but likes the companionship of men.

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful?

The Battle of Women vs. the Sexy Woman is thought to be the classic tale of women being envious of the most beautiful woman. The Sexy Woman too believes that it is her beautiful face and body that cause women to hate her. Yet the situation is much more complex than mere beauty.

The Sexy Woman can be pretty or even beautiful, but it does not seem to be her appearance that cause women to be suspicious of or dislike her. Other women, who are just as “sexy” and good-looking, are loved and admired by their fellow women, and get along with them well. What separates them from the Sexy Woman is their attitude and presentation. Whereas the Sexy Woman calls attention to her sexuality and wants to be known for her attractiveness, other women are less forward about their looks, and do not view them as their most redeeming asset.

Hate It or Love It, or Hate It

The real question is what makes women so uncomfortable with the openness of the Sexy Woman? Why does her willingness to be objectified make women consider her unworthy of a kind word? Maybe her overt sexuality reminds other women of the pressure placed on them to be sexy and conventionally attractive. Maybe she is just another airhead. Or maybe we’ll never know.

See also:

10 thoughts on “Women vs. the “Sexy” Woman

  1. I don’t know, it’s probably a combination of things and it depends on the observer. It can be:

    – jealousy towards her popularity with men (we all want to be respected based on our merits so seeing that she gets all praise and attention based on looks alone can seem like cheating). But it’s interesting that women who think so rarely blame men for going after these women, because it’s assumed that is simply “the way men are”. What I’m saying is, instead of saying “I don’t want a man who’d be interested in someone who uses such shallow techniques”, women are jealous and they project that on Sexy woman.
    – general jealousy (wanting to be like her, in terms of popularity and admiration, but being unable to look or behave like that or not wanting to behave like that). Similar than the first one, but it’s not so related to men’s attention alone. I know many women who don’t wish to, I don’t know, show their cleavage or dress provocatively, but they still want people to react to them the way they do to these women. It doesn’t work that way.
    – moral issues. They see women who do that as immoral (sluts, whores).
    – disgust at someone wanting to be objectified. Many women who hate being objectified don’t understand why someone would want to be.
    – setting feminism back. Some women believe that this behavior is setting feminism back and that these women are preventing any progress. Some feminists believe that women who play by the man’s world rules are not helping the cause (and it’s not just about sexy women; it can also go for women who wish to fit traditional gender roles, such as wanting to be stay at home mothers and want to be supported by a man). This excuse is particularly bad, because it’s actually contrary to the spirit of feminism (or what it should be), that is, giving women opportunities to DECIDE for themselves what they want to do (marriage or no marriage, miniskirts or covered body, career or being supported by a man, etc.)

    Often, it’s a combination of all of this.

  2. Oh, there’s also another one: homogenizing your own group (of female friends, co-workers, etc.) against another woman (who is Othered). As we all know, Othering is a powerful principle tat ties the group together against the outsider. The more your group of friends trash talk another woman and hate on her, they bring their inner circle closer together. That’s why it’s so “taboo” to offer any counter argument in gossip. Saying: “But she’s actually pretty smart, don’t be like that” is seen as undermining the conversation. Because this kind of talk is no about the person being gossiped, it’s about homogenizing the group and bringing everyone closer together. Saying something that goes against the flow of conversation is preventing it.

  3. Mira, good response.

    I thought of a few of those reasons, and I think you’re definitely on to something. I’d agree that it’s probably a combination of things.

    The first reason is usually the first that comes to mind, but then I remember that there are so many women who are loved by men, who are also admired by women. Adriana Lima, Mila Kunis, (I don’t love them, but other women do), Halle Berry. I wouldn’t say they get less attention from men than say, Kate Upton, the girl in the main photo, does. Yet Kate Upton is hated, for sure. And she pretty much defines the Sexy Woman, in all aspects.

    The second reason, now that sounds interesting. I do think jealousy is involved, somehow, just not in the usual way.

  4. I think what also needs to be taken into account is the level of identification. If a woman can identify with a celebrity (or an ordinary person), chances are that she’ll like the person in question. (I don’t think this is gender specific, BTW. Men do it, too).

    So I suppose there’s something about Halle Berry, Adriana Lima, etc. that makes them relatable, that makes women identify with them. So when they gain success and fame or snatch a hot man (not Adriana though; patriotism aside, her husband is, well, not the hottest guy around), when it happens to these women ordinary women don’t feel that as a threat because this celeb is seen as “one of us”. Especially if you identify with her so her success is yours: someone like you is successful.

    So the question is why girls like Kate Upton (first time hear of her) or, I don’t know, Kim Kardashian (?) are unrelatable but some other sexy women make other women identify with them? I mean, make no mistake, and as horrible as that is, women often prefer female celebs who are good looking. So it’s not like someone who looks unusual is universally loved (say, Tilda Swinton). I do many women prefer female celebs who are good looking – sadly, we all know how (female) audience can be harsh towards female celebs (you had an article about Jessica Simpson). So being good looking is not enough to be hated. Nor is male attention: everybody is happy when a popular female celeb finds a hot guy.

    So I think the answer is whether women can identify with a woman in question or not. There has to be something in Kate Upton and the like that don’t make women identify with her while other ladies mentioned have that “it”. What “it” might be? I have no idea.

  5. Hmmm, being relatable…yes, for some. But Adriana Lima, for example, seems pretty vapid to me and is very concerned with her appearance. I don’t see how most women could relate to her. Halle Berry seems more down-to-earth though and I would say most women think Mila is as well and like her for it.

    Kate Upton is a swimsuit model. She’s as American as NASCAR, so I wouldn’t expect people outside of America to know her. Still she is not extremely popular here yet either: she’s still fairly new to the mainstream scene.

    Perhaps it’s (perceived) classy vs. unclassy? Sexy Women say, do, and wear things that women consider to be trashy.

  6. Well, you said Adriana Lima. I had no idea she was liked by women (for some reason I thought she’d be in the Kate Upton class of women other women dislike). Halle Berry seems classy and many women empathize with her struggles with abusive boyfriends. Charlize Theron also seems to be liked by women. No idea how these things are decided, though. I think women like to see that another woman has a personality beyond her cleavage. Which is understandable, but then again, it can backfire with women who use slut shaming and who think that anyone who chooses to show cleavage is shallow and stupid. But that’s how prejudices work, I guess.

  7. “Well, you said Adriana Lima. I had no idea she was liked by women (for some reason I thought she’d be in the Kate Upton class of women other women dislike).”

    I would’ve thought so too, but on the fitness/shape blogs I go on, that are like 99 percent women, she is loved completely. Actually, admired would be a good word for it. They think she’s a goddess.

    I like Charlize Theron too.

    “I think women like to see that another woman has a personality beyond her cleavage.”

    True for me. But I wouldn’t automatically dislike a woman for not having one. Not everyone is blessed with one. Lol.

  8. Is it fair to mainly look at a persons focus and use of physical attractiveness as objectification? Are there other ways that people can turn themselves into objects that don’t involve physical appearance?
    How about when we peddle other attributes we possess to and employer on a resume? Isn’t this act called ‘selling’ oneself to a prospective employer? In this instance an employer may be looking for the cog that best fits their machine and not an individual to work within an existing social structure who has a focus on production.
    Or how about when a person focuses their own existence on gaining wealth and on the consumption of material goods? Is this an example of objectification of the person?
    Living a moderated life in every aspect of ones existence is a good way to avoid objectifying oneself. The human body isn’t the only part of us that can become an object.

  9. Also, I find it humorous how often women in photographs similar to this one will have some sort of phallus symbol in or near their mouth.

  10. Froggie,

    “Is it fair to mainly look at a persons focus and use of physical attractiveness as objectification? Are there other ways that people can turn themselves into objects that don’t involve physical appearance?”

    Yes, but they are not the topic of this post. Maybe in the future they might be! 😉

    “Also, I find it humorous how often women in photographs similar to this one will have some sort of phallus symbol in or near their mouth.”

    Yes, and it is not at all meant to be subtle.

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