Sorry, ladies, this one isn’t on us

Generally I don’t comment on trends in the fashion industry, but I thought I’d make a brief exception to that rule. I read an article that claims many fashion models, in an effort to stay rail thin, actually eat tissues. Personally I’ve always been a barbecued Kleenex kind of guy but, of course, who doesn’t love a good old fashioned dish of homemade boiled toilet paper?

Anyway, I read a few of the comments under the article, and I’ve seen some of the analysis of this infamous anorexic model phenomenon, and it always surprises me to see so many people blaming the problem on “unrealistic expectations from a male dominated society”. I don’t know where this idea originated, or why it’s still so popular, but let me be the latest in a long line of men to say, respectfully, WE DON’T FIND BONY AND UNDERNOURISHED WOMEN TO BE AT ALL ATTRACTIVE. STOP IT. In my life I’ve never actually met a dude who likes women primarily for their skeletal structures. I’ve never heard a guy say “Man, did you see that lady? She looked like she’d been wandering in a desert for 14 years, she was so beautiful!” Even the most superficial man is not likely to become overly enamored with a woman’s rib cage or protruding vertebral column. Grown men are attracted to females who look, first, like human beings and, second, like grown women. We don’t want women to be emaciated and frail. We don’t want to be afraid to hug them because we’re worried we’ll shatter them into pieces like a fluorescent light bulb. I’ll be the first to blame men for a lot of problems in society, but anorexia ain’t one of them. When I’m standing in line at the grocery store and I see the girls on the covers of the fashion magazines, I am filled only with the urge to give them all an IV and a blanket.

In fact, who actually reads these fashion magazines? Who really cares what celebrities look like? Who is most likely to pass negative judgments on a woman’s physical appearance? Who is imposing these harsh and unreasonable expectations on females? Well, to answer all four questions: Women, women, women, and, yep, women. Look, I call my fellow men to the carpet quite a bit. I lay the blame on us guys for many cultural issues – from a lack of chivalry to the tragedy of fatherless homes, but, ladies, you have to step up and claim this one. You’ve got your own collective problems, and judgmental superficiality is definitely one of them. Unrealistic expectations are another one. And by that I mean unrealistic expectations of both yourself and men. That’s the main reason why I hate all those damned romantic comedies and Nicholas Sparks movies. They give impressionable teenage girls the fantastical and impossible idea that one day they’ll meet a rugged, charming, handsome, mysterious, funny, romantic, poetic, buff, athletic, blue collar yet financially secure male model with calloused hands, a tortured soul, and an acoustic guitar, who will fight for her affections against a rich and witty, yet snobbish and emotionally distant, New York attorney. That scenario has never played out — even once — in the history of mankind. Yet it’s one of the most common plots in Hollywood. These girls shouldn’t be searching for Ryan Gosling, they should be looking for a hard working, loyal, spiritually founded, honest guy who will love them, protect them, rub their feet after a long day and take out the garbage without being asked. You’ll have a hard enough time finding that dude, but at least he exists. That doesn’t mean you lower the bar, it just means you shift the bar over from the enchanted forest in fairy tale land to the mean streets of reality-ville.

And if you stop looking for a movie character mate, you can then stop trying to look like a movie character yourself. Men don’t need that. We aren’t looking for that. A guy, as soon as he grows some hair on his chest, gets a job, moves out of the house, and matures emotionally, wants a woman with a personality, with a brain, with a sense of humor, not with one percent body fat. Believe me, I’m happy that my wife happens to be physically beautiful but I’m happier that she’s smart and honest and, while I’m getting angry at the news and at people who leave their shopping carts in the middle of the parking lot, she’s walking around with a smile on her face most of the time, because she’s got more positive energy than any person I’ve ever met in my life. If men really ran the world there wouldn’t be a fashion industry and, most likely, Maybelline and Cover Girl would need a government bailout to stay in business. We really do love you for who you are and we really do want you to order the steak instead of the salad and we really don’t need you to layer on the makeup or wear uncomfortable shoes.

So, do these things if you feel the need, but don’t do them for our sake.

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10 Responses to Sorry, ladies, this one isn’t on us

  1. K says:

    Amen and amen! From a Christian, athletic, attractive mom and wife

  2. Mary says:

    I absolutely agree with you when it comes to the truly “model” stick-thin, bony look. Part of me is cheering. But I have to disagree that American men (collectively, very generally– how else can one speak of at least 49% of the population?) do not give preference to a thinner figure– thinner than the “average” woman. Put that sparkling personality, stellar character, wonderful wit and impressive intelligence into a not- at-all-obese, but more plump and bumpy body. Now put the same into a svelte, not bony but thin, very toned body. Package #2 gets the man, almost every time. Package #1 gets the leftovers, if and when she is noticed.
    I completed an unintended and unscientific, but fascinating and revealing bit of personal research on this in my teens. Within the space of a bit LESS THAN ONE YEAR, my body went from very slightly heavy (not overweight at all, just the higher end of range)… to a bit thinner… to “fashionably thin” and svelte… to bony thin anorexic… back up to “fashionably thin” … then very normal… and, finally, to just a bit into the heavier end of normal. All the while, I was the same person inside. Same personality, same intelligence, same character. A graph of male attention experienced through that 11 months would absolutely mirror, with shocking precision, a concurrent graph of weight/body shape. During the months I was “fashionably thin”, oh my goodness! One day boys chased my car to try to meet me! The football QB became interested in me all of a sudden! When my weight crossed into anorexic territory, it stopped. But on the way up again in weight through “fashionably thin”, whoah! But interest died off to nearly nothing with a few pounds more… on the SAME PERSON. Similar experience in the past year, as I’m back in the dating world once more. Lost 20 pounds in a matter of 3 months. I am now considered thin, and am a bit thinner than most typical women I know. Night and day difference in the interest in my “personality” and the number of men getting to know me… A difference too dramatic and huge to ignore. Thin is a desirable factor.
    I also absolutely agree that women are harsh on each other and on themselves, and that Hollywood movies don’t help. I agree that many men are happy with their real-life women. But men are NOT off the hook for the general pressure to be some version of thin– one that is not realistic for many women and cannot be attained without special effort.

  3. Mary says:

    (P.S. And I laughingly add… My current body-state, while definitely not runway-ready, “skinny” or bony generally, does reveal a bit of “skeletal structure” in a couple of spots –just not ribs and spine! If this were not a forum open to, you know, the Whole Wide World and children and all, maybe I’d feel comfortable recounting the highly positive and complimentary– if rather forward– comments I’ve received several times, yep, specifically on aspects of my skeletal structure of all things!! True story.)

    • Margie says:

      yep. I completely agree with you on this comment and the previous “experiment”, of which I went through in high school and college too. Always the same person, intelligence, and morals….yet as the lbs creeped off there was always a perfect linear correlation to how much male attention I received and how crazy they went for me.

  4. traci b says:

    As usual, Matt is the voice of reason! Love this guy – read his blog daily!

  5. Finicky Cat says:

    Yeah… We all know it shouldn’t, but THIN does matter. Of course there is too thin – “she’s like going to bed with a bicycle” – but thin is a nearly inescapable part of “beautiful” in this part of the world. Like clear skin. And cleavage. Still, Matt, I think your point was largely a good one. God knows we need more men who will demand an whole woman – a real person – not just a pretty facade, just as we need more women willing to be real and whole…

  6. Dan DeSantis says:

    I don’t think you understand anorexia. Anorexic persons don’t aspire to a skeletal, grotesque appearance. It’s driven by various other factors, often including severe anxiety over perceived imperfections in one’s appearance. This can lead sufferers to believe that these isolated regions indicate that they are overweight or that these areas can only be corrected by further weight loss. Distorted self-image is the chief motivation for anorexia, and it’s intuitive that cultural values and pressures are the primary source of warped self-image. That anorexia occurs astronomically more frequently in women than men suggests the obvious conclusion to which you object in your post – that anorexia is largely attributable to the tendency of a historically patriarchal society to overvalue appearance and undervalue (and even undermine) potentially independent or commanding traits and skills in women.

  7. Tracy Smith says:

    Since when is speaking your mind wrong ? Freedom of speak, Freedom of thought, freedom of religion. Good bye A&E !

  8. Janna says:

    You missed the point. Eating disorders have many different causes. Some are because of society’s expectation of perfection (both men AND women are guilty of this). Sometimes that’s how they start. And then if spirals into a mental illness that takes control of your life and you aren’t even yourself anymore.
    Anorexia is about perfection. A common theme you’ll hear from those who suffer from it is, “I’m not the best at anything, but I can be the best at being anorexic.” Bulimia is about hatred. It’s hating yourself for who you are, and punishing yourself. And you know what eating disorders are, in the end? A coping mechanism. It’s the way these people are coping with things in their lives. It’s how they avoid feelings and the circumstances they are in. Lots of women AND MEN with eating disorders have been abused, physically, sexually, and/or emotionally.
    In the very end, eating disorders are not about being thin. Yes, they are so difficult to overcome and you will live with them for the rest of your life. There’s going to be fear foods, and agonizing over how much you weigh and how much you look. But strip everything away, take away the behaviors, and there’s pain and unhealed wounds from the past that’s causing it all.
    So yes, society may be a contributing factor. But eating disorders are so much more complicated than that. And no amount of men saying, “We don’t want you to look like that!” will cure them.

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