UPDATED: Will Boys Be Boys When it Comes to Objectifying Women?

From a 2009 post by The Punch and News.com.au editor-in-cheif David Penberthy on MamaMia about what men think about female body image:

“Men are much more attracted to a woman’s face than any other part of her body—68 per cent of men surveyed said they looked for a pretty face, just 8 per cent said great breasts, 8 per cent nice legs, and 16 per cent a perfect fat-free figure. In terms of ranking the importance of overall qualities, not one man said appearance was the most important—24 per cent cited personality as the most important, with 76 per cent citing personality and appearance in equal measure.”

Mia Freedman continues in her response to Penberthy’s piece:

“Interestingly, what shouts loudest to me from Penb[erthy]’s post and The Punch survey results is that men don’t really HAVE an ideal. They think we’re all pretty hot. So hot that they’re baffled as to why we’re not lesbians. How can we resist tearing each other’s close off and frolicking in all our diverse glory?”

While this piece doesn’t state the age of the male participants (a condition of the survey was that it was anonymous, so men could speak freely about what they really think), judging from The Punch’s target demographic, I’d be willing to bet they’re of the Generation X age group. From my experience, men that age formed their opinions of and preferences for women before the internet, porn and airbrushing culture were as rampant as they are now, and don’t really complain if they have the chance to get their kit off with some chick.

Hence why I go for older men…

*

It’s been a beauty-centric week here at The Scarlett Woman.

We’ve talked about Grey’s Anatomy and beauty as represented by Cristina Yang, and brains over beauty.

I’d already planned to post those two articles last week before a beauty-related scandal came to light at my workplace.

Apparently, two of my male co-workers had devised a “ranking system” for the hottest to nottest girls in our department.

This is sickening on four levels.

One: it’s sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender and appearance, and those who were victimised by the “ranking” could take those who were responsible for it to H.R. Just look at the Pricewaterhouse Coopers incident. Or the Duke “Fuck List”, on the other side of the coin.

Two: we interact with these men boys (as that’s what they are: one has just turned 21, and the other is 23. But age really has nothing to do with maturity) as friends, colleagues; PEOPLE. Not as objects for them to rate and pit against each other in terms of how we look and nothing else.

Three: I don’t want to have to stoop to their level, but if we were ranking them, one would be at the top in terms of looks, but both would be at the bottom in terms of personality, morals and decency, which is all that really matters. So what gives them the right to judge us?

Four: this is not the ’50s and women are not reduced to what they look like.

The men boys who devised this ranking are sexist misogynists, one of whom I am deeply ashamed to have dated for a short period. Thank God I never got naked with him, ’cause who knows what he would have to say about me then!

What gives them the right to rank us? The same right men’s magazine editors have to rank female celebrities in terms of hotness, I suppose. But the difference there is that, while it’s still pretty sexist but somewhat understandable and accepted, most of the women on the list don’t work with and consider(ed) them friends.

How can you separate the things you know about someone—their personalities, interests, history, temperament etc.—with how they look? I know I can’t.

I was taken aback recently when a coworker praised me for being close friends with a man who’s not super attractive. Unlike the two who ranked me, I don’t make friends in terms of looks. If anything, I find it easier to be myself around and make friends with men I don’t find attractive.

But my so called “ugly” friend has an awesome personality; anyone would agree. And that makes him attractive. And at the end of the day, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

As I mentioned above, one of the men who devised this ranking is probably about an eight in terms of looks, but knowing this about him, in addition to other undesirable traits that lead to our dating demise, makes him a one in the personality department.

Now, I don’t know where I ranked on this list and, frankly, I don’t care. My self-esteem is high enough to not give a shit about what other people think of the way I look. But that’s not the point. How would someone who doesn’t have such high self-esteem feel? As much as we say looks don’t—or shouldn’t—matter, to them, it does.

So is this just a case of “boys will be boys”, as one co-worker who knows about the list put it?

I don’t think it is. You will notice that two out of about thirty were involved in this. The overwhelming majority chose not to act as boys do, whatever that means these days. Again, this is 2011: not 1951.

Another co-worker said “judging” is just what people do. Sure, I judge young mothers who leave their kids with a babysitter so they can go out clubbing, the guidos/ettes from Jersey Shore and, certainly, these two men in light of this list. But I’m judging them on their behaviours and attitudes, not what they look like. And who am I, really, to judge them based on any factor? No one. The same as the makers of this list are to judge us. Nobodies.

At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Ellen DeGeneres brought this up when she interviewed FHM AND Maxim’s Most Beautiful Woman, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, on her show last week. DeGeneres compared Rosie’s “ranking” to her own as “Most Beautiful Woman” on This Old House magazine’s cover. We know Ellen, we like her, and that’s what makes her beautiful, in addition to her physical beauty. Bitch looks good at 53!

And true beauty comes from within. Don’t ever let someone else’s “ranking” of how you look make you forget that.

Related: Beauty VS. Brains.

Cristina Yang as Feminist.

Elsewhere: [Gawker] The “Top 10” Office Email That’s Scandalising Ireland.

[Jezebel] College Girl’s PowerPoint “Fuck List” Goes Viral.

[MamaMia] What MEN Think About Women’s Body Image.

Will Boys Be Boys When it Comes to Objectifying Women?

It’s been a beauty-centric week here at The Scarlett Woman.

We’ve talked about Grey’s Anatomy and beauty as represented by Cristina Yang, and brains over beauty.

I’d already planned to post those two articles last week before a beauty-related scandal came to light at my workplace.

Apparently, two of my male co-workers had devised a “ranking system” for the hottest to nottest girls in our department.

This is sickening on four levels.

One: it’s sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender and appearance, and those who were victimised by the “ranking” could take those who were responsible for it to H.R. Just look at the Pricewaterhouse Coopers incident. Or the Duke “Fuck List”, on the other side of the coin.

Two: we interact with these men boys (as that’s what they are: one has just turned 21, and the other is 23. But age really has nothing to do with maturity) as friends, colleagues; PEOPLE. Not as objects for them to rate and pit against each other in terms of how we look and nothing else.

Three: I don’t want to have to stoop to their level, but if we were ranking them, one would be at the top in terms of looks, but both would be at the bottom in terms of personality, morals and decency, which is all that really matters. So what gives them the right to judge us?

Four: this is not the ’50s and women are not reduced to what they look like.

The men boys who devised this ranking are sexist misogynists, one of whom I am deeply ashamed to have dated for a short period. Thank God I never got naked with him, ’cause who knows what he would have to say about me then!

What gives them the right to rank us? The same right men’s magazine editors have to rank female celebrities in terms of hotness, I suppose. But the difference there is that, while it’s still pretty sexist but somewhat understandable and accepted, most of the women on the list don’t work with and consider(ed) them friends.

How can you separate the things you know about someone—their personalities, interests, history, temperament etc.—with how they look? I know I can’t.

I was taken aback recently when a coworker praised me for being close friends with a man who’s not super attractive. Unlike the two who ranked me, I don’t make friends in terms of looks. If anything, I find it easier to be myself around and make friends with men I don’t find attractive.

But my so called “ugly” friend has an awesome personality; anyone would agree. And that makes him attractive. And at the end of the day, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

As I mentioned above, one of the men who devised this ranking is probably about an eight in terms of looks, but knowing this about him, in addition to other undesirable traits that lead to our dating demise, makes him a one in the personality department.

Now, I don’t know where I ranked on this list and, frankly, I don’t care. My self-esteem is high enough to not give a shit about what other people think of the way I look. But that’s not the point. How would someone who doesn’t have such high self-esteem feel? As much as we say looks don’t—or shouldn’t—matter, to them, it does.

So is this just a case of “boys will be boys”, as one co-worker who knows about the list put it?

I don’t think it is. You will notice that two out of about thirty were involved in this. The overwhelming majority chose not to act as boys do, whatever that means these days. Again, this is 2011: not 1951.

Another co-worker said “judging” is just what people do. Sure, I judge young mothers who leave their kids with a babysitter so they can go out clubbing, the guidos/ettes from Jersey Shore and, certainly, these two men in light of this list. But I’m judging them on their behaviours and attitudes, not what they look like. And who am I, really, to judge them based on any factor? No one. The same as the makers of this list are to judge us. Nobodies.

At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Ellen DeGeneres brought this up when she interviewed FHM AND Maxim’s Most Beautiful Woman, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, on her show last week. DeGeneres compared Rosie’s “ranking” to her own as “Most Beautiful Woman” on This Old House magazine’s cover. We know Ellen, we like her, and that’s what makes her beautiful, in addition to her physical beauty. Bitch looks good at 53!

And true beauty comes from within. Don’t ever let someone else’s “ranking” of how you look make you forget that.

Related: Beauty VS. Brains.

Cristina Yang as Feminist.

Elsewhere: [Gawker] The “Top 10” Office Email That’s Scandalising Ireland.

[Jezebel] College Girl’s PowerPoint “Fuck List” Goes Viral.

Beauty VS. Brains*.

Earlier this week I blogged about Grey’s Anatomy’s Cristina Yang being a feminist.

I mentioned that she scoffs at being called beautiful by her husband, Owen, and would rather be complimented for her brains, not her beauty.

Sure, I enjoy being called beautiful just as much as the next girl, but I, too, would rather people recognise me for what’s on the inside, not what’s on the outside.

From “What’s the Point of Pretty?” by Sarah Von on Yes & Yes:

“‘How would you feel if the only thing people ever praised you for was something you had no control over? And how would you feel if every day, you were slowing losing the one thing people complimented you on?’”

Pretty shitty, especially when striving to be good at things outside the realm of the physical.

So I asked my friend Katrina, the most beautiful woman I know, what her thoughts on the matter were. Would she rather be considered beautiful, or be complimented on her mind?

“It’s a tough question really, so many women—beautiful or not—are inherently self-conscious. Living in the world we do, so much pressure is put on us to fit a particular type of mould. Sometimes I look at other women and think ‘I wish I had her legs’ or ‘I wish I was a unique creature like her’, but it’s not that often. More often I am happy with the way that I appear. In fact, I put more pressure on myself to be intelligent! This is therefore my choice—brains over beauty. I suppose I feel I have something to prove to myself—I’m always striving to be better, to know things. I feel like a failure if I’m not getting where I want to go—but it is my brain that enables me to get how far I am now! Our intelligence enables the world to be our opus, and I’d much rather be admired for taking up that challenge than for swanning around it in a cloud of beauty!”

But do those who are beautiful take it for granted? Is that why they choose brains over beauty? Because they’re already physically blessed? I’d be interested to know in the comments if anyone reading this feels they’re more well endowed in the brains than beauty department, and if they would change this given the choice.

As the quote from Yes & Yes illustrates, it’s actually kind of insulting to be complimented on your looks alone. If anyone should be proud of the way you look, it’s your parents, right? Beyond getting a flattering haircut, using makeup to present your (arguably) best self and—in extreme cases—getting cosmetic surgery, we don’t really have a hand in the way we look.

Maybe this is why young, cute girls are always told how young and cute they are over how smart, how unique, how funny, how nice they are. It’s usually parents and adults who say these things; children are often oblivious to the way they look until a certain age. There are articles circulating the blogosphere at the moment in regards to this. Let’s focus on things other than looks in kids, lest we end up with a world of Heidi Montag’s et al.

It’s also a generational thing, I think. People my age are more aware of the effects of focusing on looks alone, especially for women, and will hopefully raise their kids accordingly.

I had a coworker who’s pushing 40 comment on my hair recently. I was having a bad hair day anyway, and I asked if he was insulting me. He replied: “I could never insult you… not on your looks, anyway.” I found that even more insulting than the fact he thought my body hair was open for discussion!

Perhaps it was the age difference, perhaps it was because he was a man… I don’t know. I just know it’s so not appropriate to comment on people’s looks in the workplace (more on this to come tomorrow). And that equating looks to the only positive thing about someone is reprehensible.

So back to the question at hand: brains or beauty?

I would choose brains hands down. I have chosen brains.

If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gone to uni. Or started a blog. Or read books. Or incite spirited arguments amongst my friends to see what their opinions are on asylum seekers and SlutWalks, and to challenge my own.

Brains will still be with you when your looks have been washed down the drain with the dirty dish basin water. (Provided you don’t get dementia which, if my dad inherits from his dad, could be a very real possibility for me. Argh!)

*And by no means are brains and beauty mutually exclusive.

Related: Cristina Yang as Feminist.

Poor Little Rich Girl: Who Cover Girl Heidi Montag.

The Hills Have (Dead) Eyes.

My Response: Go Back to Where You Came From.

Elsewhere: [Yes & Yes] What’s the Point of Pretty?

[Jezebel] Should We Tell Little Girls They’re Pretty?

[The Huffington Post] How to Talk to Little Girls.

Image via All Posters.

TV: Cristina Yang as Feminist.

 

When it comes to “likeable” female characters on TV, you might think of Buffy Summers. Or Rachel Green. Or the Gilmore girls. But Grey’s Anatomy’s Cristina Yang probably isn’t one of them.

She’s abrasive, unfeeling, career-driven, ruthless and selfish. Everything a woman shouldn’t be, according to patriarchal norms.

Perhaps she could be more like the ousted Izzie Stevens, who was bubbly and sexy and baked cookies. Or the virginal and highly-strung April Kempner, whom Cristina praises for having “virgin super powers”, enabling her to be super-organised.

But I like Cristina just the way she is. She’s got her eye on the prize, won’t compromise her personal beliefs or goals to be liked or for a man, and she’s got “tiny little genius” hands that enable her to roll with the big guns.

This is why Cristina Yang is one of the only “feminist”—or “strong female”—characters on television. Nay, in all of fiction.

For one thing, she refuses to rely on her looks or her feminine wiles to get ahead. In “This is How We Do It” in season seven, she rejects Owen’s compliment about her beauty, saying, “If you want to appease me, compliment my brain.” (Stay tuned for more on beauty versus brains this week.)

And in last week’s final, we saw Cristina exercise her right to choose, and schedule her second abortion on the show, after much (mostly solo) deliberation. While excluding the opinion of her significant other and father of the future child wasn’t the most respectful thing to do, ultimately it came down to her choice, and she chose to terminate the pregnancy.

In season two, Cristina divulges that she’s pregnant to Dr. Burke and, again, makes the decision to get an abortion on her own. Whereas a character like Izzie seems to serve the pro-life agenda (she gave up her own baby for adoption when she was a teenager growing up in a trailer park, and convinced a HIV-positive woman to carry her pregnancy to term), Cristina resists the societal pressures to tap into her maternal instincts and give birth to a child she does not want.

Regardless of whose agenda could be seen as being served by Cristina’s character, she acts without fear of what other people will think of her.

As a person, no matter what gender, it is seemingly second nature to want others to like us, and to portray our best selves to them. Just look at the ritual of the date or the job interview. That Cristina defies this action (though we have seen her star struck when meeting surgeons like Tom Evans, and Preston Burke for the first time) makes her not just a feminist character, but a truly humanist one.

There are people in this world who challenge us, grate on us, and whom we genuinely don’t like or approve of. But that’s what makes the world go around. Cristina Yang being one of these kinds of people, and being portrayed to us as a whole person on television, with hopes and dreams and trials and tribulations and relationships and a career and no desire for children, and not just as the bitchy mother-in-law who lives off her husband’s money and needs a good fuck, is truly a sight to behold.

Related: Grey’s Anatomy Final Asks “When Does Life Begin?”

The Underlying Meaning in Grey’s Anatomy’s “Superfreak” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

Elsewhere: [The Feel of Free] Cristina Yang + You Can’t Compromise on a Baby.

[Marinagraphy] Motherhood, Cristina Yang & Grey’s Anatomy.

Image via Home of the Nutty.

TV: Grey’s Anatomy Final Asks “When Does Life Begin?”

 

Last night’s Grey’s final saw the seeming collapse of Derek and Meredith’s marriage over Meredith tampering with the Alzheimer’s clinical trial just as baby Zola came into their lives, pending the finalisation of the adoption papers.

Derek chided Meredith for swapping the active drug with the placebo for Richard’s wife, Adele, asking her how she couldn’t differentiate between right and wrong. Meredith replied that to her, things aren’t just right and wrong; there are shades of grey (hello, her last name’s Grey!), and that she’d do it all over again if it meant that Adele got better.

Derek should know this. Back in season five, when Derek introduces Meredith to his mother, she exclaimed that Meredith was good for him: he’s black and white and she’s grey.

But it didn’t stop him walking out on his wife for failing to see her reasoning, much like Owen failed to see Cristina’s reasoning, and kicked her out after she scheduled an abortion without his input.

Yes, that’s right: Cristina’s pregnant, much to her dismay.

She doesn’t want a baby. Never has, and never will. But Owen can’t understand this, and pushes her to see his side.

Now, this is where it starts to get messy. I’m not ashamed to say I’m staunchly pro-choice, so much so that I take the line of reasoning that if in doubt, abort. Especially if the woman in question is young, a victim of rape or incest, or can’t afford to have a baby. To me, life begins when the foetus is out of the womb and has taken its first breath. But I agree with Owen in that Cristina should have allowed him to have a say in the matter of abortion. But I also think that if Owen married Cristina knowing she didn’t want children but thinking he could persuade her anyway, he’s an idiot.

Cristina echoes this notion somewhat when she informs her husband she’s pregnant. Owen is overjoyed; Cristina has a migraine.

She tells him flat out that she doesn’t want a baby, and he responds with, “Well, you have one.”

“Are you getting all lifey on me?!” she remarks in disbelief, while he proceeds to ask her how far along she is, and if the foetus has feet and hands. How dare he tell her when life begins, she reasons.

While the storyline is clearly personal, not medical, it seems that Owen leans towards pro-life, though that could just be because the foetus in question contains his DNA. I don’t think doctors should push their personal opinions onto a pregnant woman who is coming to terms with the “unwanted tissue” inside her. I would go as far to say that I don’t think doctors with pro-life beliefs should be practicing medicine.

Still, Cristina is absolutely right when she says she’s not “compromising” on a baby: “You don’t have half a baby!… You don’t ‘give a little’ on a baby.”

While it’s perhaps easier for the father to bow out on raising their biological child, mothers usually don’t have that (ad)option. Cristina just plain and simply doesn’t. Want. A. Baby. But if she has it, she knows she’ll love it. (That’s the risk women run when they give their children up for adoption.) Owen shouldn’t have put her in the position to do something she doesn’t want to do (“It’s not like pizza or Thai.”), thinking she will “come around” later.

While Derek and Meredith deal with the fall out of Meredith’s “wrong” decision, how will Owen deal with Cristina’s decision? Was it “right” or “wrong”? And how will Grey’s Anatomy continue to discuss the “when does life begin?” question?

Related: The Underlying Message in Grey’s Anatomy‘s “Superfreak” Episode.

Elsewhere: [The Feel of Free] Cristina Yang + You Can’t Compromise on a Baby.

[Marinagraphy] Resisting Motherhood in Grey’s Anatomy.

Images via VideoBB.