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I Feel Pretty: Judging Women by Their Appearance

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When Maria sang "I Feel Pretty" in West Side Story, debuting in 1957 on Broadway, women were expected to be pretty. That was their main function, besides bearing children and keeping the house clean. Likewise, "I Enjoy Being a Girl" was about the Asian American woman from the 1958 musical, Flower Drum Song.

Yet when you hear people like Donald Trump criticizing another celebrity — one that didn't have a father's legacy to help find success in life — instead of attacking her as an equal, as a man, he calls her "a fat slob," an "animal" and a "big, fat pig."

Donald Trump doesn't need to look at himself in the mirror. He's that self-assured. He has money and money makes him attractive. He has had three beautiful wives. If he did look in the mirror, he'd see someone who is overweight and not particularly good looking. Yet do you think The Donald talks about male opponents as "fat slobs"?

Rosie O'Donnell isn't a slob as far as we know from her public persona. It's more likely that Donald Trump just fell back on the cliche that an overweight person must be a slob. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans are overweight.

There is something creepy about an older man like Donald Trump who practices serial monogamy, marrying former beauty queens and divorcing them, owning the Miss Universe Organization, which includes Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. This is made even creepier by Trump's public mulling over an offer by Playboy magazine.

Perhaps Trump feels that Playboy is in line with the ideals of Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen — women should be pretty and be willing to be put on display for the fantasies of men.

Likewise, I find Jay Leno's comments about Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, focused on his perception of her unattractiveness. So the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was a better consort or princess because she photographed well? Would we laugh if Jay Leno made the same remarks about a man who wasn't good looking? Or is it that men aren't expected to be beautiful?

Would Rosie O'Donnell be a better person or a better comic if she was thin and beautiful? Or would she be a bitch unless she smiled and made men happy?

Beauty pageants, no matter what their name or what scholarships they offer, are basically just that — a means of pointing out what pleases a man's eye and not who achieves worthy goals without wearing heels, short skirts, or a bathing suit. I've heard the same sort of remarks in my workplace, an Internet company. Men talking about a female executive who was leaving the company only remarked about her looks and not about how brilliant she must be to make so much more money than them. Similar remarks about attractiveness weren't made about the male executives leaving in the same time frame. Instead, they talked about their character and personalities.

Yet life shouldn't be a professional beauty pageant and women should be judged on their competence or worth, not by their attractiveness. Being pretty shouldn't be a vocation or an aspiration for a girl or a woman. Achieving one's full potential as a human being should, using one's intellect and skills. Women have come a long way since suffrage and the women's movement but we obviously still have a long way to go.

I feel pretty and I enjoy being a girl, but I also like being respected as an intelligent human being with skills that prove that I'm not just a pretty face.

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About Murasaki

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    This deserves more comment than the High School Musical review.

    Rosie won the staged argument with her points which were similar to yours. Even if she’s whoring it up on the joke of a program that is The View. She had a good daytimne show. She’s serving the most base waste of time with The View. Walters equally show. Money is good.

    Camilla is a success story. It’s a shame that Princess Diana had to be hurt in the middle of it all, but Prince Charles and Camilla are obviously a better couple. They’ve convinved Princes William and Harry of that, even while they obviously love their mother.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Yes, the Donald can be creepy. He gave the subway hero who saved a guy from certain death in NYC 10 grand–chump change to him, and almost an insult–while he forgives Miss America everything (not that it’s such a crime, but it’s more of a priority thing).

    I think it is terribly hard for women, even now. to separate looks from self-esteem. Plus the ingrained need to please is still embedded in many women’s minds. I think this is truer of young women who have not yet found their way. As women gain in accomplishments (whether in a high powered job and/or raising wonderful children) looks tend to take a bit more of a back seat–at least for some.

    The thing that gets me is, for example, how often one sees commercials with married couples–the man is often obese, balding, and generally schlumpy, while the wife is always more attractive. What does this say about our expectations? Perhaps the biggest insult a woman can receive is hearing that she’s “let herself go.”

    Of course, it’s a great bonus when one can be attractive and accomplished. It’s often a social perk, unless it is allowed to become a liability. And it does have its disadvantages too.

  • The village Idiot

    I cant stand Rosie Purple, nor do I ever agree with you, however I find myself in a position of concurment. Lord I must be loseing my conservative mind with dementra or alzheimers. As always Elvira right on. Did I say I cant stand Rosie Purple? Purple, I cant stand Rosie. Dam rum. It just makes you smoke and drink more rum. Freck it. sr

  • STM

    PT said: “Donald Trump doesn’t need to look at himself in the mirror. He’s that self-assured. He has money and money makes him attractive. He has had three beautiful wives. If he did look in the mirror, he’d see someone who is overweight and not particularly good looking. Yet do you think The Donald talks about male opponents as “fat slobs”?”

    The Donald would do well to be extremely worried about his comb-over.

    I know it worries me ….

  • http://murasaki.blog-city.com Purple Tigress

    What I think is creepy about a man like Trump owning the beauty queen contest franchise is it might also serve as auditions for his next wife.

    What Trump doesn’t talk about is the morality of his lifestyle.

    Like all stand-up comics, Rosie O’Donnell is milking the situation. I wouldn’t characterize it as whoring because that seems sexist as well and I don’t see how she is selling herself out by defending herself or voicing her opinion.

  • RedTard

    I don’t see what the big deal is, everyone is judged by their appearance, male or female. Yes, in an ideal world it’d be different but it’s not and very unlikely to change.

    Beautiful people will always have an advantage whether it’s searching for mates or jobs. There’s no objective way to measure beauty but if there was I’d be willing to say it weighs heavily on a person’s overall success in many areas. (of course there are major exceptions to every generalization)

    That being said, here’s your google winner:

    ‘Donald Trump’ – 2260K
    ‘comb over’ – 308K
    ‘Donald Trump’ ‘comb over’ – 53K

    ‘Rosie o donnell’ – 3070K
    fat – 171000K
    ‘Rosie o donnell’ fat – 756K

    Answer- a draw of course. For shear namecalling, a fat Rosie takes the cake but percentagewise an impressive 1 in 6 mentions of the word combover is in reference to the trumpster.

  • RedTard

    I missed another obvious one. There’s actually 902K mentions of “donald trump”+fat (more than Rosie and a higher percentage association). Interesting……

  • Baronius

    No one laughs at Jay Leno.

    He goes for the cheapest references possible. Blah blah Teddy Kennedy blah blah drunk. Blah blah Bush blah blah stupid. Leno actually makes fun of Prince Charles’s looks, maybe a little less frequently than Camilla’s.

    I think you’ve got a valid point in your article, but I wouldn’t have used Trump as your starting point. He doesn’t address anyone as an equal. He seems to choose his public controversies carefully, like when he went after Martha Stewart. And Rosie O’Donnell is a perfect target. She has a daily talk show and holds a grudge.

    You indirectly hit on another interesting topic: can a man find a woman funny and attractive? It doesn’t happen that often. Humor and attraction are both visceral. Cultural standards of each may change, but individual preferences are strong. A man has to get past a woman’s looks to find her funny.

  • duane

    I never judge a woman by her looks. Unless she’s really ugly, of course.

    I do, however, judge men by their looks. If a guy is better looking than me, although few and far between, he’s a jerk. Simple as that.

  • http://murasaki.blog-city.com Purple Tigress

    If you don’t find attractive women funny, that is probably more a reflection upon your own problems.

    There have been plenty of women who were attractive and could be funny: Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore and Sandra Bullock to name a few.

    A man who can’t get past a woman’s looks to perceive her personality or that she has an ability to be funny is still a boy emotionally.

  • Melita Teale

    At the point a man finds a woman both funny and attractive he’s on the short road to caring about her. How do you think men would get through life if they cared about everybody they were attracted to? They’d be blundering around weeping, singing, or writing poetry all the time. Useless.

    Anyways, the conditions you discuss in the article – insulting as they may feel – should change not only for the sake of women but for the men who limit themselves by not fully collaborating with women. The (faster) rate female graduates are entering the workplace armed with brass balls; their dominance in some sectors, and increasing dominance in others . . . I’m not saying men should get ready for the battery cages, but they’d find themselves much better off in the long term if they could appreciate the money being made for them by women, the fact their professional advancement will increasingly depend on their female co-workers, blah blah blah . . .

    What I mean is women (at least North American women) can get out of a sexist bind with some hurt feelings and extra struggling, but men who can’t fully collaborate with women lose long-term and profoundly.

    And Rosie O’Donnell sucks. Speak some more Chinese there, moron.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/q_bit Q Bit

    @PT

    A man who can’t get past a woman’s looks to perceive her personality or that she has an ability to be funny is still a boy emotionally.

    True but the above holds equally for women who more often than not are craving for a Tom Cruise with neurons of Einstein and wit of Letterman.

    There’s nothing wrong about how the opposite sexes size up each other–it’s purely relative. If pretty faces work for some, then so be it, because for many a pretty face just wouldn’t cut the ice. However an intelligent personality always helps to move things ahead, regardless of looks to a very very good extent.

    @MT

    … but men who can’t fully collaborate with women lose long-term and profoundly.

    Simply, not true. Collaboration works on the basis of mutual needs and benefits. Nothing else. Sure there are pigheads of either sex, but they shouldn’t be of our concern.

  • http://murasaki.blog-city.com Purple Tigress

    I think you are going off on a tangent. Donald Trump is not good-looking, but he has money. You bring up David Letterman. Another man who is not good-looking. There are women who are willing to marry them and they are not the butt of jokes because they are physically unattractive.

    However, Trump’s comments seem to evaluate Rosie O’Donnell based on her looks. And that along with his marital history and his support of the beauty pageants seem to support the concept that it is a woman’s role to be pretty or beautiful.

    The comment that the particular writer would have to get past a woman’s looks before he could consider her funny seems remarkably shallow.

    One wonders what other appearances such people cannot get past to evaluate a person on his or her merit–race? Age? Ethnicity? Economic status? Physical handicap?

    There is something wrong with sizing up women with the expectation that they have worth if they are attractive and they don’t have worth or value if they are not.

    There is nothing funny about the lopsided targeting of women based on physical attractiveness–for argumentation or for comedy.

    I do agree that a man who cannot collaborate with a woman lose out long-term because no person is an island and you can’t really ignore the majority of the world’s population or mistreat/misjudge them without some consequence.

    Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    It is no mistake that women’s rights and civil rights were movements that attracted many of the same people.

    Why can’t we dream of a nation or even a world where a woman is not judged by her face, breasts, waist or legs but by the content of her character?

  • Melita Teale

    @QB

    How do you think you’re arguing what I wrote isn’t true? Women are getting better educations and entering the workforce at a faster rate. So collaborating with them would obviously help out with mutual needs and benefits. That’s not abstract and it’s not rocket science.

  • Zedd

    Women are evaluated by their looks and man are evaluated by their power

    Guys try to demonize women who want a rich man but that is how alpha male status is gauged in our society. The more money you have the greater chance that ones offspring will be safe (subconciously)

    The better looking you are, the greater the chance for you to have offspring that are healthy. Also beauty is subconsciously gauged by how symmetrical ones body is

    Sorry for the nerdy contribution. Just adding some facts.

  • Q Bit

    @MT:

    Perhaps because you insinuated a generalization in your entire previous comment which I presume was based on exceptions?

    @PT

    Generally agree with your remarks but you will be surprised to find how often women tend to draw their conclusions based on looks, and looks alone.

    I suppose shallowness of mind cuts both the genders equally, Women tend to feel the heat more often than men simply because they are in transition to assert their authority on social structure and day-to-day functioning of the society. You get the picture when you realize not so long ago women were not eligible to vote.

  • http://murasaki.blog-city.com Purple Tigress

    It’s hard not to generalize in a country where a national pageant of bathing suit beauties and Sports Illustrated has a swimsuit issue and yet nothing comparable for men of the same national stature.

    Surely there are women who are just as superficial as men, but it would seem that the American culture encourages men to be superficial and women to cater to men’s superficiality and excuse it.

  • Jen

    I agree with the article when it talked about how a female colleague who is leaving is referenced by how good looking she is, but a male colleague by his character and accomplishments. Sizing someone’s physical appearance in evaluating them for dating is one thing, but what relevance does it have in relation to work performance? This probably doesn’t bother younger woman, because they believe they are invincible to the aging process. But believe me, you’ll be a “ma’am” sooner than you know it, and all those other qualities you possess – sense of humor, dedication, etc, are forgotten, only your looks are remembered. But if you’re a man, you can be whatever you want, at whatever age you want. It must be nice to be a man, I’m envious….

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