On Saturday my copy of the first ever issue of Subtext – the new UK feminist magazine – arrived through the post. (If you have any spare cash, buy it now!)
This post is inspired by a paragraph in Lorraine Douglas’ article Somebody’s Watching You on the subject of the beauty industry and how it embodies the divide-and-conquer method of attack on natural female beauty (and self-esteem), by encouraging us all to judge one another on looks.
One feminist remarked to me that she had noticed that other feminists tended not to conform to traditional standards of attractiveness, and that she believed this meant that those deemed “unattractive” were more likely to find themselves drawn to feminism.
(In other words, ugly women turn feminist more often than pretty women do.)
I have no idea whether this is true, or if there is any evidence one way or the other. However, if is a commonly cited thing and, who knows, it might be true. If it is, then Douglas suggests three main reasons why this might be the case.
(1) Women not complying with the required standards of beauty are more likely to question those standards and thus to discover feminism.
(2) Women who have discovered feminism are more likely to reject those oppressive standards of beauty and to actively choose non-compliance.
(3) Women who do meet the patriarchy-approved standards may well feel alienated or rejected by a feminism that does not “approve” of pretty women.
Reading this, I found myself thinking – number one, check; number two, check; number three, um. I found myself feeling a bit dubious about that one. No, not feeling dubious. I found myself almost sliding over it and not even noticing it properly until I read the paragraph a second or even a third time.
What is this? Is there inside me, little feminist non-judgemental me, some hostility to pretty women? Is that why I managed to almost completely ignore reason nunber 3? It is easier to think that pretty women don’t want to be on my bus than to believe that I’ve put a sign on the front that says No Pretty Women Here, Thanks. But I think the latter might be nearer to the truth.
Fat women, thin women, women with dodgy teeth, spotty women, short women, tall women, women with facial hair, women who laugh like drains. Ordinary women. Any women but pretty women. Cos pretty women intimidate me. I decide in my head that they are too pretty, and therefore too popular, to like me – so I decide in advance that I don’t like them. How unfair is that? It never even occurs to me that someone who looks like a cover girl might think like a human being.
The patriarchy’s got me. I blame the patriarchy!