Sunday, November 7, 2010

Makeup, Nancy Pelosi and Cleavage

A male reader (yes, there a few beyond Husband No. 1) noted following last week's blog entry about "The Beauty Bias" that women demand honesty in their relationships with men but:

"Those same women won't allow men or other women to see them before they have covered their lips in gloss, colored their hair to be something it isn't and in other ways changed their appearance so that they don't appear to be what they actually are at all. There's no truth in advertising here, is there? It's like "I want you to be honest" but "allow me to advertise myself as a beauty queen when in fact I'm not that at all."

As one who admits to wearing makeup and possibly "enhancing" my hair color, I suppose I might fall into this group. But I never claimed to be a beauty queen -- I gave up that dream long ago, but only because of the stilettos requirement (see previous blog entry).

In any case, the male reader's sentiments would seem to support a major point of "The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law": Men don't have to shell out money for makeup and hair color to be considered attractive.

And, as this reader points out, I married Husband No. 1 despite his long hair, beard and lack of makeup. (In my defense, I was going for income potential.) I also married him without having seen his bare chin. When he shaved his beard 10 years later on his 40th birthday, No. 1 son, then a toddler, ran screaming from the bathroom from the shock of seeing his father's naked face. At least I stayed in the room.

In any case, makeup seems to be one more area where expectations for men and women are different, and not always in a good way, which brings me to Nancy Pelosi. In New Hampshire, the nation's first female House Speaker was the devil in many of the vicious election campaign ads targeting Democratic incumbents. "Candidate X voted with Nansy Pelosi" or "He voted for Nancy Pelosi's health care plan," etc.

Do you remember another election where candidates were skewered for affiliation with the US Speaker of the House -- and would it have happened this year the California congresswoman were male? No matter what you think of Pelosi, is it possible that some of these attacks were not connected to partisan politics or her effectiveness in getting legislation passed, but because there are those who find it extremely threatening to see a strong woman in a position of power? So much for breaking through the "marble ceiling."

Last week, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer interviewed Pelosi following the Republican tidal wave that ousted her, and the Democrats, from power. After asking Pelosi about the election and being a role model for women politicians, Sawyer said, "Now what about your grandchildren? Will you be spending more time with them?" I couldn't hear her response because I was screaming at the television set: "Would you ask that of a man?" I got my answer not long afterward when she interviewed the incoming speaker, Ohio Republican Congressman John Boehner: There were no questions about grandchildren.

And this brings me to cleavage. Has anyone else noticed that many young women seem to be displaying a lot of it? I don't consider myself a prude, but when a young female reporter recently arrived at my office to interview me, I couldn't avoid noticing that her idea of professional attire included a blouse that showed at least three inches of cleavage. Is this the new fashion? Is it some sort of empowerment thing that no one's told me about? Does it occur to them that if people are looking at their breasts, these same people might not be listening as carefully to their words?

And then I have to ask: If women are showing cleavage because they think it makes them attractive, why don't men? I posed that question recently to a group of middle-aged woman and one reacted by saying, "Yech, who'd want to see that?"

Well, me for one. If nothing else, that would mean one less area where men and women are treated so differently when it comes to appearance. But my true preference would be that everyone cover themselves up, especially in the professional arena, so that people will be spending more time thinking about what comes from a person's brain than her -- or his -- body.


E. B. Davis said...

Pat, I agree with you entirely. Last year there was a case where a female sports reporter claimed sexual harassment against some sport's players in the locker room because they said inappropriate things to her. Then, on the TV, there was a picture of her with her boobs hanging out. What does she expect? If she dressed and acted professionally, bet she would have received different treatment.

I wear make-up when I meet with people or look horrible and I'm trying to cover up the fact. It's a mask. Women who wear make-up are judged smarter than those who don't. I don't know why and what make-up has to do with anything. When I'm sitting on the beach without a lick of make-up on and others are slaving away at the office with a full face of it on, I feel like one smart cookie.

PatRemick said...

Excellent points, all. With billions spent with the intent of making women think they need all these things -- makeup, hair color, better breasts etc., I don't know if we'll see this change. And I wonder if this attempt to make women feel inferior if they don't indulge in all of the above is part of the reason women debase/subjugate themselves in all these music videos (don't get me started) or if it's all a male fantasy.

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