It’s Your Duty to Be Beautiful: Beauty is as beauty does (Responses, Part 1)

A beautiful woman from TurkeyMy original thoughts on the Annie Lennox song, “It’s Your Duty to Be Beautiful” in our ongoing class discussion launched the most discussed message thread for the activity. It was an interesting and illuminating discussion about women and self-image. It also discusses ideas about the physical ideal, fantasy ideal, romantic ideal, and how they all play a part in attracting and keeping men’s interest. Enjoy!


Written by Kellie Burns on April 24, 2008 10:46 PM (CC-BY-SA Licensed):

Will,

I think that you and Michael are both correct. Appearance and a great attitude are both attractive to me. I enjoy spending time with a people who have a great personality. Women with high self-esteem are hot! On the other hand, I find women who are a healthy weight (not skinny), clear skin, well-dressed, neatly trimmed hair, tan, and a “nice” breast size attractive.

It is to my understanding that all men have a need to “relieve” themselves through-out the week. (I know I’m treading thin waters, and I don’t want to cross the netiquette line. I still wanted to bring up the topic, though, because I felt it could be relevant.) Honestly, if I were a male and had the need to visit websites to release tension, I wouldn’t look for a site with women with mustaches and/or unibrows. I think that I may find a site with the stereotypical woman to carry out my fantasy. If I were a male, I would probably look at beautiful women as they passed me downtown. I would notice thin, well-groomed, well-dressed women more than I noticed the woman in plain, baggy clothes that hasn’t had a hair cut in 12 months, and is overweight.

On the contrary, as a woman, I feel intimidated by women in little clothes and “booming” bodies. I don’t understand why I feel so uncomfortable around them. I know that I am strong, smart, and pretty. Somehow, these women are still capable of making me feel inadequate.

I do wonder if everyone has something about their body that they would like to be different. I have a hard time believing that there is someone out there that is completely excited about every single physical aspect of their body. I think that some people have just learned to accept themselves for who they are, and in turn, they focus on more fun things in life. That doesn’t mean that they are completely satisfied with what they were dealt in physical traits. It just means that they believe that there are more important things in life than obsessive calorie counting.

Wow. Thank you for the great and thought provoking reply.

I agree with you that it is unlikely that most men would actively seek out overweight, neglectful, or even frumpy women to help “release tension” (though the term chubby chasers was invented for a reason). I think there is a difference between a “fantasy ideal” and a “relationship ideal”.

A fantasy ideal would be someone who looks great and turns a person on sexually (your description of an attractive woman was wonderful, but probably just a little tame for some men). It is, however, a fantasy. I think it’s partly a fantasy because most men don’t measure up to that kind of woman’s ideal (i.e., it’s presumed that she’d turn him down if he had the opportunity and actually got up the nerve to ask). It’s also a fantasy, because even though she might be sexually attractive, sex isn’t the only thing that matters (though you’d probably find guys who disagree).

The relationship ideal is the person who feels like a best friend, yet is attractive (fantasy ideal attractiveness is not required, though it probably would be appreciated if it happened). “Best friend”, in this case, doesn’t mean “best buddy”. Most guys have lots of buddies, but we really want to connect on a deeper level (and yet we are stereotyped as being so shallow!). The relationship ideal is the perfect melding of mind, soul, and body.

As to your comments about people wanting their bodies to be different, except for maybe Spike from Notting Hill (link might offend people who do not like British comedy or seeing skinny naked Welsh guys in briefs), I think you are right. Most people have one or several parts of their bodies that they would like to look “better”. I think it is part of human nature. In many ways, it’s a good trait. We look at a problem and want to fix it. It’s how we progress from stone wheels to space shuttles. When we focus that desire to improve things toward ourselves in a healthy manner, it continues to be a good thing. It helps us stick to an exercise program or just take the stairs instead of the elevator. If we go too far, like becoming anorexic or undergoing multiple medically unnecessary cosmetic surgeries to “improve” how we look, then we have subverted that desire into something bad.

You are not the only person to feel intimidated by someone with a terrific body. While women are probably more conscious of it (thanks to the focus by mass media), men have an expected ideal to conform to, too. Seeing another guy who actually fits that mould is very intimidating indeed.

Like you said, the key to happiness is learning to be happy with yourself. Once self-esteem is in good shape, everything else seems to be easier to handle and more enjoyable.

—Will

Replied to by Kellie Burns on April 24, 2008 10:46 PM (CC-BY-SA Licensed):

I really appreciated your post. It was so well said. I’ll look for your post on the next discussion.
thanks.

Thank you for the compliment.

I enjoyed your comments in another thread about banning Barbie® from your seven-year-old daughter. Don’t they have “Doctor Barbie’s” now as well as Princess Barbies? I know her proportions are anatomically impossible, but it would be nice to see companies making small strides toward better role models for women.

—Will


Written by Lori Barker, April 24, 2008 7:35 PM (CC-BY-SA Licensed):

Will,

Your first post was great, and your response post was even better! I too have parents that have been married for a lot of years and are still very happy. They got married at 18 and 20 and now in their 70’s, their looks have probably changed a bit, but they’re still together!

Why thank you.

I’m glad to hear that your parents are also happily married after many years. It’s depressing when you hear the statistics on divorce, but very reassuring to hear of success stories like your parents and mine.

I wonder how much divorce rates are based on people having unrealistic expectations about marriages. If they get married expecting physical attraction to be enough, if they expect a Hollywood-style happy ending without working to maintain the relationship, or if they decide to “try out” marriage before really committing, I think they are in for disappointment.

—Will


America FerarraOn April 24, 2008 7:02 PM, another student wrote that she liked the post and wished more of society might adopt my outlook, leading to a much happier community.

Thank you Brenda. We can hope that courses like this [Contemporary Women’s Health class], fashion shows banning models with unhealthy weight, TV shows that flow against the stereotypes (like Ugly Betty—as if America Ferrera is ugly; fashion challenged, maybe, but ugly, never), and other recent changes lashing back at the status quo make eventually help a healthy, hygienic, natural approach to beauty take hold. Then I believe we would have a happier community.

—Will

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