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Does Vanity Keep You Poor?

Molly Faulker-Bond, the author of Why Vanity Keeps You Poor, puts forth the idea that women spend so much on beauty products and treatments that we leave ourselves in the dust behind men financially. According to this article, U.S. women spend between $12,000 and $15,000 each year on beauty and maintenance. (The link from her article no longer lands directly on the source of that number, so I am not sure where it came from.)

No doubt women spend too damn much on frivolous and basically gratuitous luxuries that can in no way be deemed necessities. I am guilty of it at times, purchasing yet another pink lipstick or splurging on an experimental hair color.

However, where I part ways with Ms. Faulkner-Bond is the assumption that this is strictly a female behavior. Who has ever gone grocery shopping with a member of the male persuasion of any age? Can it be denied that they are flagrant wasters of money? How much higher is your cart piled when you shop with a male who “must” have sugary cereal, this, that, some of that…I rest my case. Fast forward to video games, fishing gear, nerd props (can you say Star Trek?), or hell, beer. Yes, all of these are based on rampant stereotypes, but so is the concept that all women mindlessly shell out major bucks for highlights and pedicures.

Let’s remember that women typically do not make a comparable salary as men, simply by being women (one source of many: The Wage Gap, by Gender and Race). Perhaps unfairly starting behind the eight ball is a more significant factor than we care to acknowledge.

I have a retirement account, a savings account, and I draw the line on what I will spend on beauty items. I recognize them as fun but not by any means necessary. Apparently this makes me a bit of an oddball for a woman, according to this article. How about you?

The average American household carries $8000 in credit card debt (source: Money Central). Clearly, neither men nor women should be proudly boasting about their spending habits. I agree that far too much emphasis, downright phobic and manic, is placed on women’s appearance, and that priority needs to shift. However, the claim that women simply can’t manage money is far too simplistic for me, and doesn’t address the real underlying problems: devaluing women for anything but looks, and consumerism, to name only two.

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Deal Breakers

After reading the Fabulous Mag survey, in which some men declared weight gain a deal breaker and said they would leave their girlfriend if she gained 3 dress sizes, I wondered: what are your deal breakers? Do you have any, related to appearance?

I felt sad that these men apparently placed 100% emphasis on, and valued only, their girlfriend’s appearance. I tried to imagine forgoing all the reasons I enjoy being with my boyfriend, all the jokes and talks and laughs, simply because he gained some weight. I couldn’t imagine it, because I value him far beyond superficial traits. I wondered why the women dating the men from the survey bothered to stick around for someone whose vision stopped at their skin, stopped at their dress size, refused to see them as human beings but as props to decorate themselves.

If my boyfriend gained weight to a point it threatened his health, I would definitely say something. It’s not healthy, mentally or physically, to cart around extra weight. But to leap immediately to “Well, he’s put on some pounds, guess I’m outta here” is to dismiss all that he is as a person, a partner, a friend.

Weight, and looks, are touchy subjects, especially with our partners, who can be hurt by our disapproval, or absorb our concern (such as about weight) as rejection or judgment, no matter how gently it is phrased.

I have pet peeves more so than deal breakers. I wish men took better care of their skin. Refusing to use sunscreen or to moisturize is not “manly”, it’s stupid. Sunburns and dry skin are not attractive, sandpaper hands can be just yucky, and inviting skin cancer is foolish, whether you’re male or female. A little lotion goes a long way! Products are made now specifically for men, so gentlemen, please take better care of your skin!

What Size Do Men Prefer?….or, Why Should I Care?

According to the UK’s Fabulous Mag survey, most men prefer a woman who is a size 12 UK (size 10 US), though most women say they would prefer to be smaller (size 8 UK, size 6 US) (source: Boinkology.com).

I had a lot of reactions to this article, not the least of which being, why the hell should I care what men say they prefer my body size to be? In determining how much I should weigh or what clothing size I should wear, I should consider my bone structure, my level of activity, my health, my muscle density, my healthy weight…a lot of factors that are far more relevant and certainly more important than the judgment of attractiveness by a random male.

The article touts this survey result like it’s good news for women, like we ladies should be just pleased as punch that men have afforded us more margin of error than we previously supposed in measuring ourselves against their artificial standards.

Oh, puke.

Here’s a standard for you: intelligent women prefer men who recognize that a woman’s body is supposed to have curves, and not just preposterously silicone-inflated ones. Intelligent women prefer men who recognize that there is more to a woman than the size tag on her dress. And intelligent women should focus on what is healthy for them instead of what is deemed attractive.

Get this:

*28% of men who responded to this survey said they want their girlfriend to drop a dress size.

*25% of these men said they would leave their girlfriend if she went up 3 dress sizes; 64% of these swine said they would leave their girlfriend if she went up more than 3 dress sizes.

*Then, 77% of these assholes had the audacity to say they wish their girlfriend was more body confident! “You’re not skinny enough, and I’ll leave you if gain weight, but it’s so damn annoying that you’re so insecure about your body!”

Why do so many women give credence to the preferences and judgments of men who don’t deserve the time of day in any department? There are men out there with realistic attitudes about women, our bodies, our minds, and not just toting about a scorecard to rate our asses and hips on their scale of acceptability. (Yes, I promise that enlightened men are out there, somewhere, buried beneath the Cro Magnons.) Your health, self-respect and your own body confidence are way more important than the opinion of doofuses like these jerks in the survey, who want caricatured Barbie-doll arm candy instead of a real woman. I am tired of seeing women step over their own opinions and their own considerations in homage to “what men like”.

Men in Make-Up

Last year, $4.8 million was spent on male grooming products in the United States, a 7% increase over the previous year and a 42% increase since 2001 (source: Euromonitor). Men’s personal care lines now include self-bronzer, concealer, and face masks, and trendy words like “metrosexual” have been tossed about to label men with a concern for their appearance.

I’m very interested in both men’s and women’s opinions on this one. Ladies raved about Johnny Depp’s eyeliner in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and Pete Wentz, lead singer of Fallout Boys, is routinely photographed wearing eyeliner, as are other male musicians. Ladies, would the same attraction to Johnny Depp’s eyeliner hold true if your boyfriend or husband decided to try the trend? What about less obvious make-up, like concealer for breakouts or dark circles under his eyes? And men, what would you be willing to try? Any of it? All of it?

Personally, I think the eyeliner and obvious make-up would only work for musicians in our society. What’s cool on the lead singer of a band would be heavily penalized for a man walking into the office or a boardroom or working behind any counter. Like long hair, it really depends on the man whether it even looks good or not.

The notion that a man who cares about his appearance should be branded with a label (metrosexual, or even ruder terms) is silly to me. Maybe most men are not as obsessed with (or judged as heavily by) their looks as most women, but pretending it’s never a concern, at all, in such an appearance-oriented society is far-fetched, to say the least. Wikipedia actually extends the definition of a metrosexual to include a man “…whose lifestyles display attributes stereotypically seen among gay men.” When did caring about your appearance render you homosexual?

I’d like to see more men drop the overly macho (and extremely annoying) persona and stop jabbing the label of homosexual at any man who openly cares what he looks like. Then again, I’d like to see more women cultivate their minds and ideas far more than their cosmetic collection, so my final opinion on the men in make-up subject is concern that the obsession with looks is diverting energy and attention from far more important issues in this world. Is the obsession a distraction in a crazy world gone wrong? Is it mindlessness?

I like the eyeliner look on a man who can pull it off, who has the attitude and personality to wear it well, but it’s a look only men in Hollywood and rock bands can likely get away with. I end up wondering if we are moving in a dangerous direction, though, where battles on sexism and stereoptypes are being fought to permit men into the agonizing and unrewarding arena of obsessing over appearance, instead of a more productive battle to focus on substance over superficial looks for everyone. Are we going the wrong way here?