Remember that time you were hanging out with your female friends and someone started an intelligent conversation about how women’s body image problems seem to stem more from female expectations rather than male’s? Remember the inquisitive looks on the face of all your friends as their expressions changed to one that reflected a profound realization, a truly “Eureka” moment? And then remember when all of the females in the group conceded that, indeed, the blame for all of these body image issues did not fall solely on the shoulders of men, but rather more likely, on the shoulders of corporate greed which seeks to exploit women? Do you recall then, that all of those women decided that there was no need to lay the blame on men alone anymore, and that feminism was about choice which included the choice to reject the messages of beauty advertising?
Yea, I don’t either…
As a male, you can’t exist amid a mass media culture of beauty without being crucified for your perceived expectations of women. Everywhere you go as an adult male, there’s some female discussion group bashing you over the head for liking big breasts or a tight booty. It was during college when I began to notice that it was mostly WOMEN talking about what MEN liked—and not just talking, but rather proclaiming the desires of men as if it were gospel. Unless asked directly, a man seemed to rarely voice his love for DD cup sizes or a milkshake booty that could inspire an entire hit song. In fact, it’s been my experience that most often it’s women that begin these kinds of discussions, uniting under one banner of progressive militant feminism that aims to “punish” men for liking boobs.
During such discussions it’s become overwhelmingly trite for females to cite the airbrushed photos of beautifully proportioned women featured in magazine ads (which are usually for women’s products). The conversation will linger here for a bit while women bring in the heavy artillery, promulgating the evils of Adobe Photoshop and other computer media technology which are used to perfect female images. Then the conversation will predictable head over to modern cosmetic surgery. The females of the group will talk about how they are practically “forced” to feel like they need bigger boobs and smaller waistlines. So of course, at the end of all this, the entire goal of their ranting about female body images in the media is to concluded that women are the helpless victims of the unrealistic expectations of men. Some extreme leftist feminists will even go as far as proclaiming that men’s expectations of women are a form of continued oppressive control meant to dominate women, and that such positions of men have caused the emergence of psychiatric disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Uhhh ladies… you’re giving us wayyyyy too much credit.
Of course the key points to remember here are that these expectations of men are perceived by women to be UNREALISTIC, and that such expectations are what is causing the social oppression of women. According to this rationale, this would mean that male values for an average woman would have to be nearly unattainable by a majority of the female population. Simply put, 51% or more of women would have to be considered “below average” by men, therefore making the average expectations of men something that most women could not satisfy. A finding of this statistic would indeed give merit to the idea that the expectations of men have contributed directly to the self-confidence and body issues associated with the macro-psychology of female culture. However, you won’t find these numbers at all. In fact, what you will find will probably surprise women, but the guys…well we knew this all along.
The online dating site OkayCupid.com takes time to compile and organize information about its users, and subsequently posts this information on their website. One such analysis looked at the ratings of women by men and visa versa. What they found was that that men rated 90% of women as being “average looking”, and therefore rating only 5% as being “unattractive” and %5 as being “very attractive”. If you’re familiar with statistics, these numbers are very close to a normal bell curve, which means to represent the ultimate paradigm in the (NORMAL) distribution of data—90% of the data is always in the “average range”, while only a small minority will exist in the extremes or “UNREALISTIC” poles of the spectrum. What this really means is that men’s expectations for women’s attractiveness is completely attainable, as 95% percent of women are seen by men as being either “average looking” or “very attractive”.
Now for my favorite part. Hold on to your panties ladies. And the men? No surprise here, but please execute the “I told you so” speech with extreme caution in the presence of females, as you will not be getting laid that evening. Anyway, according to the same compilation of data, women rated 80% of men as being less than “average looking”. This means that less than 20% of men had a shot of even being average looking, and that less than 5% could be considered as “very attractive”. These numbers suggest that, unlike the expectations of men where 95% of women had a chance of being considered average looking or better, only a little more than 20% of men have a shot at even being seen as average looking.
What does this mean for the big picture? It means that regardless of what women PERCEIVE the expectations of men to be, they’re wrong. The NORMAL expectations of men allow for more than 90% of women to fit the bill, while, on the other hand, the UNREALISTIC expectations of women allow for MAYBE 20% of men to fit the bill. I can personally attest to the fact that while I enjoy looking at big breasts and a fine booty, they aren’t requirements for me to find a woman attractive. I want to look at big breasts, but I don’t want to date them—true story. I prefer to date a woman with smaller breasts.
So if men aren’t the ultimate source of body image perfection being imposed on women, then where else are all these ideas about unattainable body images coming from? Well, women of course. While images of beautiful women are used to get the attention of consumers from every market and demographic, they are most concentrated in the sale of women’s products. From makeup and hair products to diet solutions, beautiful images of women aren’t featured in such ads to in order to get men to buy these products; they are featured in order to convince women that they too can look this gorgeous if they spend $30 on shampoo. All this business about the unattainable expectations of men is really a distorted reflection of what women THINK men want, which in turn is amplified and imposed on other women as: the only means to get a man to love you is to get surgery, stop eating, and destroy your self-respect. Absolute silliness.
In one survey, men were asked if they preferred to date skinny women or overweight women:
85% of men said that dating a woman who was a few pounds overweight didn’t bother them. While only 15% said the preferred to date a skinny woman.
In the same survey, women were asked if they felt overweight women have a harder time dating:
90.0% women believed that men couldn’t see past a few pounds and that heavier women absolutely have a harder time dating because of this. Only 10% of women believed that weight didn’t have much to do with why heavier women were single.
So what does all of this mean really? It means that disinformation sucks and that it can affect whole populations in a seriously negative way. The pervasive pop culture belief that the unrealistic expectations of men have only served to destroy the self-esteem of women through imposed desires of perfect bodies, is utter non-sense. Though it be absolutely true that there are women who suffer from diminished self-confidence related to body image, when women vote that 80% of men don’t meet their criteria for “average”, that doesn’t suggest a huge confidence problem to me. In my opinion what’s really happening here is a war of women against women in the fight for consumer dollars, and men are just getting clobbered in the mix. Women ages 18-24 spend more money in the consumer market than any other demographic, and because advertising agencies know this, who do you think they are going to target? The body images of women are most commonly expressed in terms of sexiness or “getting and man and keeping him”, whereas men are not so easily demoralized by body image because it’s usually advertised in the context of fitness as a health concern or strength ability. However, just because ads that feature hot women allude to the desires of men, this doesn’t mean they accurately reflect the true expectations that us men have for the women in our lives. I think the more important questions that need to be asked are: if indeed women do have unrealistic expectations regarding the attractiveness of men, what does that say about the other expectations they have for men? Think about all the expectations one has for their lover or marriage partner: expectations about income, sex, and time spent. In the case of both men and women, I say, let go a little bit and open your tolerance threshold to include a little more wiggle room, because I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the people you’re going to end up with won’t be perfect, and neither are you.