Home > Daily life > Puffy face or puffy brains?

Puffy face or puffy brains?

No dearth of major issues that could occupy our minds today, including Iran’s nuclear talks in Turkey. So why turn to the trivial controversy over Ashley Judd’s “puffy face” story and the ongoing media/twitter storm that followed?  Simply that, as a post-feminist woman, I am sick of the idiotic arguments on all sides the minute a woman’s appearance is discussed.

Here are some of the hackneyed knee-jerk responses we’re regularly treated to:

1. How come what a woman wears to an event/conference/peace talks/ international meet/Oscar ceremony/grocery store is talked about ad nauseam and not what men wear?

2. Why do women and not men have to worry about their appearance and are criticized anyway for being too fat, too thin (not very often, that one, except for Whitney Houston and dead Brazilian models), too wrinkled, dressed like a slut or a nun, having been under the knife or not, etc.?

3. Why are women catty to other women when they should show solidarity?

4. Why is our culture so shallow? Why do we give so much importance to the way people look? Why does the media have this constant coverage of ridiculously attractive women versus “real” ones?

The one answer to all of the above is that women, and not men, have always, always, since time immemorial, been interested in and even obsessed with their appearance. From Cleopatra to women athletes in Pompeii before the Vesuvius erupted (in 79 A.D.) to Marie-Antoinette to poor little Kim Kardashian and everyone in between, the way we look is, if not first, then foremost in our minds. Say it isn’t so, Michele, Hillary, Condoleezza, Kate, Carla. And I won’t even ask you, Angelina, Keira, and yes, Ashley, as this is how you make a living: by looking great.

So, some answers to the above questions.

1. Women care much more about their appearance than men do about theirs. How much time do you think Michele Obama or Carla Bruni spend in the morning picking what they’re going to wear and how they’ll accessorize versus Barack Obama or Nicolas Sarkozy?

2. Same answer as to 1. The female of our species and our species alone, is more spectacular than the male. (As we know, this isn’t true of the rest of the animal kingdom, look at the peacock’s tail or the lion’s mane.) I can’t even begin to calculate how much time I spend in front of mirrors, bemoaning this or that imperfection or wardrobe lapse.

3. Women aren’t catty to other women. They hold themselves to impossibly high standards and the only way to see how they hold up is through how other women look. A high school reunion is a disaster in the mind of the woman attendee who has not been able to starve herself as thin as some of her cohorts. How much do men attendees care about being bald and paunchy?

4. Our culture is not shallow. Our first reference when dealing with others is the way they look. Women have always worn makeup, have always bathed in she-donkeys’ milk or, in the more extreme cases (see the 16th century Hungarian countess Bathory) the blood of young virgins, said to help retain youth. Anything, anything really, to attract or retain a lover or husband, to make other women envious, and mainly to fight the passage of time.

As for “real” women, what does that mean? I have this plump middle-aged friend who looks fine but nothing like a fashion model and snorts when leafing through Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar and declares that she prefers being a “real” women. Real versus what, I want to ask her and don’t. Virtual? Is that what these tall, slender, perfectly proportioned young women are?

Call me shallow and catty but I would take “virtual” any time.

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  1. April 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    i can truly relate to your words of truth. thank you for posting. as i grow older, i have to remind myself that it’s really the soul that translates the beauty of friendship from another woman into my life—her size, shape, color, etc., is irrelevant when conveying true character. yet in all honesty, i too get caught up in the culture hype of outward appearances [sigh].

  2. April 23, 2012 at 5:10 am

    I think such a focus on externals reflects fear: fear of dying, fear of not being good enough, maybe even fear of being abandoned for someone else. What I find beautiful in a woman is her confidence, compassion, and authenticity. At any age. I think these are beautiful. They radiate through the eyes, the face, the posture and carriage. When I hear about a perfect nose, a perfect face, or a perfect body, I wonder who is defining perfection.

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