What Are ‘Beauty Standards’?
Stop playing the Orwellian word games of feminist discourse
Grace Kelly was beautiful. Feminists do not want to admit this. In feminist discourse, there is no such thing as beauty. Feminists recognize no hierarchy of aesthetic value which would allow us to say that one woman is more beautiful than another. Beauty — as an objective fact — simply does not exist, according to feminist ideology. Instead, feminists contend, our concepts of beauty are “socially constructed,” a product of “media” and “culture,” which are sexist tools of the oppressive patriarchy:
Feminism’s attack on The Beauty Myth (Naomi Wolf, 1991) would have us believe that Hollywood producers, Paris fashion designers, Madison Avenue advertisers and other sinister forces of patriarchal capitalism have conspired to brainwash us into believing that some women are more beautiful than others. “All Bodies Are Beautiful” has become a popular feminist slogan, and skepticism is impermissible — a ThoughtCrime. . . .
Any man who doubts this ideology — aesthetic egalitarianism, we might call it — will find himself denounced as a misogynist. Men are wrong to prefer Kate Upton to Lena Dunham, according to feminists who wish to silence male praise for beauty, because feminists believe that men’s enjoyment of beauty is harmful, oppressive, sexist. This anti-beauty message has been a core component of feminist rhetoric since 1968, when the Women’s Liberation movement emerged from the New Left and staged its first public protest against the Miss America pageant. Beauty pageants “epitomize the roles we are all forced to play as women,” the protesters declared, proclaiming that “women in our society [are] forced daily to compete for male approval, enslaved by ludicrous ‘beauty’ standards we ourselves are conditioned to take seriously.”
What I have described as “aesthetic egalitarianism” — the feminist claim that distinctions of beauty are irrelevant or oppressive — is never applied to men. Tall, handsome, muscular men obviously enjoy advantages over short, ugly, fat men, especially in terms of their romantic opportunities, but this reality is unacknowledged in feminist discourse. One does not find young feminists choosing Danny DeVito lookalikes over Gerard Butler lookalikes.
Indeed, feminists often make a point of ridiculing the appearance of men they find unattractive, employing sexualized putdowns (e.g., about penis size, or implying some other “inadequacy”) to mock any man they dislike.
When feminists denounce “double standards” as sexist, they do not mean to expose their own preferences to criticism. Every guy knows that women always prefer a rich guy to a poor guy, for example, and there is nothing the short bald guy can do that will ever make him equal, in women’s eyes, to the tall guy with a full head of hair. This is simply the way life is, and no intelligent man spends much time worrying about it. Life is unfair. Get over it.
In 1996, a 23-year-old woman living in Portland, Oregon, decided to create a T-shirt with the slogan “Fuck Your Fascist Beauty Standards.” Jill Portugal’s company, “One Angry Girl,” has sold many thousands of feminist T-shirts in the past 20 years, without explaining what the phrase “beauty standards” is supposed to mean, or why such standards are “fascist.” Instead, this kind of sloganeering functions as an anti-male insult, a way for the feminist to denounce heterosexual men for preferring beautiful women to ugly women.
One notices, of course, that feminists never criticize gay men for adoring male beauty, nor are lesbian preferences subject to feminist critique. No, in feminist discourse, it is only the heterosexual male’s attitudes and behavior that are the target of this kind of “fuck your standards” hate-mongering rhetoric.
“The male gaze, which refers to the lens through which mostly white, heterosexual men are viewing the world, is a lens of entitlement.”
— Kelsey Lueptow, “4 Ways To Challenge The Male Gaze,” 2013
“Making all the Princesses beautiful, while all the villains are obese or ugly, the Disney Company reinforces the idea that one’s physical appearance is a manifestation of one’s personality. . . .
“The protagonists of these films fulfill unrealistic expectations of beauty, which are then perpetuated as the norm to mainstream society. Giving young girls the idea that they must be beautiful or they will not succeed is incredibly harmful.”
— Melanie Greenblatt, “The Heteronormative Objectification of Women in the Disney Princess Films: A Study of Brand Advertising and Parents’ Perceptions,” 2013
“Western beauty practices not only arise from the subordination of women, but should perhaps be seen as the most publicly visible evidence of that subordination. . . . They are justified by tradition, as in the popular wisdom that women have always wanted to be beautiful and that it is natural for men to be attracted to ‘beautiful’ women.”
— Sheila Jeffreys, Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West (2005; second edition, 2015)
Question: Are feminists against heterosexuality, per se?
If not, then why do feminists engage in these relentless, vituperative denunciations of the entirely normal behaviors of heterosexual men?
Now, if any feminists are reading this (perhaps because your grumpy Republican uncle posted it on his Facebook page), let them ask why they have never previously contemplated the questions I am raising here. Why is it that the young Gender Studies major has never been asked whether feminism’s attack on “beauty standards” is a deliberate insult to heterosexual men?
Perhaps this is because men are compelled to play by the rules of modern feminism, and also because nice guys . . . Well, they’re nice.
One of the things a young man learns is never to praise a woman’s beauty in mixed company. Only when it’s “just us guys” talking are we allowed to remark on the attributes of a woman that elicit our admiration. Indeed, the fear of being accused of “harassment” causes men to hesitate to praise a woman to her face. Most men are afraid to compliment a woman on her beauty, for fear that this will be interpreted as “hitting on” her, and the feminist crusade against “harassment” has thus effectively prohibited men from praising beauty in almost any context. The heterosexual man thereby finds his normal feelings stigmatized as “problematic,” a source of shame.
Attempts to suppress human nature in this manner can never succeed, but instead we find the normal instincts become warped and distorted, as young men are raised in a society where their ordinary feelings are treated as dangerous and harmful. Gone forever — banished from society by feminism’s totalitarian diktat — is the opportunity for a young man to be honest. He cannot tell a girl she’s beautiful without being condemned for doing so.
Because I am an old married guy, a grandfather who doesn’t worry much whether anyone calls me a “sexist,” I can breach the protocols of courtesy, and describe beauty as an objective reality. Beauty exists. Everyone with two eyes can see it — we do not have to pretend that we do not notice beauty, nor should we play Orwellian word games about “fascist beauty standards.”
However, the great liberty that us old married guys enjoy is not available to the young single fellow, especially on 21st-century college campuses where feminism exercises hegemonic authority. Furthermore, young men need to be cautioned never to say a negative word about ugly women, fat women, or old women. For it is a fact of life that youth doesn’t last forever. The young beautiful woman you admire knows that she will not be young forever, and the thin woman may fear that she shall someday become fat. Besides these pragmatic considerations, men ought to be grateful to enjoy the pleasure of a woman’s company, no matter where she ranks in the hierarchy of beauty.
Years ago, when I was a college student, I was walking through the hall when I noticed my English instructor, Mrs. Williams, walking ahead of me. She was gray-haired and about 60, but a discerning eye could see she had been quite the dish back in her prime and, honestly, she was still pleasant to look at.
“Nice legs,” I said, prompting her to turn around. She was fighting the temptation to smile, and losing the fight, as she scolded me: “You just think you can charm your way through life, don’t you?”
Yeah, I made an “A” in Mrs. Williams’s class.
While the impertinent attitude of my youth is perhaps not something that could be safely emulated by young men in the 21st century (and it was reckless even in 1978), my point is that beauty exists. Beauty is an objective fact of nature, and it is dishonest to pretend otherwise. The deliberate absurdity of my compliment to Mrs. Williams — an 18-year-old college freshman saying “nice legs” to a woman at least 40 years his senior — made it harmless. And if young people were wise, they would learn to recognize the difference between an innocent compliment and harmful “harassment.”
However, modern feminism has obliterated all such distinctions in its bizarre (and inevitably futile) War Against Human Nature. Any acknowledgement of beauty a man might make is condemned by feminists. Under no circumstance is a man permitted to admire or praise a woman’s beauty. Feminism’s attack on “Fascist Beauty Standards” is totalitarian Thought Control, a way of exercising cultural power by insulting men, and mocking their inability to answer these insults. It is anti-male/anti-heterosexual hate propaganda.
There is too little beauty in the world, and men should not permit a small group of envious women to impose a ban of silence on this subject.
American men don’t hate Lena Dunham for being ugly. American men hate Lena Dunham for being a liar and a feminist (but I repeat myself).
Have you notice that no Canadian men want her in Canada, either? They’ve already got way too many ugly feminist liars in Canada.