women making comments about other women's bodies...

(31 Posts)
NigellasDealer Wed 25-Jun-14 12:14:17

i was just thinking about my stepmother and remembering borrowing her copy of 'the female eunuch' at a young age, and being impressed that she kept her own name on marriage (it was more unusual back then). Now on her shelf is 'the Beauty Myth' by Naomi Wolf which I knd of dipped into.
then it struck me how fake it all has been - she makes such spiteful comments about other women's looks that how can she possibly be a feminist?
for example when Beyonce was on TV she kind of snorted 'legs like treetrunks'.
she has always done this kind of amused smirk at me buying clothes (lifelong size 16)
and her own daughters have both spent time starving themselves down to size 8. One of them now looks like a lollipop (oops I made a comment myself)
surely then she could not describe herself as a 'feminist'?

NigellasDealer Wed 25-Jun-14 12:27:30

then i was thinking about how often various people over the years have made a comment about my body when greeting me?
'hi dealer, havent you lost weight'
'hi dealer, gosh your actually lookng quite smart and slim'
'hi dealer' etc etc
is it me or is this just fuckng out of order and not something that men have to put up with?

almondcakes Wed 25-Jun-14 13:09:55

Your step mum may have known all the feminist stuff about appearance and done it anyway, because everybody has their failings. Some habits are hard to drop, and it is so much easier to make feminist and other statements and have people listen to them if you do so while being no bigger than a 12, have long hair and are wearing a dress. It is the aesthetic equivalent of tone policing, which maybe your step mum was considering when advising her daughters.

And I am actually hyper judgy about male appearance. I just keep the comments in my head, because if I went around making comments about male appearance the way people do about women, I would be considered rude, creepy, sexually inappropriate and mentally ill.

NigellasDealer Wed 25-Jun-14 13:15:36

if I went around making comments about male appearance the way people do about women, I would be considered rude, creepy, sexually inappropriate and mentally ill
grin well quite

Golferman Wed 25-Jun-14 13:35:00

I think everyone, if we are honest, think judgementally, about other men or women and their appearance, all the time.

NigellasDealer Wed 25-Jun-14 13:37:12

definitely we do golferman but making nasty little comments or backhanded compliments does seem to be reserved for women.

whatdoesittake48 Wed 25-Jun-14 15:15:21

it is often because of low self esteem - feminists suffer from that as much as anyone does. We just pretend we don't care about how we look or that we don't care what other epople think. But in the absence of being entirely happy with ourselves, we make fun of other women. Not to their faces of course, but anything to make us feel better.

I can't blame women for doing this because we are as much victims of judgement as the women we attack.

I almost always get some kind of comment about how i look when I see people i haven't seen for a while. It is hard to pretend it isn't a judgement on us because that is what we expect. We judge ourselves, after all.

I completely agree that society perceives vocal and critical judgement of women's appearance as acceptable, in a way we don't with men.

But then in regards to your mil, I think that whilst being a feminist, we have all been raised in a patriarchal society and many of the norms and subtle sexisms are hard to recognise in yourself. You can be feminist while employing a kind of cognitive dissonance that you are not a part of the oppressive patriarchy- when really, sometimes, unintentionally, we all are. I try not to judge women by their looks- I try not to compare my self to other women, or indeed compare myself against my young self, try not to care that I am ageing, but I fail. I'm still a feminist.

I think that's it's wholly unacceptable to criticise other women.

Where I struggle with this personally is when it comes to women bowing down to societal pressure - Dyan Cannons plastic surgery at 76 so she looks like an odd 50 year old, ludicrous breast implants, stupid heels that hobble us from walking, excessive make up.

I want to be empathetic and think they're just making their own way in a difficult world but I can't help feeling internally critical.

Perhaps not criticising out loud is the best I can hope for.

TheSameBoat Wed 25-Jun-14 18:11:52

I really struggle with this too OP because I recently spent time with an old friend, who despite being a self-proclaimed feminist was very vocal in her criticism of other women's appearances, particularly those women she didn't like. It got very uncomfortable listening to her slag off other women because of their looks.

When she started giving me fashion and diet advice (unsolicited) I told her to back off and that she was being very unfeministy (feminist police I know blush) she replied that she was only trying to help me feel more confident.

Unsurprisingly it made me feel less confident but it did make me see how the original feminist concept of "female empowerment" has been co-opted by the beauty industry to mean "feeling confident =looking good".

The whole thing makes me sick to the stomach. I try to reject it as much because women will never be free to reach their true potential until this beauty nonsense loses its grip on us.

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 19:02:10

God I can't stand people who make snidey bitchy little comments about utterly irrelevant parts of other people - usually women, usually women they don't even know.

Ooh her eyebrows look a bit odd
Oooh her ankles are chunky
Oooh what's she done to her hair etc etc etc

I just think if you can't say anything nice then STFU, seriously. What does it matter FFS.

I suppose that women are constantly scrutinised and it's the other side of the coin to the more envious comments but actually thinking about it they are usually delivered in a backhanded way.

<sign>

I do tend to compliment people if I think they have something nice on / have fab hair or whatever but I do it to blokes too! I suppose any comment about appearance is reinforcing that it's important when it shouldn't be BUT our society does put a lot of store in appearance esp. for women and so if I can say wow I love your shoes or your hair looks great today really shiny or whatever then I do so as it does make people feel good smile

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 19:03:44

Having said all that of course many men make much more outrageous nasty comments about women's appearance, they just tend not to do it too much in the hearing of other women.

So there's that.

kim147 Wed 25-Jun-14 19:15:45

It's unusual for men to compliment each other - on their appearance or clothes.

Also unusual for men to criticise other men's appearance.

Yeah well you haven't seen some of the fuglies where I live....

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 19:22:50

Yes Kim.

While I was writing that I was sort of mulling over how generally men get to be "above" all that amongst and for themselves, while women get judged by both in quite an obvious manner.

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 19:26:58

Men do criticise each others appearance if they stray too far from the masculine norms though, casually homophobic commentary can come in.

newtoepsom14 Wed 25-Jun-14 19:33:06

I am Chinese in UK. I think many women here criticize when women is actual pretty and then be so nice words about someone who actual do not look so nice. I am alway make comment but only about someone I think is pretty, I tell this to DH and it is interesting find out what he think of her so I know what he like. I think it's fun to do this but not criticise.

I just think it's all part of the self centered norm now. We all talk to each other as if they were photos in heat magazine, not people.

That said, if ever you are feeling bad about wearing a swimming costume, go to a beach. Makes you realise pretty swiftly you are 'normal' pretty fast. All stress here with mag articles, am I thin? Which style?!? Then you go away and realise.... No one else notices and you look blooming normal!

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 19:38:02

I guess that is maybe because people like to compliment people who they think might get a boost from it, but don't tend to compliment people who they think don't need it ie they are obviously good looking / well presented / whatever and so don't need it reinforced?

The whole thing is a bit weird really.

I am sure you are right in that there are likely to be huge cultural differences all over, around who says what to who, and how, and when and so on.

I do think british people don't compliment each other much to their faces but I like to do it as it makes people happy smile even if the men look a bit baffled when I say eg you look very smart today / your haircut suits you / I like your watch...!

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 19:38:45

xposts mine was in response to newtoepsom smile

Indiestarr Wed 25-Jun-14 20:23:21

It may well be that we're all part of the same pervasive patriarchy, even though we try and fight against it, but this judging of other women on appearance is extremely harmful. I was shocked yesterday when I read an article by a young woman journalist who is recognised as a voice of modern feminism, who when Newsnight invited her to appear turned it down not because she's nervous about speaking in public - quite the reverse - but purely and simply because she was worried she would look fat on TV. If this is how deeply the paranoia about being judged on looks effects those of us who know all the arguments and who have so much more to offer then what hope is there?

Helpys Wed 25-Jun-14 20:27:25

I think it's a question of maturity. I think you grow out of noticing other women's appearance. I recently spent a day with a woman I'd never met before for work; mulling over the day, and wondering how she'd got on with my clients, I realised I'd not noticed her appearance at all. I'd clocked that she was younger than me- this was relevant, so are the clients, and I liked her top, but I hadn't noticed her height or weight or attractiveness. I hope I never criticised other women's appearance but I certainly noticed it, relative to mine, in great detail.

newtoepsom14 Wed 25-Jun-14 20:33:58

Helpys I think I am like you, I notice what other is like but 'i do not ever criticise. If it is not so nice, I ignore it probably not look long. If she is nice, i look longer and maybe tell my DH i think she is nice.

DadWasHere Thu 26-Jun-14 04:56:46

Men do criticise each others appearance if they stray too far from the masculine norms though, casually homophobic commentary can come in.

That is not a criticism/demotion of appearance, its a rejection/ridicule of sexuality.

ApocalypseThen Thu 26-Jun-14 09:42:06

I think women are well trained to be competitive by society, just as men are. But the competition isn't money or sports, it's looks and weight. It's obviously not good, it's clearly destructive, but I don't understand why women get so much more criticism for competitiveness than men do.

Both men and women shame women for this and largely ignore the more destructive (on a wider social scale) male competitiveness.

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