Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Pressure for Women to Look Good is Imposed by Bottom-Biting Media

I write here of two problems: that women feel badly about the pursuit of beauty, and that
Commentator Megyn Kelly, part of the pressuring media.
some cannot express their conflicts properly.

An opinion article in the New York Times recently bemoaned feminists' needs to make themselves look as--pick your favorite--young, sexy, stylish, desirable, nubile, beautiful as they possibly can.

   "The Pressure to Look Good" noted women's hypocrisy in insisting on achievement and empowerment while, well, squeezing into Spanx. The writer, an author, lamented that she received a compliment for her Time Magazine piece encouraging her daughter to aspire beyond appearances-- while on her way for Botox injections. "How can you tell your girls that inner beauty matters when you're texting them the message from your aesthetician's chair?"

   Admittedly, I don't know what an aesthetician is, and neither does my word processor, but I do know one thing: writer Jennifer Weiner failed in assigning blame. She writes, "Social media has done many wonderful things for women, and for writers, and for activists, and for women writer activists...But, in terms of beauty, it's really bitten us on the bottom."

     Leave aside that women, writers, activists and women writer activists likely do not share a collective bottom.

     Focus instead on a more troublesome and ubiquitous problem. Media are plural. Social media HAVE done many wonderful things, but THEY have not bitten bottoms. Or a singular, shared bottom, with their plural teeth, a most peculiar metaphor to visualize.

    One might have thought a woman writer activist would realize that the word "media" is the plural form of the singular "medium." Or, at the least, one might have expected that copy editors at the New York Times would be so informed.

     However, preparing for the possible snap of another's cell phone camera, and the photo perhaps going viral on Twitter, blogs, Facebook and Instagram requires a lot of advance primping. Which leaves little time for proof-reading. "There have been entire afternoons that I could have spent with my daughters where I've been in the salon instead, getting my gray covered up and my calluses scrubbed," Ms. Weiner admits, awkwardly. After all, today's women know "that being out in public means being looked at, and possibly photographed, assessed in a way that men still are not, and maybe never will be."  Such is the thinking of women writer activists.

     Reminder to Ms. Weiner and all feminists everywhere: men and women are different. Despite a new definition of marriage that equates genders, the way the real world works is that women first gain attention for beauty  and men first for dynamism and career success. It's not fair, it's not egalitarian and it's not politically correct, but something drives Ms. Weiner to "squeeze into viselike undergarments and heels so high that I can barely hobble..." She admits a motivation is "just liking to look good," and fearing what happens online to "any woman who doesn't."

May I suggest two things. First, just as a physician takes an oath to "do no harm," professional writers should swear to use proper grammar. (Incomplete sentences exempt.) Specifically, writers should not confuse "media" with "medium." Contributing to the problem is that the word "media" is usually preceded by "the," as in "The media are about to abandon Hillary Clinton despite their liberal bias." Why not just return to the uncluttered and direct use of the word "media" without an unnecessary "the" beforehand? Media, are you listening? Alas, I realize you're not.

Writer Jennifer Weiner: conflicted.
Second suggestion: Admit that women seek recognition for their physical appearance, and choose to honor that desire and be comfortable with it (or not). Just don't complain about it and then publish surprise that you perpetuate it. Success and attractiveness can co-exist even as in many situations the former is dependent on the latter. The newscaster can offer astute commentary from her lipstick-rouged mouth as it speaks above her cleavage. She can provide sharp analysis, while seated in a short skirt. If smart journalists jointly refused to show off their nicely dressed bodies, well, ratings would suffer, and some other woman who has it all (brains and beauty, both) will come take the job.

I am a feminist. I am a realist. I am a grammar geek. Feminists can acknowledge or eschew the reality of gender differences (whether they exist by acculturation or biology), choosing how to respond to that reality. Some things, however, cannot stand, and those include nasty, bottom-biting media.

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