Which is sexier – Kate Moss’ thin figure, or Beyonce’s hips and Kim Kardashian’s butt? Which do men prefer? From Twiggy’s androgynous frame to Elizabeth Taylor’s voluptuous curves, female beauty standards have changed drastically throughout history and women have scrambled to follow them. After all, pale lifeless skin was the standard for elegance and class until Ms. Coco Chanel went on a cruise and tanned, sun-kissed skin became all the rage. For women, the keys to success and love have never relied so heavily on superficiality as they do now.
But what if the tables were turned?
What if women had always been the traditional breadwinners, and it was the men who had to get dolled up to please their wives? Life would certainly be different. College girls would text each other in class, rating the boys around them based on the size of their biceps, the firmness of their butts. The success of a man’s job interview might very well depend on the perfection of his skin, or the condition of his hairline. Magazines would feature men with rippling abs and bulging biceps, teaching young boys everywhere that this is what they should strive to be.
Subjected to all this scrutiny and bombarded with all these images, men’s lives would look something like this:
In a world where men abide by female beauty standards, there is no place for the heavy, round and fat. If they want any chance of getting a cute girlfriend, men must spend long hours working out, watching every calorie they eat, and fasting two weeks before summer starts so they can squeeze into that sexy swimsuit. And forget about donuts in the morning or pizza for lunch. Only women can touch those. Men will have no choice but to munch on their carrots and celery (or whatever the latest fad diet entails), sadly looking on as the women eat their burgers and fries without a care in the world. And if master cleanses, fasts, and simple willpower doesn’t work, men are prepared to resort to cosmetic surgery. Never mind that these procedures are expensive and quite painful. After all, beauty is pain, right?
To show those hard-earned V-shaped upper bodies, men have to wear skimpy and sexy clothes. The shapelier the legs and buttocks, the tighter the jeans and the shorter the shorts! Magazines try to make larger men feel special with phrases like “body-skimming” and “slimming dark colors.” But the message is clear: Wear loose and unflattering clothes so you can walk unnoticed down the street. No one wants to see your muffin-top and jiggling thighs!
Not only victims of fads and media advertising, men must be victims to fashion as well. Men must shop for new clothes, bags, and shoes at least once a week. And coordinating the three is a daily battle. If a man really wants to get noticed, a pair of high heels is an absolute must. Bunions, ankle sprains, or blisters? Ignore them! Tomorrow he’ll have to squeeze his feet into another gravity-defying pair.
Hair Removal and Tanning
What good are skimpy clothes if the skin doesn’t emulate beauty as well? Lest they risk the displeasure or horror of their wives and bosses, men must carefully book bimonthly appointments for hair removal all over: armpits, chest, legs, bikini line, eyebrows, mustache. Some might take things up a notch and opt for facial hair removal as well, getting rid of all the peach fuzz on their cheeks and forehead in order to look truly flawless. And just as important is thorough knowledge about all the different options out there to achieve the best results. A razor with six blades, or an epilator with hundreds of tiny mechanical tweezers? Microwaveable wax strips, or foul-smelling chemical depilatories? Laser hair removal? Where does it end?
With smooth, hair-free skin, men then need to worry about skin color. Pale skin is now considered dull and sickly, so men rush to the nearest tanning salon for a sexy, bronzy glow in the form of a spray tan or some healthy UV radiation. Because being more appealing to women is definitely worth the risk of skin cancer.
In a female-dominated world, younger men are far more successful and appreciated. Even if they aren’t as qualified, their bosses just hire them as some extra eye candy in the office – someone to objectify over the copy machine. Men can’t afford to let themselves go and allow their appearance to reveal the years that have gone by. They must continuously dye their hair to hide any gray suspects. Wrinkles and sagging dull skin must be prevented using lotions, creams, serums, toners, and masks that each cost a fortune. When that isn’t enough, makeup must be added as another step in the daily morning ritual. Foundations and concealers, brow gels and primers – men know all the tips and tricks to looking younger and sexier, perkier and more awake.
Though maintaining their appearances might very well seem like a full-time job, men must also make time for all the other responsibilities that are expected of them. After all, in a woman’s eyes, a man isn’t a “real” man unless he can also cook, clean and raise children, on top of looking flawless.
When a wife tells her husband, “Good night; I”m going to bed,” she means just that. She gets up from the couch and heads to bed. When a husband says the same thing, what he really means is “Good night; I’m going to do one last load of laundry, prepare things for breakfast and the kids’ lunches, tuck the kids in, wash the dishes, set out my outfit for tomorrow, and iron your clothes. Then I’m going to fight a battle with Mother Nature using anti-aging products. Only then will I crawl into bed, exhausted and waste a couple more hours listening to your snoring before I finally fall asleep.”
Perhaps, in a world like this, some men would rebel and refuse to let women dictate their standards of beauty. “Women should learn to appreciate us for who we are,” they would say. “I want a woman who will love me regardless of my love handles, my hairy chest and receding hairline.”
But the journey for them will be hard. Some body wash campaigns might feature average-looking men with average-looking bodies and a few magazines here and there might feature a plus-sized model. But a man can’t help but notice that all the models stomping down the runway in the season’s latest fashions are all tall, dark, and handsome. With everything he sees in magazines and on TV, a man can’t help but feel self-conscious and unattractive when he can’t see his knees because his beer belly blocks his view.
Some men in the real world might raise their objections. Men nowadays, they say, are as pressured as women to look young and beautiful. But the truth is, men who take care of their appearances do so because they want to, not because employment and success relies heavily on it, as is the case for women.
The majority of women do enjoy taking care of themselves – up to a certain point. But after a while, things start to get ridiculous. Movement-constricting body shapers, liquid diets, hair removal systems that look like torture devices? Men are quick to scrutinize women, to objectify and criticize, even as women try their best to please. But put in women’s shoes (hopefully painful six-inch stilettos) and subjected to the same scrutiny, it’s doubtful men would hold up as well. So who is it that really needs to man up – men or women?
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