Social Question

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Women: Do you ever feel pressure to look like a "real woman"?

Asked by Imadethisupwithnoforethought (14399 points ) May 2nd, 2012

I am thinking about all of the pressure men feel to impress other men, and those women who say “man up”.

Is there an equal and opposite to this concept?

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42 Answers

chyna's avatar

I’m not sure what a “real woman” looks like, but I do not feel pressure to look like one. I’m pretty happy that I am healthy.

abysmalbeauty's avatar

I feel more pressure to look like a fake woman actually…

ragingloli's avatar

No, I never have the urge to don an apron.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@abysmalbeauty That was brilliantly worded.

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought My guess is the female version of “man up” or “show some balls” would be “act more lady-like”.

Trillian's avatar

Hah! I used to stand duty with a girl who always had a case FULL of bottles, tubes and jars of stuff. I had my shower stuff, toothbrush and paste, and clean linens for my rack. I always said I must not be a real woman because I couldn’t even imagine what all that shit was that she used, much less had the inclination to spend all that time fiddly farting around using it.
So, no. Apparently not.

fundevogel's avatar

The only times I’ve heard of “real women” being favored over…whatever other sort of women there are, it’s been about bodies. Specifically it has been used to dismiss the validity of skinny model-type builds and the women that possess them and send the message that womanly strength (again, whatever that means) is associated with more robust female bodies.

Obviously I’m not a fan. I get that it is basically strike-back at media that has made it clear that only nymphic female body types are acceptable, but the way to respond to that is to embrace all bodies, not pile on to the trend of tying a woman’s value to whether or not her body fits other people’s expectations of female bodies.

JLeslie's avatar

What does a real woman look like?

fundevogel's avatar

@JLeslie I this it’s something like this.

jca's avatar

Tomorrow morning when I get ready for work, I’m going to do my best to look like an anatomically correct, fake woman.

Trillian's avatar

Wow, how did I miss the man up thing?
I said that to my ex a couple times, but I believe I was justified.

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t want to look like that @fundevogel.

And @Imadethisupwithnoforethought, thinking back to all those questions about whether it is silly for women to like pink or wear or not wear make-up, I suppose someone out there might feel pressure. I don’t.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’ll answer this as a perceived woman but not a woman, as I understand myself. I don’t think anyone’s a ‘real woman.’ So I don’t bother looking like that because that makes no sense. I’m sure I make no sense to someone unfamiliar with how both sex and gender are constructed through one another. They say Judith Butler isn’t easy to understand either. Anywho….plenty of people say I look like a very real woman. I take that as no compliment. It means nothing.

Blackberry's avatar

We need more real women. Too many women are trying to be other species. Ladies, stop trying to be pandas and wombats; just be yourself!

Aethelflaed's avatar

Sure. Most of the time, fuck ‘em. But the ones that tend to get to me are usually the ones that are intended to fight back against beautification standards and the male gaze, but really just shift who the target is: “real women have curves”, “real women have thick eyebrows”, “real women don’t have breast implants”, “real women have pubic hair”, etc. Body positivity: You’re doing it wrong.

redfeather's avatar

I wear makeup to enhance what I have and because I think it’s fun. I also look sickly and that I haven’t slept in 73 years if I haven’t. I like wearing dresses because they’re more comfortable to me than pants. I like wearing heels because I’m already a tall girl so why not be even taller? I used to hate being busty, but now my friend’s say their jealous so I don’t mind them. I like being a woman, real, not real, whatever.

Maybe women look most like a woman when they’re in labor haha

augustlan's avatar

I sure don’t. I’m quite un-ladylike, and happily so! @abysmalbeauty has it right, anyway.

Aethelflaed's avatar

So, I’m wondering how many women are interpreting this as “do you ever notice pressure from society to look like a ‘real’ woman”, and how many are interpreting it as “do you ever cave to pressure from society to look like a ‘real’ woman”?

Bellatrix's avatar

I took it as notice pressure.

rooeytoo's avatar

It’s what I like most about Australia, once you get out of the cities, you are not judged by what you dress nearly as much as east coast USA. I hate heels, my feet complain in anything other than good running shoes although I do force them every now and again to wear loafers or flats.

So the answer to your question is no!

wundayatta's avatar

I see what you mean, @Aethelflaed. I think people are saying they don’t cave. They all seem to notice it. How could they talk about it, otherwise? If you didn’t notice it, you’d say, “what pressure?”

JLeslie's avatar

I still am not sure what a real woman looks like, but I definitely feel like I have to do my hair, dress well, and put on some make up to be taken seriously.

Mariah's avatar

The best example I can think of is when I hear body types discussed and this phrase always seems to come up:

“Real women have curves.”

What am I then, an imposter? Statements like these make me feel a little sensitive about being underweight, but mostly they just annoy me.

jca's avatar

I agree with @JLeslie. In the area I live in, NY Tri-state, women look polished with a moderate amount of makeup, and hair is usually done in some sort of style, in order to be seen as somewhat of a professional.

lonelydragon's avatar

If by “real woman”, you mean traditionally feminine, then absolutely yes. As an example, products marketed to women are usually available in only “feminine” colors like pink, purple, and chartreuse. I could think of a million different examples. When I moved into my first apartment, a relative bought me a pink toolkit. While I was grateful for the gift, I couldn’t help wondering, “Why pink? What’s wrong with black, red or blue?” I guess they thought that if they bought me a Craftsman toolkit in “manly” colors, I might start growing a beard or something. Knowing that an item is pink doesn’t make me more likely to buy it. In fact, the opposite is true because I feel like I’m being condescended to. I wonder why out of all the beautiful rainbow of colors available, I’m only given a choice to buy this one.

wundayatta's avatar

There is social pressure to conform on all of us. We are tribal creatures and our existences depend on our ability to maintain the good will of enough people around us that we can make a living. Part of that is looking acceptable. In women’s case, that also means being attractive enough not to be ignored.

Of course, there are other strategies to get the cooperation you need besides being attractive. If being attractive doesn’t work, you can look unusual. Color your hair all kinds of unnatural colors. Or dress in a different way. Or talk in a different way.

But there is no getting around society. You either try to compete using it’s prevailing standards, or you try to compete by going against the prevailing standards, or some mix of the two. Some people compete by getting away from the competition. Some people do well enough to get by. But it can all be seen in the context of society.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@wundayatta If being attractive doesn’t work, you can look unusual If being conventionally attractive doesn’t work for you, you can go for a more unusual attractiveness. <Fixed it for you.

@lonelydragon Right? I recently tried to buy a ladyrazor in something other than pink. Can’t be done.

wundayatta's avatar

@Aethelflaed Are you trying to make me more pc? Or are you doing some kind of ontological thing?

I mean, when I walk around, I make judgments about whether I find someone attractive or beautiful or not. Most of the people who make themselves stand out by applying strange colors to their hair just don’t look very nice to me. There are those who do, and they seem to take extra special care to be creative. They aren’t just throwing color at their hair. They complement it with accessories and gel and clothing that works, somehow. Mostly, though, the people I see who try to look unusual look desperate, no like are working from some idea or theory.

But I don’t know exactly why they do it. I’m just guessing. I mean, I assume they don’t think they are making themselves ugly. I find it ugly, but so what. I’m probably not the intended audience. Most of them would say they do it for themselves, I bet, to judge by what jellies say about it. Whatever. There’s what people say they do, and then there are likely explanations for what people do. I don’t think people often know their subconscious motives or their genetic programming.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@wundayatta It’s both too late and too early for me to be around words like “ontological”. But my point is this: You can be both unconventional and attractive, all at the same time. Just because it’s not appealing to you personally doesn’t mean it’s not attractive. I am totally lost as to the appeal of pretty much all Monet paintings, but I don’t call them ugly or unattractive, I call them not for me.

Almost no one dyes their hair blue, or gets tattoos, or whatever, because they want to look ugly. Rather, it’s that they have a different idea of what looks attractive. Many look at conventional beauty standards and don’t find them appealing. So, they want to look hawt in a way that they actually find hawt, and attract those who would agree with them. Many want to subvert the dominant paradigm of what is considered attractive (which I would think you would celebrate).

wundayatta's avatar

See, this is where it gets complicated. Because although I do like it when people want to subvert the dominant paradigm (for whatever), I also want the subversion to be well done. I.e., to appeal to me. Much of what passes for subversion does not appeal to me.

It’s hard to appeal to me with blue or pink or green hair. I love natural colors and natural beauty. That’s what appeals to me. I can’t explain why. It just does. It has a subtleness. It is interesting. It flows. Brightly colored hair has no subtlety. It is monolithic. It is garish. It hurts. My eyes, anyway.

So I might be sympathetic to the attempt to subvert social norms, but it doesn’t work for me because it doesn’t create an alternative aesthetic that works for me. It is destructive of the old norm, but it does not make anything new to replace it.

You’re not the only person who has told me that people color their hair like that because they think it makes them look good. But I don’t understand that and because I don’t understand it, I can’t believe it. I think they are making themselves look ugly on purpose as a statement of anger. It is not a statement for an alternative aesthetic, unless you consider an aesthetic that values ugliness to be an aesthetic. I have trouble with that idea.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@wundayatta “I also want the subversion to be well done. I.e., to appeal to me.” That’s pretty much the male gaze right there. Women (really, all people) don’t owe it you, or anyone else, to look appealing. If they so happen to do so, and your day is brightened, then woo-hoo. But this idea that women owe it to men to look attractive is what’s at the root of beauty pressure, not the specific details of How Women Should Look. Also, really, stop telling women that you know better why they as a group partake in some look. You don’t have to get it, but please take them at their word, just as you would want them to take you at your word.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

There is a girl at the convenience store I go to everyday. Literally a girl. I am guessing maybe 21 at the outside.

She has a perfect body. Breasts maybe a hair too big for her frame. Occasionally she gets a hint of acne, but she covers it with makeup. Big green eyes.

About a month ago, I noticed she dyed a strip of her hair green. She is shy and reserved normally, and yet, here is this strip of green hair on a very reserved, crazy attractive young girl.

And it dawned on me everyone wants to feel special.

wundayatta's avatar

@Aethelflaed Where does this “owe” stuff come from? No one owes me anything. It’s no one’s job to make the world pretty for me. I am just judging things from my own aesthetic and I bet that you and everyone else does that, too.

I may not know better why people do things, and then again, I may. Just as someone else may know better why I do things. We tend to see ourselves through a veil of prejudice that other people don’t carry. That lack of objectivity often, I think, makes us misunderstand our own motives.

Beauty pressure? It’s going to be there whether men say anything or not, or women say anything or not. In any case, it’s not men who put the beauty pressure on. Women, at least if I believe jellies, say they dress more for other women then they do for me. I think that is probably true. I think you put more pressure on yourselves than men ever do.

Men really don’t care all that much what you look like. We’re happy when you pay attention to us at all. Maybe there are a few high status men who can afford to care, because you all want them, and then you really do care what they think. But that’s evolutionary pressures that make us behave this way.

The specific form of beauty is cultural, but the need to stand out is evolutionary. It’s beyond any of us. You can rail against it all you want, but it won’t change. The only thing we can change is the standard of beauty. But as long as we exist, there will be beauty and it will matter and we will all try to look beautiful, if we can.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Well, clearly you do care what we look like – you’ve repeatedly stated on Fluther how much it bothers you when women dye their hair unusual colors. I’ve already said I don’t find every look attractive, but I don’t really feel the need to tell all those people that I’m pretty sure they’re ugly. Because they don’t owe me good looks.

Way to own your shit, btw. Don’t victim-blame women, own it. Don’t blame evolution, either; despite the fact that most of us at one time or another feel like killing someone else who drives us crazy, very few of us actually do it. We can rise above our baser instincts, and rise above. And we can change society.

jca's avatar

I feel that people can’t help what they find attractive, and so if someone finds colored hair or no makeup or whatever they find attractive, that’s that. What I like may or may not have anything to do with evolution, or the society I’ve been brought up in, or peer influence.

chyna's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought I think you may be looking a tad too close when you notice her boobs are a “hair too big for her frame”.

wundayatta's avatar

@Aethelflaed I don’t understand what you are getting at. Yes, I care what people look like. No, I don’t like colored hair. I also don’t walk around telling people I think the look unbecoming. I suppose some people here might be bothered, but I have no idea what most people here look like. I can’t imagine that some random person on the internet could bother anyone with an opinion that they don’t like what they do. I mean, there are millions of people who don’t like things I do, in theory. But I don’t know most of them.

If you color your hair green, there’s no particular reason to be offended when I say I don’t like green hair, in general. The specifics are where it’s at. You may be absolutely gorgeous with green hair. I am not criticizing anyone. I am just talking about my own aesthetic preferences. I am not blaming any woman for violating my sense of aesthetics. I’m a big boy. I can handle green hair without turning green, myself. I’ve been owning this all along. You might want to consider why you are so insistent on trying to make me wrong for thinking what I think.

As to base instincts. I don’t know if they are base. I think evolution is important to understand if it helps us explain social behavior. Clearly, human behavior can change, and we can make an effort to change it. And of course I believe we can change society. But we have to understand why people do what they do, and bashing those people who are asking questions about how society works is not going to help us get better explanations.

rooeytoo's avatar

@chyna – heaps and heaps of lurve for that answer. It reeks of just what the question is about, being judged by some male. Now I don’t know what @Imadethisupwithnoforethought looks like, perhaps he is an adonis with a perfect body and male accoutrements to make a porn star envious, but in all likelihood, he is like the rest of us, unless photoshopped, average or a little better or worse than average. What the hell, “Breasts maybe a hair too big for her frame.” It reminds me of the fat ugly guy in the movie Full Monty who makes a similar remark about a gorgeous woman who probably would never even waste a glance in his direction. However he did say breasts instead of boobs so that makes the remark just a hair less objectionable.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@wundayatta Well, in your original post here, you weren’t talking about what you personally find attractive, you were talking about the larger societal views on beauty and the pressure to conform to an ideal. So no, you weren’t always just talking about your personal preferences. (And I’m mainly pushing it because you tend to have this “wither thou young feminists?” thing.)

chyna's avatar

@rooeytoo Ha, he is definitely not ugly, but I get what you are saying.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@rooeytoo when the young lady calls me handsome guy when I walk in, I am going to evaluate her in return. I was more in puzzlement by wundy’s surprise at the women who go out of their way to change their appearance. It seems to make more sense to me if I put myself in their place.

wundayatta's avatar

@Aethelflaed Whither thou, young feminist? ;-)

In that post I did not suggest that my personal taste should be the entire world’s taste. My own judgments are mine and merely that. No one in the world pays attention to my opinions about aesthetics. This is probably a good thing.

I think there’s a difference between talking about your opinions and talking like your opinions should run the world. Or like anyone should be swayed by your opinions for any other reason other than you make sense.

If I say someone is ugly—so what? I get the feeling you think that I think because I have an opinion I expect someone else to change. My opinion is just my opinion. You don’t owe me anything. No one owes me anything. No one should feel like they should change for my opinion.

If you do, that’s on you. If anything, though, I expect the opposite. I expect you to stand up for yourself. I hope you will. Although I hope you’ll stand up for yourself without trying to guilt trip me. But if that’s how you do it, so be it. It isn’t necessary, though.

If you feel I am pressuring you, or any other woman, I can sort of understand that, but I think you are doing it to yourself. I think this gets us into the blame the victim quandary. It can get pretty tricky, I think. But I have found that it is more useful for me to take responsibility for making things happen the way I want them than to blame some oppressor and hope they will change.

If I’m the male oppressor of women, then this is a fucked up world. But that’s not the case. And I don’t really care about blaming people. It doesn’t help. Let’s just work to empower each other and heal each other and do the same for ourselves in the process. I’m not the enemy.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I used to, until I started telling people that I am who I am, and I don’t intend to change to please anybody. I am a real woman. Real flawed and natural.

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