General Question

nikipedia's avatar

Why are women held to a higher standard of beauty than men?

Asked by nikipedia (27519points) August 1st, 2008

(Note: I am not rendering any kind of value judgment either way on this situation. This is an observation, not a statement of how I’d like the world to be. And as Kevbo mentioned in another thread, please feel free to disagree with my premise.)

Why is physical beauty so crucial to a woman’s value as a partner but not a man’s? In most sexually dimorphic species, the situation seems to be reversed. Men have to be showy and flashy to compete for females. But in human beings, a man’s physical attractiveness seems to be sort of a moot point, as long as he has other qualities that we value (money, power, status, intelligence). Why?

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20 Answers

aaronou's avatar

It’s probably primarily a product of culturally established roles.

But I think today we have the term metrosexual: “a neologism generally applied to men with a strong concern for their appearance”.

Scrumpulator's avatar

I believe that it is an issue that is still bred into people from a previous time and world, Don’t worry, the world is changing very fast, I would not be surprised if in 1000 years women rule the earth in a matriarchy. Another idea is that it is a way to show the world how powerful you are. Look at the French prime minister for example, he divorced his wife and married a super model, Henry the 8th broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in order to divorce his wife and remarry for vain reasons. The whole thing is a power play, the chiefs get first pick, the rich look for “hot wives” When the world is stable and economically sound due to the future of technology I think that this precedent will evolve its way out of our societal belief systems.

marinelife's avatar

I wish I knew. My guess would be that since virtually all human societies have been patriarchal with men holding a large power and wealth advantage that they have been able to dictate that standard.

Women, lacking other means of achieving social status, have bought into the program for the most part. I think some advances have been made, and there is some change, but it is slow in coming.

Aside form that, there appears to be some innate human draw toward beauty (in terms of symmetry anyway) at work as well.

I suspect it is a very complex issue with more than one factor involved. Good question, nik!

susanc's avatar

Yes, the usual anthropological arguments involving patriarchy, ownership, slavery, pregnancy and childcare requiring women to depend on male protection, capitalism, and testosterone.
I am a woman and I adore looking at beautiful women, so either I’ve bought into all those
constructs too, or beauty, as Marina says, is an innate construct we can’t resist. Or both.
But let it be noted that beautiful men are not exempt from admiration.

Scrumpulator's avatar

@susanc NICE ANSWER

MissAnthrope's avatar

My view is that men, when it comes to sex, are more visually stimulated than women and also there are two different biological imperatives at work. Men tend to choose mates based on appearance, the more youthful, beautiful, healthy, the better the mate. The idea is to choose someone with whom he will continually want to mate and to have healthy babies. Women, on the other hand, have a different agenda; they need to make sure the man will be around to help them rear their young, help in providing and protecting, yadda yadda. So women tend to assess personality as the most vital characteristic, over looks.

Obviously, this is over-simplified, but I think my basic point is true. Take a look at the gay male community and you will see a striking emphasis on youth and beauty amongst its members.

gailcalled's avatar

@Scrump: aside; Henry VIII kept on remarrying not for vanity but because he wanted a son and heir. Somehow, his plans kept backfiring (particularly for his hapless wives). He ended up with a pretty nifty daughter, Elizabeth I.

tinyfaery's avatar

@ alena Yes, and I’d say the lesbian community does not focus on looks as much as heterosexuals and gay men.

I think it has a lot to do with media images depicting what constitutes a beautiful woman, and what it means to be successful. If a man wants to be the envy of his peers, and stand head and shoulders above the rest, a beautiful woman is a must. I’d say male vanity is a huge issue in this case.

loser's avatar

Good question! I’ve noticed that women tend to do it to it to each other more than men pushing them into it.

marinelife's avatar

@loser Not sure I got that. Do what to each other?

loser's avatar

I could totally be full of it but I’ve noticed that woman tend to compete with each other on looks and that guys don’t generally seem to care about what other guys are wearing.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@loser – Well, I don’t think it’s because the women want it that way, but considering that it’s a competition for mates (it seems the majority of men search for the most attractive person within their status category), it would make sense. A woman compares herself to other women and wants to be more attractive to men than what she sees, giving her the advantage of choosing amongst a larger pool of suitors.

marinelife's avatar

Thx, AlenaD. I agree.

breedmitch's avatar

This question is once again “hetero-centric.” In the gay community men have just as much importance put on looks and beauty as women do in the straight world.

tinyfaery's avatar

@breed Alena and I brought that up. Third time is the charm though. :)

breedmitch's avatar

So you did. Sorry, I jumped in too fast.

loser's avatar

Okay, what can I say… I’m a loser.

marinelife's avatar

@L Knock it off. It’s not our job to counter your negative talk. It’s your job to work on thinking positive things about yourself. You know I lurve you and love you, and I don’t think it is true. I am considered a good judge of character. ;)

Knotmyday's avatar

I agree that feminine beauty ideals are a male construct. I disagree that it makes them more attractive. Some of the most beautiful people I’ve known (men and women) were also the most rotten, despicable garbage to ever soil the earth with their feet.
From a guy who’s lived, loved, lost, and lived to love again: Women are awesome. They truly rule the earth. Vive la différence!

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

I think you’re making an assumption. I find it just as important for either gender. I also prefer to date women who feel the same way I do.

As a man I find my personal appearance and beauty important and don’t want to be with women that don’t find those attributes of mine important also.

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