The Don't Buy List: Male Beauty Standards, Biden Goes Bimbo, & Being Hot
Plus, filler as an IRL filter.
Hello, dewy dust bunnies, and welcome to another edition of the The Don’t Buy List! I have been thinking about this tweet all week:
Not to minimize whatever pressure men may feel to adhere to the Marvel movie physical ideal, but there is a big difference here, and the difference is women who don’t meet (or at least attempt to meet) the beauty ideal are socially, financially, and politically punished for it… and average-looking, ugly, fat, bald men rule the world. You really can’t compare the physical beauty demands made of men and women at a surface level like this! It’s the politics of beauty that matter; the material and immaterial consequences it.
And because I know someone will bring it up: If you read “average-looking,” “ugly,” “fat,” or “bald” as insults rather than morally-neutral physical descriptors… that’s your beauty culture conditioning talking! Which is understandable. Beauty has been messaged as an ethical ideal for so long that it can be hard to imagine a world where “average” (which most of us are, by definition), “ugly,” “fat,” and “bald” don’t mean “bad.” But they don’t.
This is why I abhor “everybody is beautiful” rhetoric. It limits our capacity to discuss the politics of physical beauty, on purpose: If “everyone is beautiful,” then no one can really be oppressed by the demands to perform “beauty,” and the consequences of not performing beauty don’t really exist. (I think it’s important to note that when I say “performing beauty,” I don’t mean trying to emulate Bella Hadid or a TikTok Bimbo or something. I mean carrying out tasks that have been so integrated into the take-up of public-facing femininity as to seem thoughtless, but are effortful and expensive performances nonetheless: shaving your legs and armpits, shaping your eyebrows, getting a blowout, dyeing your grays, polishing your nails, bleaching your mustache, whitening your teeth, wearing “professional” makeup, maintaining a certain weight or shape or dressing in a way that disguises a certain weight or shape. Politically and economically powerful men do not have to do these things in order to access power. Conversely, it’s almost impossible to name a politically or economically powerful woman who has rejected or could reject these aspects of gendered beauty performance.) Not to be all Rush Limbaugh about it, but the goal of feminism is not to ensure that everyone is recognized as attractive! The goal is to ensure that everyone — including those who are not commercially attractive, but are actual people deserving of rights — is recognized as equal.
I’ve already written about how Republican representative Matt Gaetz is weaponizing beauty by using “the ugly feminist” trope to argue against abortion rights, but the man is at it again.