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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Appearance Matters: Or How to Make Me Feel Like an Ugly Dog

Zen Tiger made an interesting comment about the appearance thing on my Women's Magazines post.

I was going to reply but then I realised that perhaps we are not really talking about the same thing and that perhaps other people wouldn't understand why I "overreact" to negative comments about our Prime Minister's appearance. I understand that the underlying intent of the comments was to highlight the perceived fakeness of the PM. I'd probably agree with the intent, but the nature of the comments distracted me.

I will try and explain where I am coming from. I'm not sure if other people feel the same way as I do. Maybe I'm just a freak.

Harsh comments are fine. I don't have anything against harsh comments. It's just that I will sometimes overreact to them. I tend to personalise certain topics and certain comments. In particular the frequent negative comments about appearance and childlessness.

For example, this is how the "Woman Supposedly Our Prime Minister" post plays out in my head:

1. I see photos of Helen Clark not looking her best (ie looking like a normal person) and a photo of her looking like she is going out for a nice evening. I think that the "bad" photo of her is not that bad. I think I look worse than that. I think the "good" photo looks a bit fake. The makeup artist has gone overboard and she doesn't look like Helen. Still I think it looks very nice. I very rarely look that good and that's only when I too have a team of makeup artists and hair stylists.

2. Then I read these comments about Helen's appearance:
"A rottwieler in drag!"
"Still a dog"
"Pages with PM pictures, my lunch is coming back up..."
"Our Prime Minister, supposedly a woman..."
3. I feel like complete crap. It has nothing to do with Helen or politics. It has everything to do with me feeling like an ugly dog.

4. I know I shouldn't take it personally. But I can't help it. It is very difficult to not follow through with the logic: I look worse than Helen. All these people think Helen looks like a dog. They must think I look like a dog.

5. So when people say that appearance doesn't matter. I just think...LIES!!! Appearance matters. Especially if you are female.

6. Then I get depressed because I am not a hot blonde and I am going to be alone for ever.

You might want to tell me not to be so sensitive. That is like telling me not to be me. That is like saying I am over-sensitive ugly dog.

It's never a matter of being overly senstive. Certain things bug us, and we're allowed that.

But, consider that looks are not a one-dimensional thing, going from "beautiful" to "ugly". There are many dimensions of beauty, and people differ on how they perceive any of those dimensions and which are important to them, so comparisons of beauty really don't hold water. There is no such thing as an objective scale of beauty.

So, even taking into account your perception regarding your and your PM's appearances relative to one another, it is quite possible (likely) that someone could find the PM unattractive but you very attractive.
Hey David,

Thanks. You are right. I am constantly amazed at the people friends find attractive. Although it is hard to keep persepctive sometimes.

Especially today. My silly brain chemicals are being very difficult today.
Hi Suze.
I found some pics of Running house on a site. A link led me to you here.
I found the link on flikr.com
I am currently making a dvd for Running house and was wondering if I could use some of your pictures please.

Drop me an email to matt at halogen dot co dot nz.

I think you are right. Whatever her political failings, Helen's appearance has attracted unnecessary comment from her detractors. It can be rationalised (not justified) by what I consider to be the ideology-cult that pervades NZ politics. All this crap about socialism for example. Many of the vociferous on the far right are so "anti" anything related to Labour that they become, well, rabid. (Some on the left are equally guilty of this as well.)

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Helen gets more than her fair share of schtick because she is a woman.

The other thing to remember is that the trash mags do not aim to be taken seriously. They are 80-page advertorials run by c&p monkeys and epitomise the phrase "In order to avoid disappointment, management has decided to lower its aim."
"In order to avoid disappointment, management has decided to lower its aim."

:) I haven't read a trashy magazine in a while. It is good to know they haven't morphed into serious literature in my absence.

I would quite like to know why Helen's appearance detractors even care about the subject. In some cases they seem even more passionate about her appearance than they do about her policies.
If it means anything to you, I don't think Helen resembles a man in the slightest. Her voice is deep, maybe, but I rather think it's the ignorance of people who hasten to make a judgement of her that makes her out to be 'dog'-like. What ever. *shrugs*

Equality is still mostly theoretical, and the pessimist within tells me that that's the way it will remain for a long while. A woman's appearance will be judged more critically than a man's, for a while to come at least. You don't see people making slanderous banners and images of the state of Winston Peter's hair now, do we? I think I just like to rant about the general unfairness of it all... ^_^

Guess I'll go be random somewhere else then :)
Not all *that* random. More like *relevant* :)

Much as I hate to admit it, I think maybe the woman/appearance thing is biologically driven.
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