On Discussing Beauty

Joanna Schroeder understands the cruel machinations of the beauty industry, but she doesn’t think that minimizes the authenticity of Tom Matlack’s admiration of his wife.

Tom Matlack said that when he wakes up in the morning, he loves the sight of his wife’s face. To him, she is the most gorgeous woman in the world, and her eyes pierce his soul, particularly when she’s wearing no make-up.

Someone on Twitter called these sentiments “shmoopy” and they are. They’re totally shmoopy. And if you hate shmoop, you’re going to find it annoying at best, and disingenuous at worst. But I believe him. Not because I think that his wife, Elena, is objectively the most beautiful woman in the world. She’s lovely, of course, but the reason I believe him is because my husband feels the same way about me. He looks at me in the morning and, even after 9 years, gets a little giddy. He looks at me when I’m wearing no make-up and have my hair up in a ponytail that I’ve slept in and crust in the corners of my mouth and creases on my face and he tells me he loves me… and I believe him.

I don’t need to lie to myself about beauty. I have been both beautiful and decidedly unpretty in my life. I’ve been so thin I’ve been emaciated, and I’ve been a healthy size 10. On top of that, I’ve been in the middle with my weight, right where the fashion industry tells me I should be. I’ve had bad skin and awesome skin, horrible hair and great hair. I’ve had high-end fashionable clothing and I’ve spent years in ill-fitting jeans and American Apparel tee shirts.

I know what it is to have one pulled over on you by a guy who is just out to bullshit you. And I know what it is to be loved.


Beauty is used as a weapon against women in our society, much as success is used against men. If you weren’t born beautiful, you better be doing everything you can to get there. If you have acne, you better subscribe to ProActiv and hope you can follow all the steps. If you have grey hair you should make sure you schedule your hair color appointments no longer than 6 weeks apart so your roots don’t show. Don’t forget the white strips for your teeth, the exfoliator for your décolleté, UV-hardened gel for your manicure, a wedge-shaped brush for smudging your eyeliner and if you live in LA you really should get going with Botox in your forehead before those lines get too deep and while you’re there, just a little collagen in your top lip won’t hurt. And who does your eyebrows? I go to the place across the street, but they make them too thin. If they’re too thin, you look old. Did you know that? Oh, and I know a girl who does IPL so you can zap those freckles. It’s really no big deal, they peel off after a few days and then just stay out of the sun. Go to J. Crew, they’ve got great hats with a really wide brim, only $68.00 and everyone’s got one.

We’re told as tiny girls that we are to be pretty. Strangers reward us when we do with coos and winks and “Oh, aren’t you adorable?” in a way that is pretty hard to replicate from anything we could earn, like good grades or even mastery in a sport. In the eyes of a child, pretty girls have everything—men that adore them, lots of friends, and great jobs like actresses and models and ballerinas.

As we get older and start to feel the machine around us pushing us through its works, beauty becomes a touchy subject. We probably all enjoy being told we’re pretty, but it’s complicated. Who can we trust to tell us the truth? What do they want from us? Does the guy giving me the goo-goo eyes right now really like me, or is he telling me I’m pretty so he can see what kind of panties I’m wearing? And ultimately, why do you care if I’m pretty? What does it matter to you? Isn’t the objective to “win” a pretty girl so you can wear her around town like an expensive watch?

Beauty isn’t like any other conversation women may have, except perhaps sexuality. It’s something we’ve carried with us our whole lives and it’s deeply attached to shame and rejection. Pretty girls are often given advantages that less attractive women are not, that’s been well documented. But pretty girls carry a particular burden, too. First, we’re not supposed to admit that we’re pretty. And our beauty is supposed to be effortless, natural and tasteful. It’s supposed to be contained in the right package and marketed for mainstream use. Anything outside the type of beauty that is currently prescribed is rejected, or at least not fully accepted, and is considered either “exotic” (tokenized) or simply just wrong.

So the mainstream marketing of beauty is also a touchy subject for many women, particularly feminists. My mother’s generation of feminists proved their street cred by going bare-faced, ditching girdles and sporting luscious armpit hair. I was one of those. I may not have burned my bra but I certainly embarrassed my parents by refusing to wear one for a few years. After about a year of no shaving, my stepfather finally noticed and said, “Joey. You have hair under your arms!” and I said, “Yes! It grows there!” and he said, “Should you shave it?” and I said, “No, don’t oppress me!”


So it doesn’t surprise me that Tom Matlack talking about make-up in the New York Times caused an uproar, even though he said that he had no opinion whether or not women should wear make-up (or get breast implants or tattoos). The fact is, there are a lot of people who believe that the only right way for a man to answer a question about whether women should wear make-up would be to say, “Men should have no opinion about women’s make-up.”

Instead, Tom said, “Women should do what they want.” And maybe there’s a difference there. He’s saying what he feels, rather than prescribing a proper way to talk about something. I’ve been struggling with this distinction since heavy criticism was laid against him last week, including by some people I really like and admire. I have come to the conclusion that Tom Matlack is simply never going to be the guy who says, “Men, you should have no opinion.” And maybe that will make him Enemy Number One to some people, but it’s just who he is. He seems to want to tell his truth and let others do the same. He answered the way you’d hope a man would answer—by saying it’s not up to him what his wife or any other woman does—but not exactly the way he was perhaps supposed to answer, because he was supposed to universalize his personal opinion. Some writers even said things like “Finally, Tom Matlack’s opinion about your face” when really, Tom’s opinion was, I have no opinion about your face.

But he did have an opinion about his wife’s face. He deemed it perfect in the morning, bare. He called her gorgeous. And he used a few words that are pretty triggering for those who have studied the effects of the beauty industry upon women: “natural” and “tasteful”. To the average person, those words are so common they’re almost meaningless. But to some people, the word “tasteful” is a natural juxtapostion against “not tasteful” which basically means slutty. And we all know that word’s not okay.

And the use of the word “natural” bothered some women, too. One such woman is Christina Huffington, who’s Friday blog on HuffPo explained the way “natural” and “effortless” beauty have served to undermine her self-esteem. For Christina, the quest for effortless beauty and perfection was dangerous and she landed in treatment for an eating disorder. In her piece, she looks back on a conversation she had with a doctor and explains:

She was perfect, I said. I would never be that perfect. Her perfection was effortless and every aspect of my life seemed to require enormous effort. To talk to boys was an effort. To get dressed, an effort. I was sitting there shivering in a locked ward because I had put a dangerous amount of effort into my quest for perfection. True perfection, it seemed to me, had to be effortless.

Obviously effortless perfection is impossible to achieve, it’s a negation in terms. But I profoundly understand where Ms. Huffington is coming from. I also understand disordered eating. I know what it’s like to despise one’s own perfectly capable body, to wish you could take a knife and cut something off—like your thighs or your thick arms. I know how it feels to become so used to being hungry that you no longer even register the sensation. I know what it’s like to workout until you’re sick, and then feel guilty for not working out again that same day.

I know how it feels to feel profoundly ugly. I spent extraordinary amounts of time in tanning beds in my late teens because of my pale, freckled skin. If I could just get tan enough, the freckles might just blend in. And after a while they did. (Consequently, I’ve had 8 moles removed from my skin before 35 years old, 3 pre-cancerous and one so dangerous I had to have part of my toe cut off and reconstructed by a plastic surgeon.)

I’ve tortured my body for beauty, but it wasn’t actually about beauty. It was about perfection and sexuality and acceptance. It was about being better than others, wanting to feel untouchable in just one way. It was about avoiding the risk of people rejecting me for the things that actually matter—like brains, or skill, or soul. It was about trying to get to a place where, when my partner told me, “I love you, you are wonderful, you are beautiful exactly as you are,” I would actually believe him. But the quest for perfection will never lead you there, because you’ll never be perfect. You’ll always have a dimple on your thigh or a pimple on your nose. And with all that effort, you’ll never be effortless. Yes, the quest for beauty is tortured in a way that few men probably truly understand.


I asked Tom Matlack what he meant when he said that Elena is most beautiful with no make-up on. He told me this, “because of how much I adore her, I find her most attractive first thing in the morning, seeing her with nothing but her natural face and body.  I allows me to connect more deeply to the essence of the woman I adore. My comment in the NYT piece was not intended to be generalized to anyone else or make any other women feel pressure or less than. It was simply a reflection on my wife and how make-up works inside our marriage.”

Interestingly, some people didn’t believe Tom that he actually does love Elena’s face more bare than with make-up. I asked Amelia McDonell-Parry of The Frisky why it was impossible to believe him. She explained most men don’t seem to even realize the difference between “no make-up look” and “no make-up”. She said, “I don’t think, like many men, he actually GETS make-up.” I think Amelia is saying that he thinks he likes her better bare-faced, but in truth he likes the “no make-up look” more.

To me, this is more about intimacy than actual beauty. Tom told me it’s impossible for him to say whether the rest of the world would think Elena was more beautiful first thing in the morning versus done up for a formal event. That’s not what any of it was about. And I get that, because looking across the bed at my own husband, who is 47 years old, is when I love him best. That first-morning face is unique. Only I (and our children sometimes) get that face. He can take his everyday face into work, around town, and other women and men can admire it if they want, but first thing in the morning is just for me. And loving him then, beard all messed up, hair crazy, is special because for those few moments it’s just us.

I think that’s what Tom meant when he talked about the way Elena looks at him first thing in the morning. Intimately. Without reservations or distractions. Straight into his soul. And he loves that feeling so much that her face at that moment—to him—is perfect. Not the kind of perfection that Ms. Huffington (or myself) was seeking to dangerous ends, but the kind of perfection that comes with true intimacy; with trust and years of hard work and pain and joy and loss. And for a moment, when we have that kind of a partnership, we get to step out of society’s rules and misogynistic teachings that say that a 48 year-old woman can’t be gorgeous without make-up.


I don’t know if one can fully understand that sort of feeling until it’s experienced. Even if someone adores you and tells you everyday, you have to be receptive to believing it. Believing it is terrifying because the moment you believe your partner feels that way, the more vulnerable you are. This is really it. This is really love. If something goes wrong, it wasn’t because they didn’t love me enough. It wasn’t because I was unlovable.

Believing we’re unlovable does a lot for us in that shitty way that shitty things do. It keeps us safe, because it allows us to maintain control over our hearts. If I tell myself (or you) that I’m not lovable, as I used to, then I’m still the one deciding I’m unlovable, so you don’t get the chance to find it out first. It’s a weird dance of self-fulfilling scenarios and grappling for control.

And maybe we can’t imagine that Tom Matlack loves his wife that way, because we cannot imagine that it’s possible. And if we did believe it were possible, then we’d have to face the fact that we may not have that right now. Tom is lucky (or blessed, if that’s your thing) to have a love like that, but if you go back and read his old work you’ll see that it didn’t come to him unearned. I deserve it less than him, probably, but I have it too.

My husband likes my face first thing in the morning best—pillow creases, cracked lips, matted hair and all. And I believe him when he says it. Finally.

Perhaps Tom should’ve definitively said, “Men have no place talking about make-up” instead of his opinion that women should be the ones to decide about make-up. But let’s not let that cloud the fact that in the space of a few hundred words, Tom said something that we very rarely hear: A real woman, one with ambition and drive and heart and soul, one who is a mother and over the age that Hollywood deems “desirable”, is beautiful to her husband just as she is. And that alone is sort of a revolutionary statement in our youth-obsessed society.

Photo of a sleeping woman courtesy of Flickr/Parker Knight

About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and editor with a special focus in issues facing raising boys and gender in the media. Her work has appeared on Redbook, Yahoo!, xoJane, MariaShriver.com, TIME.com, and more. She and her husband are outdoor sports enthusiasts raising very active sons. She is currently co-editing a book of essays for boys and young men with author and advocate Jeff Perera. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.


  1. Personally, I know my husband finds me beautiful, makeup or no makeup, I know that in terms of sex, he prefers makeup, which is more than cool with me, because I prefer to wear makeup (for me I feel more myself when I have makeup on, because I wear it as a form of self expression, being the goth chick that I am) He knows that I think he’s stunning regardless, but that I frankly find it very sexy when he has some eyemakeup on/has done his hair (and I go WILD for a man in heels). I also know that my husband is very into large breast implants and women who’ve gotten extensive plastic surgery, which is cool with me, because that’s what I’m into being (saving up for implants now).

    Personally, I would never judge for being into thin, tanned, blonde women, I’d judge him for calling any woman who didn’t look like that ugly, or worthless though. There are a million different things people find beautiful (personally, i like skinny, effeminate dudes with long blonde hair, and cheekbones that could cut glass). No one should be judged for what their physical sexual preferences are (as long as they perfer adults) as long as they treat their potential mates as human, and don’t judge other people for their tastes.

    (also it pisses me the hell off when men tell me I’m “prettier without makeup” it’s not for you, and if you don’t like makeup, I wouldn’t be for you even if I weren’t married)

  2. I look better with make-up. Most people do. I guess my relationship with it is not nearly as complicated as most women’s. I wear it because I like looking different, about once a month. And I usually stay inside when I do. It’s not worth the extra ten minutes in the morning to wear it to work, and attracting men has always been pretty much at the bottom of my priorities in life. I like to think my attitude on it is pretty healthy, which is why I often get mad when people think it’s evil. It’s not evil, if you have the right outlook on it. Try telling drag queen it’s evil. 😉

    Speaking of drag queens, I’m always sad that you can’t wear that kind of make-up in public without people thinking you escaped the set of Jersey Shore. Why wear make-up to make it look like you aren’t wearing make-up? I want rhinestone eyelashes and hot gold lips, yo. Go big or go home. I think that’s my greatest disappointment with make-up. I want to go bigger and crazier but I also don’t want people staring at me. It’s seen as a way to look better, not as a bold fashion statement, which is a darn shame.

    Men can certainly think what they like on make-up. I have my own thoughts on it. I have my beliefs and I don’t impose them on others. I think it’s stupid to get up a half hour later to put on some mascara but it’s their sleep they’re losing, not mine. If they find it worth it, good for them for being so dedicated to long eyelashes. Tell you what, eyelashes will NEVER pull me out of bed in the morning. People do crazy things for the approval of the opposite sex, I guess. :p

  3. Asking men to speak up about makeup preferences is like asking women to speak up about penis size preferences. Everyone’s personal preferences will be different, and the same persons preferences will change from other person to other person. That is to say, maybe Tom likes Linda with no makeup, but think Kate looks better with make up, and that Sally looks best with just a little make up. Or Joanna liked Sam’s dick because it was big, but also liked Nick’s because it had a nice curve to it, but also liked Dave’s because it was a little smaller and allowed for different positions to feel good.

    Also, the emotional connection between two people is going to alter perception. Maybe, if Tom and his wife had never met, and he was looking at two pictures of her, one with makeup and one without.. he might choose the makeup one. But when you add in the intimacy and experiences they’ve shared, he likes her better without the makeup. Just like a woman will really prefer her boyfriends/husbands penis over any other, even if it’s not the one she’d pick out of a catalog.

    Lastly, with either question there will always be a “right” answer, and anyone who gives that answer will be suspect. Men insecure about their size and angry at a society that pounds (pardon the pun) the idea into them that bigger = better, and women who are insecure about their appearance and angry at a society that beats them with the beauty myth, will probably never accept any answer besides the ones that reinforce their existing beliefs. But, in either case, if you’re not going to accept the other person’s answer as honest, why bother asking?

  4. I don’t always wear makeup, sometimes I’m lazy and just can’t be bothered, or hit snooze too many times, or I’m going to the grocery store in my weekend clothes and who am I going to see at Kroger that really gives a crap what I look like?
    When I do wear it, though, I generally feel better about myself. This morning I put a little more effort than usual into my look, dressed nicely and accessorized (a step I usually forget), used a curling iron on my hair and put on some mascara and eyeliner. As I was walking around the office, I caught my reflection in the glass frame of a picture, and instantly felt boosted – that internal ‘Hey, good lookin’!” feeling. Not like I felt terrible about myself before that moment, it just added some spring to my step.

    I won’t lie, I really do love getting compliments on my looks from others, and when I’m in the mood, I dress/make up and expect to receive compliments. Even on a grocery trip, I get remarks on the color of my hair (I’m a natural redhead) ALL.THE. TIME. and it never gets old. I also work in an office with a really casual dress code – “dressed up” by our standards is what others would call biz casual. So if I do go the extra step, it’s bound to get noticed. Of course, this all ties into the acceptance thing Joanna and others referenced, but hey, femini sm or no femin ism, this attention still feels good, and that feel-good feeling carries into the rest of my day.

    Incidentally, and please read this as observation/statement of fact and not a complaint, my husband rarely remarks on my appearance and never tells me verbally that I’m beautiful/pretty/sexy. He just assumes that I know he finds me beautiful. So he’s the last person I wear makeup for, because it doesn’t make sense for me to do anything special about my appearance to please him, I’m not going to get anything out of it and he doesn’t seem to care much what I look like as long as I’m showered, dressed appropriately for the occasion, and not clashing.

  5. I don’t agree with the statement beauty being used as a weapon against women. Beauty IS very important to men, that’s not gossip from the beauty industry to get you to buy their products, it’s true. A man, especially your husband, wants you to feel completely comfortable around him and will tell you anything to make that the case (because he loves you). That doesn’t mean it’s the case though. I decided to type the truth because I wasnt sure if you were looking for honest responses or confirmation of the bubble women live in.

    • I agree with you, actually. As a non beautiful woman, I am very aware that men value beauty in women over everything else. It sucks but it is the way it is.

      • Nick, mostly says:

        I’m sorry the men you know are like this, but not all of them are. I dare say very few of my male friends are like this, but that’s just selection bias at work (intentionally so, I might add).

        • wellokaythen says:

          Agreed. I am perfectly capable of discounting, ignoring, patronizing, or insulting beautiful women as much as I am anyone else. To behave otherwise would be unfair…. : – )

      • I value beauty, amongst other things, but being superhot won’t save someone with a terrible personality. At most they’ll be wanted for casual sex, but for love you need a matching n compatible personality which beauty doesn’t matter as much.

        Beauty matters to a varying extent in all people, some more than others, as an overweight male I can assure you women can be just as shallow as men.

      • Good for you, Sarah, for not discounting the evidence.

      • I’m sure you’re a very beautiful woman Sarah, inside and out.

    • Nick, mostly says:

      There’s not a morning I wake up, look at my wife, and think, “you know, I’d love her just a tad bit more if she were prettier.” Superficiality is not noticing how attractive someone is, it’s thinking that it’s somehow important.

  6. paul kidwell says:

    There are two times during the day that are my most favorite. At night when I see my wife cme into the lobby of the swimming pool where we swim each evening and in the morning when I wake her from her sleep. Two distinct visions. Both beautiful. Hard to pinpoint in which she is most beautiful, but if I had to choose,I’d say the morning wake-up makes me more weak in the knees. Something about the beauty of starting another day together that steals my heart and makes me thankful that she is the person with whom I have to share this time. Plus, a more stunning vision in flannel pajamas i could not imagine. Pardon me, but I feel a touch of the vapors coming on.

  7. I find this whole discussion sort of foreign to me because I don’t wear makeup. I was not a pretty girl when I was growing up, and after experimenting with makeup in my teens and early 20’s, I found it did absolutely nothing for me. Men did not pay more attention to me when I wore makeup; they didn’t like me any better; they still ignored me, for the most part. My first boyfriend in college was very critical about my appearance and even told me that he was embarrassed dating me because I wasn’t attractive enough, so I wore makeup for him and lost weight and he was still disappointed by me. It didn’t help. In my late 20’s, at some point I decided that I just didn’t give a sh!t anymore whether my face is pleasing to men. I know I can’t compete with prettier women. Trying to compete just makes me feel pathetic. “Mutton trying to be lamb” as the British say.

    I realize I’m different than most women, though, because for most of my life I haven’t been very motivated to settle down with a man. I experienced so much rejection as a young woman because of my average looks that I gave up, frankly. I fantasize about a man finding me beautiful but I know it will never happen, because I’m not beautiful. I know that may sound like low self esteem but I’m being realistic. I’m not married and don’t have children, though at the moment I do have a boyfriend. He says he doesn’t care if I wear makeup, which is nice.

    • Kind of a weird way to arrive at the point where you don’t care about make-up.

      “I tried and tried and tried, it didn’t give me perks, screw that.”

      How I arrived at it:

      “I wasn’t raised to think it looked good on me. I don’t think it looks good on others. Ergo, it doesn’t look particularly good, is time-consuming, is costly -> Conclusion, only do for artistic ventures or for being exotic/special events.”

      I do think I can be physically appreciated (considered pretty by some). But I don’t really care. I’ve been rejected, not as a romantic partner specifically, but as a failed human. In turn I also rejected humanity as a failed living being race. Now I think some have redeeming qualities, and try to meet those. And not care about the others.

  8. To me, this is about acceptance. How we accept women and expect them to perform to be pleasing. And every woman understand that the world expects her to be “pleasing” in all forms. We are suppose to please our kids, we are suppose to please our parents, we are suppose to please our husbands and boyfriends and even men we don’t know because we are suppose to be pretty at all times. We are suppose to do all this while maintaining the illusion of youth and beauty. And if we don’t? Then we aren’t really, “real women”. We aren’t truly feminine. We aren’t worthy of love. And ultimately, women inherently want to be loved. That spans ages, from 5 to 105.

    So for me, this is all about acceptance. How we accept our partners. How does our acceptance allow us to express more of our true selves. How acceptance works with our ability to be vulnerable, authentic and transparent with our partners.

    When women always have to be concerned about their looks, their age, their bodies, it stops us feeling we have the freedom to just be us. It doesn’t allow us to be authentic and vulnerable with ourselves and with those around us. Because when we fail to be less then the expectation of pretty and attractive, we are failures.

    And I think men can strongly relate to the issue of acceptance. I think men have a deep desire to be accepted by their partners. Although I think for men, the things men want to be accepted for are different sometimes from the ways women want to be accepted. But from what I’ve learned, men want to be accepted for just who they are, imperfections and all. Because that’s when we know someone truly loves us. When we are transparent in all our strengths and weaknesses and that person loves us knowing all that information. Women want the same thing. We don’t want to have to be accepted and loved simply because we have the right make up on, the right clothes or the right pair of breasts or because we are simply the right age that a man wants us to be. That’s not real acceptance anyway. It’s not acceptance if someone is only with you because you meet all their ideals.

    And of course, there is always the issue that comes up about just how honest men should be about how they feel about their partners looks. So I ask the guys to think of it this way. Lets say you built a new deck on the back of your house. You felt proud about what you were able to achieve and how the deck looked even though it obviously didn’t look like it was done by a professional. You asked your wife to come outside and admire your work. You took her hand and lead her outside on the deck and asked her how it looked. And she looked at it and said, “Well, you really could have smoothed down the wood better and you really didn’t measure the beams completely equally, and I see some wood over there sticking up….” You knew your work wasn’t perfect but you were proud of it. She could have instead come out and despite all the imperfections said, “Oh Wow Honey, you did all this? We are going to have so many good memories grilling and hanging out. Thank you for putting in all that effort!” But all she saw where the areas that weren’t perfect. Sometimes it can feel like that for us women when it comes to our looks. Maybe our butt does look fat in that dress. Or maybe we did a pretty good job of it and we have a few parts of us that aren’t perfect. It’s all about how you choose to look at it. Maybe we aren’t as media pretty without make up. Maybe we don’t look like all those women you are oggling online or in magazines. But we are still your parter even when we don’t look all dolled up. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, maybe the key is focusing on what we do have that you still admire and think is beautiful about us.

    So maybe as a man, when a woman asks you to be honest about her looks, you really should be honest about her looks. But she doesn’t need your negative judgement about a certain feature to accomplish that. You can still be honest about her and be positive at the same time. Because I can guarantee you that there is no part of a woman’s body that might be flawed that she doesn’t already know about and hasn’t spent alot of time thinking about and worrying over.

    The issue shouldn’t be about what you as a man want to tell her “honestly” about what isn’t perfect about her. It should be about seeing the things in her that are truly beautiful and being open with those thing so she can feel more open and vulnerable with you. This shouldn’t even be a question about having to force yourself to be politically correct with your partner or having to sugar coat the truth. It should be about seeing your woman outside the norms of how society sees us women.It should be about seeing her imperfections and realizing that those are unique and a part of her just like the parts you might think are “better”. I hope that makes sense. Sometimes it seem to me that men get caught up at wanting to express their “honesty” to their partners even if they know it’s negative. When what women really need is men that don’t look at them for their imperfections and our failure to be what the world wants us to be physically but instead men look at us and see us completely and positively and encourage us to be us.

    • ” We are suppose to do all this while maintaining the illusion of youth and beauty. And if we don’t? Then we aren’t really, “real women”. We aren’t truly feminine. We aren’t worthy of love. And ultimately, women inherently want to be loved. That spans ages, from 5 to 105″

      Screw that.

      I’ve also rarely heard people say a woman is “not a real woman” because she was barefaced, or not wearing a dress. You can revoke a “man card” for lack of masculinity in any kind of domain (or lack of being suicidal and brainless with the intent to impress men and/or women by doing something he knows is stupid).

      You can only revoke a “woman card” for being very very butch (think “manly looking women”, meaning hairy, tall, and larger, with deeper voices – and I’ve known cis women who are like this), or because you’re perceived (rightly or wrongly) as being trans, in a kind of essentialist twist that womb-possessing is necessary for femaleness (in a way having a sack of balls isn’t for maleness).

      And by hairy, I don’t mean “doesn’t shave her armpits, or arms”, I mean “hairy like a trucker”. Some cis women are naturally more hairy everywhere (arms, legs, and upper lip) without taking any kind of drug. Just how they are. Let’s say it’s rarer on a % scale than “failing a masculinity test”, which can include pretty much all men at some point. And a good 20-25% who will REFUSE to do it most of the time, because they think its crap (the test specifically, or the existence of such tests itself).

      Buying an expensive ring is a test. Doing a Grand Display of romantic stuff (like asking to marry on the Jumbotron) is a test. Provoking fights and going through them (even if you lose) is a test.

      Personally I both find the tests, and their existence, as “masculinity fitness tests” to be ethically disastrous. If those men asked for it (ie volunteer in the army), maybe, otherwise, clearly ethically wrong.

      • I really have no idea what you are talking about or why you think it applies to what I said. I wrote something that I deeply believe in, it came from somewhere inside me and is nothing but truth. And you wrote it off by saying “screw that” because you don’t really care about the issues women experience. At least, that is how it seems to me by your response. I am sure that you have a lot of issues to contend with in your life. That doesn’t mean you can’t open yourself up to hearing other people out and understanding the things they go through. You are not so special that you are the only person to experience pain, discouragement, fear, saddness or any other emotion. We all experience those things. It’s best to listen to others about what things cause them issues (or happinesss) instead of insisting you know best about everyone and simply saying “screw that”.

        • You said you spoke for everyone, with what I quoted. That all women want to be loved, and they all buy that they won’t be accepted, as female/as woman by people if they don’t look feminine enough (which is WAY WAY past “not butch”).

          If that’s true, women should grow out of it by the time they’re 20. I mean sure, companies sell insecurity to make a living, but critical thinking exists, and I deem all humans capable of it.

          I mean, as a trans woman, I should be particularly vulnerable to pressures saying “I don’t do enough to qualify as a woman”. But I called the bullshit and killed it in the egg. Everyone should be able to do so, everyone should do so. People should live for themselves, and THEN find someone compatible with who they are.

          Living for what “culture thinks it wants out of you” is ultimately not living. It’s being a zombie.

          Maybe what you are fits with culture in major ways, but in all ways? Never happens. Mr and Ms average are made of multiple people – hence no one is exactly like them in character and taste. Some might want people to think they are, but it’s 99.999% a front to not be shunned by shallow people they call friends, or acquaintances, or schoolmates/peers. There is always some thing that doesn’t quit fit with the “mainstream ideal”. And unless it hurts other people (like pedophilia), it shouldn’t be quashed under the guise of conformity-for-the-greater-good. I also think this is the worse parents can do (quash the “differences” in their kids, to make their life more bullying-free – you’re also quashing what makes your kid unique).

          • I think everyone woman wants to be loved yes. And wants to be thought of as beautiful. I think a lot of women struggle with their beauty because of messages women receive about their looks.

            I’m not sure why women should grow out of wanting to be loved and feel beautiful by the time they are 20. I never said women weren’t able to think for themselves. Just because we are able to be “critical thinkers”, doesn’t mean these issues go away.

            Just like you as a transwoman says “bullshit” to messages, I do the same. Otherwise, I would be doing other things to my body to fit into the ideal. But that doesn’t mean that I still don’t get those messages regularly blarred at me from a host of avenues.

            But I do understand why some women conform to the pressure and I don’t consider them “zombies” at all. They are people, just like anyone else. And they are probably doing the best they can with their abilities.

            The rest you kind of lost me but I hope I got the gist of what you were talking about.

  9. Make-up is whatever, I can take it or leave it. Neither my current girlfriend nor my last ex wore any most of the time and I didn’t care, and still don’t. They both have great natural skin though.

    That said, I am very interested in my girlfriend’s clothing choices. She dress fantastically IMHO: lots of long flouncy dresses and skirts that I adore, always sexy lingerie, and occasionally belts and corsets that pinch in the waist and accentuate her breasts. I’m always happy to pass comment and, ahem, be financially supportive.

    I am downright prescriptive when it comes to her hairstyle.

  10. “Men should have no opinion about women’s make-up.”
    If you want to catch my eye then you damn well better not silence my opinions on dress n makeup, if someone wants to know what I like then ASK ME. If a girl I like loves me wearing a certain style I may actually wear it for them as long as it doesn’t bother me.

    Should women wear makeup? Women can do whatever the fuck they want. I do notice good makeup though, and I appreciate the women that wear it for the trouble they go to and how it can accentuate their looks but chances are the woman I will love I will notice whether she was in makeup or no makeup.

    I am a sucker for fake eyelashes, dunno why, I was absolutely crushed to hear they were fake too after I was wondering one day why tv shows n movies had women’s eyelashes longer. I thought maybe it was just mascara but they were longer lashes. I like mascara and eyeliner too, I like the various shades of eyeshadow used, I realllly like lipstick (bright glossy reds <3 ).

    I remember when prom came around I saw the ladies all dressed to the nines and their hair especially blew me away, the various curls and texture in their hair was amazing. They weren't beautiful because of their makeup, but the makeup was I dunno how to say it…different? A good different, it was rare to see and thus attracted my attention a lot and really blew me socks off at how intricately detailed everything was.

    I am a photographer and still get blown away by good makeup, especially since it means less editing since I don't have to hide blemishes the models don't want showing (which sadly adds to the problem and is morally conflicting but oh well..). I view it akin to clothing though, I am also blown away by long cocktail dresses n glamour (blue dresses <3 ), dazzling jewellery, not keen on highheels though due to their damage to the legs.

    I am happy for my partner to not wear makeup though, her choice, I'd love to see her in it of course for special occasions and I'll dress to the nines too (though never tried makeup myself). I don't want her to think makeup makes her sexy, all it does is accentuate sexy in different ways like clothing does. It can help hide embarrassment with pimples which I guess is a double edged sword, good in our culture if you feel anxious about it but bad because it can be expected.

    "I know how it feels to feel profoundly ugly."
    It's an awful feeling. As an overweight man I suffer a lot with insecurity, especially with manboobs since I've had men n women grab them n humiliate me over them. That's what I find so sad about society is that people are made to feel that way, my goal is to one day make someone who feels ugly to realize their beauty with my photography, maybe I need that myself though.

    "I think Amelia is saying that he thinks he likes her better bare-faced, but in truth he likes the “no make-up look” more."
    Amelia appears to be thinking a misandrous thought then.

    "Perhaps Tom should’ve definitively said, “Men have no place talking about make-up”"
    Fuck no. His critics need to GTFO it and realize a man's opinion has worth, take it or leave it, that is his opinion and quit trying to silence men about their views on makeup. Should male makeup artists quit their job?? Should women never talk about what is attractive in men?

    Some people need to turn off the PC for a while and stop finding reasons to be outraged. Tom has every right to say he loves his wife's face without makeup, if you don't wanna read it click the lil X at the top of the browser.

    Some people like makeup, some don't. Can't win em all folks, just wear what you want for you, maybe wear something for your partner if YOU want to.

    • wellokaythen says:

      “Men should have no opinion about women’s make-up.”


      “Perhaps Tom should’ve definitively said, “Men have no place talking about make-up””

      I think the message of these statements is more about usefulness than rights of expression. More like: “expressing opinions about make-up is generally a no-win situation for men. It will likely create anger or insecurity in the woman he is talking to, or diminish him in her eyes, or both.” I’m hoping she’s not saying that men have no right to have an opinion on the matter, just that expressing it will generally be counterproductive. There’s just no upside to it.

      I get miffed as well whenever someone tells me I should have no opinion on something just because I’m a ___. If someone doesn’t want to hear my opinion or discounts it out of hand, that’s great, I don’t have to express every opinion I have the moment I have it (it’s true!), but don’t tell me I don’t get one. Maybe I’m a dermatologist. Maybe I own stock in a cosmetics company. Maybe I’m a photographer. Maybe I’m a cosmetician. Maybe I wear “women’s make-up” myself – how can I put on make-up without having an opinion about it? (I hope no one is assuming that men never wear “women’s” make up. That would be horribly unprogressive….)

      • Indeed. Silencing men on opinions of the opposite gender is pretty popular, how dare they speak of what they like women to wear. Why not see both genders as giving a damn about each other’s experience? The article and most of the comments here seem to be of men saying they don’t care that much about makeup on their partners, they see their partners as beautiful with or without makeup. How is that not helpful to women? It pretty much proves makeup isn’t as important as some women tend to think it is, but then I guess you can change your beauty with makeup but much harder to apply personalitychangingliner to your mind. 😉

  11. Cheers for the article, Joanna, appreciated (and I’m sure Tom does too.)

    “Interestingly, some people didn’t believe Tom that he actually does love Elena’s face more bare than with make-up. I asked Amelia McDonell-Parry of The Frisky why it was impossible to believe him. She explained most men don’t seem to even realize the difference between “no make-up look” and “no make-up”. She said, “I don’t think, like many men, he actually GETS make-up.” I think Amelia is saying that he thinks he likes her better bare-faced, but in truth he likes the “no make-up look” more.”

    I think this is verging on prejudice on McDonnell-Parry’s part, frankly.

  12. Nick, mostly says:

    My favorite makeup is the dirt covering a woman after a long day planting and weeding in the fields, or the grease from servicing a GE CF34 on a regional jet. It’s the bits of thread strewn through her hair when sewing her latest project, or the sweet mixture of sweat and tears after setting a new PR on the clean and jerk. It’s the ink stains on her fingers after completing her latest novel, and the blood from her encounter with the concrete at the skate park. When a woman wear that make-up it’s like ambrosia to me.

    Otherwise, I prefer no make-up (and no, not the “no make-up look” make-up). My wife doesn’t put it on for me, because she knows it will have the opposite effect as it has on most men. I find the taste of lipstick unpleasant, and does anyone really prefer their make-outs to result in concealer and foundation and blush on their lips? But she does wear make-up, on occasion, because it’s her face, not mine, and therefore her decision (as much as any of these things are our decisions).

    Politically I’m opposed to all the many potions and concoctions we’ve told women they must wear to be “acceptable” in public. And unlike Alyssa and Joanna’s partners, I don’t think my wife is beautiful when she’s “all done up.” Instead, I silently rage against a culture that tells women they have to be done up to be beautiful. I seethe against a culture where a woman’s physical appearance is weighted more than whether she’s kind or clever. And I’m thankful I don’t have a daughter who, despite my best efforts, will still heed the nagging voice every so often telling her she needs to be just a little bit prettier.

  13. I’ve had men offer various opinions on my appearance. First I don’t generally wear make up as it makes me break out or get some weird allergic things going on (especially with the mineral make ups for some reason). But sometimes I’ll put some on. And I find the opinion about make up and hair (another perpetually changing thing on me) varies man to man. Some prefer heavy make up. Some prefer no make up (and it wasn’t a “right answer” situation it was a “can’t you wipe that stuff of your face before we go out” statement). Some like a little natural looking make up. And just like my hair style and shaving habits I take the opinion into consideration when deciding what I want to do. I can’t wear make up on a daily basis but if a guy prefers make up on a date or for something special sure whatever.. it’s not going to kill me and I really don’t care. I just never understood why it’s such a darn taboo topic to talk about. And why men shouldn’t have an opinion. I don’t have to look at my face all day. Chances are my partner is going to spend some time looking at it and if it’s some garish mess because of some crazy make up or looking a little cadaverous and could use some blush I’d rather he say something than not voicing it. If he just generally hates it and finds it to be annoying one way or another I would hope he would say it.

    My conclusion being that men have different ideas about what they see as beautiful. Just like my girlfriends and I differ on what we think is beautiful. And good for the men that are in relationships where they feel comfortable enough to express that. I’m happiest when I can express stuff like that if I have a strong feeling one way or the other.

    I think this is indicative of a bigger issue of why as a society are stripped of our opinions. Why is it wrong for anyone (male or female) to have preferences about people and talk about them? Why do we have to be neutral about absolutely everything?

    • @ Kat “I think this is indicative of a bigger issue of why as a society are stripped of our opinions. Why is it wrong for anyone (male or female) to have preferences about people and talk about them? Why do we have to be neutral about absolutely everything?”

      This is because some people want to ignore the fact that when to comes to physical appearance, There are woman who are attractive to a large number of men and there are woman who are attractive to a small number of men.
      Also that weather it’s kate upton, kim kardashian or adele, every man is looking for a woman he finds physically attractive.

      • @William…

        “…..every man is looking for a woman he finds physically attractive.”

        Yes and No. Initially, what gets my attention is not a woman’s beauty. Rather, it is walk, dress, and rear end. That is what I look for FIRST. Does she walk with confidence? Does she dress in a toned down but classy manner? She does not have to wear Christian Louboutin or Jimmy Choo. Just nice but classy look. I think the rear end needs no explanation.

        If I get a chance to meet her and talk, then I am listening for smarts, beliefs, looking for warm eyes and a smile, personality…….

        Personally, I am not attracted to women with lots of make up, boob jobs, fake eye lashes,…..I love a natural look. Give me a “plain Jane” with brains, great personality, smile, and a nice ass. I am in Heaven.

        • Your post proved my point. She doesn’t have to be attractive to the next man but she does have to be attractive to YOU.

  14. Matt Crowder says:

    Thank you Joanna for sharing your thoughts on what has become a rather touchy subject over the last week. We have known each other for 20 years now (hard to believe right) and there are subjects such as this that I am extremely interested in knowing what you think. I will go ahead and apologize now, this is kind of a long reply…what can I say, you got me on a roll again Joanna 😉

    To start I would like to say that I am happy for both you and Tom’s wife that you both have such wonderful men as husbands. There is little doubt that these men love and adore you just as you and every woman deserves. The fact that they are ready and willing to buck conventional wisdom and say that they find you radiant and beautiful first thing in the morning with bed head and morning breath just as much if not more as when you are all made up and dressed to the nines is a true sign of their deep love for you.
    I am the same way in that respect and I think that that feeling is due largely to the fact that it is the woman that I love that I am seeing in the morning. How could it not put a smile on my face to open my eyes and see the woman I love laying there next to me. A perfect example of this is from my marriage. We were married for eight years and when we got together she was what most would call average size I guess. Shortly after we got married she got pregnant with our daughter Amarah and gained weight. This weight stuck with her and she gained more due to other medical issues and at her highest was about twice the size she was when we got together. At no time though did she ever stop being the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I told her this all the time and of course she didn’t believe me but everytime I looked at her I saw the same beautiful woman I had fallen in love with years before. Two years after our divorce and medical intervention she has lost all of the weight she had previously gained and she is still beautiful, but it is a different kind of beautiful. I don’t see her the same way because we aren’t together but I can still appreciate her beauty. Now though I do see in older pictures the difference that others saw that I never did and it doesn’t change though the fact that she was beautiful to me.

    As for a woman’s need to wear makeup, get plastic surgery, tattoos etc, my thoughts are my own. All of these are perfectly fine by me. Is it possible to wear too much makeup…sure. Can tattoos go from something that eccentuates beauty to being a distraction and not attractive…of course. Is plastic surgery necessary…not to me, if for instance the woman I am with wants to get breast implants because they make her feel better about herself I am going to be all for it. On the other hand though, if she wants to get breast implants because she thinks that it will make me happy, I will have to disagree with her and I will let her know she doesn’t have to because she doesn’t need them for me to think she is beautiful. Getting them though won’t change the way I see her because above all else I love her.

    Do I appreciate it when the woman I am with decides to spend the time putting on makeup, doing her hair and putting on something nice before we go out, of course I do. To be honest it is pretty fascinating to me the different steps and techniques that are involved. I would recommend that any guy just sit there and watch sometime if they haven’t, and I mean really watch. Take it all in. If you didn’t appreciate it before you will after.

    Like I said before though, if it is the woman I love it doesn’t matter if she is just waking up wiping the drool off her mouth, crazy bed head and in her pjs looking for a cup of coffee or after spending an hour getting ready to go out for a night on the town. Both of those looks and everything in between is beautiful to me and if a man truly, deeply loves the woman in his life he will feel the same way. If he doesn’t, well in my opinion there are some questions in my mind as to his level of douche-baggery. And by that I mean that he expects her to be made up all the time in order for him to love her and find her beautiful. Guys like that give guys like me, Tom and your husband Joanna a bad name and quite honestly screw it up for us. It sets up a false idea in the minds of women as to what a man wants or that they have to do certain things to keep a man.

    I think the biggest issue that I have noticed in the days after Tom posted his initial opinion piece boils down to how many do not feel that a man should have any say in what a woman does in these areas. You yourself eluded to this and I am glad that you did. While I am a great many other men don’t care about what the woman in our life does in these areas like I mentioned, what is wrong with us having an opinion on it if we do, especially when they are similar to what Tom was trying to say? It is just as wrong to say a man shouldn’t comment on these things as it would be for men to say that a woman shouldn’t comment on what a man does to himself. Rarely ever do you hear that a man shouldn’t spend hours at the gym or spend time grooming before going out. In fact the opposite seems to be true. It’s perfectly okay to bad mouth a guy with a few extra pounds or doesn’t have a nice tan or good hair. And that double standard is something that is completely wrong in our society and unfortunately grows as every day passes.

    I know that this is longer than the usual comment or reply but you got me all fired up again Joanna 😉 and that gets me writing. The last thing I would like to say is on the subject of natural beauty. Does it exist, yes. Some say that it is due to good genes. To me, natural beauty is the beauty that the woman I love has 24 hours a day, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. That natural beauty is not so much a byproduct of genetics as it is a direct result of the love that is shared when true love is shared between two people.

  15. Alyssa Royse says:

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And that is often because they can see things that others can’t see. Not long ago, we were putting a roof on our chicken coop, in the rain. I was wearing baggy old Carharts, Wellingtons, A down vest under an old hoodie, and literally had chicken shit in my hair because it’s impossible to work on a chicken coop in the rain and not have chicken shit in your hair. I was hammering something, and caught my sweetie looking at me. It was one of those looks that pierced my soul and encompassed the 50 years we have left to live together that have not yet happened. And he said, “you are so beautiful.” And he meant it. What he saw was beautiful to him. Who are we to judge?

    What’s tricky is that we are sold a bill of good that is about as far from “soaking wet with chicken shit in your hair” as you can get. Conveniently though, we are sold an answer: If you do these things you will be beautiful.

    What’s interesting is why men should be part of the conversation. And that is that a lot of what we are being sold is not beauty itself, but what that beauty gets us. And very often, what we are being sold is that beauty will get us the man. But I don’t know any men who think the women they love look better with make-up. (Can I quote Macklemore here? In The Thin Line he says, “the greatest lie the devil ever pulled was convincing women that they look better in their makeup.) So what if we’re doing all this for nothing? What if more voices like Tom’s were heard and the men of the world, at least some of them, said, “I’d rather see you as you are?” I do think men have to speak up here, because a lot of why the cosmetics industry is what it is, is precisely because women think they need to do it to attract men.

    I’ll up the ante and ask women if they want men who need them to me made up to find them attractive. As women, we deserve better than that, we certainly deserve more security than that. Sure, I own nice clothes, sexy clothes and makeup. All of which I enjoy sometimes, but none of which are a regular occurrence for me. Does my man think I’m beautiful when I’m all “done up?” You bet. And it feels good. But when we met (blind date, online dating) for the first time, I didn’t wear make-up. I didn’t even shower, actually, came straight from the gym. Because I wanted a man who could look at me as I usually am and think to himself, “that, I want that, that is just fucking beautiful.”

    I want more men to speak up about how they really feel about makeup. I don’t know any who prefer it, even if they don’t mind it. But maybe that’s because I’m old and live in Seattle where we probably have more chicken coops than cosmetics counters.

    • Good makeup and clothing can leave me speechless, but 90% of that feeling or more comes from how I feel about the person. I like people both in and out of makeup, just as I like my partner nude and clothed nicely, ratty tatty clothing doesn’t bother me much if there’s no need to look good like being in the chicken coop. Going out I prefer we both dress up a lil, at least I prefer to dress up nicely. Hell get naked, no makeup, and I doubt you’ll find many partners think “HMMM I wish she was wearing makeup”.

      I can’t say I prefer no makeup or always makeup, I like a mix of both but I’m fine either way. Makeup on some people can make them look sexier I guess but I dunno…some people don’t need any to look reallllly sexy. People I find sexy look sexy without makeup, I think it’s just different and if it isn’t everyday it becomes rare and interesting more than anything. Only thing that bothers me probably is bad makeup, drawn on eyebrows…unless you haven’t got them or health issues affect them don’t shave them off and draw on eyebrows, and clown makeup will make me laugh:P.

  16. wellokaythen says:

    First, I have no reason to specifically doubt Tom or your husband when they say they like you best without makeup. I am not about to imply that they are lying. I merely want to ask hypothetical questions:

    If he thought you were a little more attractive with makeup, or that sometimes he likes the way you look better when you’re made up, would he really have the same chance to express that truth? I suspect in most cases one answer is clearly preferable to the other. It strikes me that Tom and your husband are both saying “The Right Thing To Say.”

    What some people roll their eyes at is not the goopiness of the sentiment but how perfectly spot-on it is as The Right Answer. “Do you like me better with make up or without?” is right up there with “Do these jeans make me look fat?” Whatever the man’s truth, there is an uphill answer and a downhill answer. In one sense, Tom’s piece does take a lot of bravery, but in another sense, maybe it’s not such a revolutionary manifesto.

    If the man’s true answer is not so politically correct, does that make him less of a Good Man?

    • wellokaythen says:

      Sorry, messed up pronouns. I meant your husband likes you w/o makeup and Tom likes his wife w/o makeup. I have no idea what Tom thinks of you without makeup. : – )

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        First, just today on a conference call, Tom expressed that he doesn’t care if anyone wears make-up, so I assume I”m included in that group 😉

        And yes, I hear you about how it seems like “the right thing” to say. My husband is one of those weirdos who is truly devoted. He lived a very rough 38 years before he met me, and I’m not exactly the first woman he’s laid eyes on. But throughout our years together, he has had to learn to be honest wiht me about the realities of how we’re both changing. I’ve dealt head-on with disordered eating in the last few years, and there were many painful times where I had to adjust to the fact that I’m no longer in the quest for perfection… Which puts me further from it. I’m in a GREAT place with that now, but he learned that by being honest with me, “Yes, you have more belly now” made me trust him more and helped deepen our intimacy. I don’t need smoke blown up my ass, I”m trying to get healthy here, you know?

        I know he loves it when I’m dressed up and glam, but I can see it in his face… I mean, I really know this man… when he is having a moment of admiration. And it definitely happens when I’m wearing make-up or looking good. But I can tell that that deep and passionate connection is there most often when I’m not done up.

        Ultimately, if he thought I looked better with a little make-up, and he was the man he IS, I’d be fine with that. If his love, desire or fidelity depended upon that make-up (meaning, NOT my husband, he doesn’t function like that) then that’d be bullshit and things would get gnarly. But I didn’t marry that guy.

        He does prefer me with my natural hair – curly, and I prefer me with my hair blown out. Sometimes I wear the curls and he is delighted, most of the time I do what I want.

        I can’t speak for Tom, though.

    • There is “do you look better with make up/does he look better groomed” as a normative social matter. Probably yes, everyone looks a little better with clean hair, nice clothes, etc. Just look at makeover shows for men or women. But there is a moment often, when you see your partner just as they are, warts and all, and the beauty inside them and love you feel for them transforms them. I think those are two very different experiences and both are honest.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        Yes Julie, exactly. That’s why I spoke of that first morning beauty as being more about intimacy that objective “Beauty”.

        • And maybe more affection than desire.

          I wish we could hear from writers in Latin countries (chiefly, Spain, France, Italy) on this issue. They don’t seem as strained over the concepts of beauty, appearance, aestheticizing, or rank and inequality of physical characteristics. With their deeply planted ideas of good form, of bella figura, and bon chic bon genre, I can’t imagine them having such a fraught discussion of what is right or what is desirable.

      • Maybe it’s a matter of language.
        Do I look better in well-fitted clothes, styled hair, and makeup? Sure.
        Does my husband agree? Probably. (I don’t care enough about the answer to ask him.)
        Does he *prefer* me with make-up? Ah, now there’s the rub.

        • wellokaythen says:

          And, back to one of my earlier hypothetical questions, does his status of being a “good man” or not depend at all on his answer to these questions? If so, is it what he says or what he prefers?

          • Does his status of being a ‘good man’ or not depend at all on his answers to these questions?

            Personally, I don’t think so, but I know women who would disagree with me. In the end, though, we are not the judge & jury of Good Man status, as much as some women would like to believe we are.

            Is it what he says or what he prefers?

            Very good distinction here, and it gets at what others have touched on, the whole ‘saying the Right Thing(TM).’ If I imagine myself as a woman who would be put off by a statement of preference, I imagine I’d say I don’t care all that much if my husband prefers me with makeup but I don’t want to hear about it, he should keep that opinion to himself, otherwise I feel objectified and/or like he’s trying to control my appearance. Although, I don’t doubt there are women out there who believe he shouldn’t even have a preference.

            This I can’t get on board with. I think the double-standard thing gets thrown around a lot and I don’t always agree with its application, but in this case, I’m firmly of the opinion that you can’t criticize a man for commenting on a woman’s appearance, or beauty in general, unless you also refrain from commenting on men’s appearances. I have preferences too – I like my man with facial hair, long hair, and nice arms. I can get even more specific than that – I like a full, thick beard, hair long enough to be tied in a ponytail, and arms/shoulders that are sculpted but not bulging. While I don’t go broadcasting this as a habit, I also don’t feel any pressure to keep my preferences secret. I’ve talked about them with my girlfriends (and you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who hasn’t), and my husband knows them too. I feel I can be vocal about them with no repercussions and I don’t even worry that a comment about the appeal of facial hair will make any man I’m talking to insecure, or that he may lash out at me for it. There’s my female privilege smacking me in the face, huh?

            Me saying I like A, B, and C is NOT any different than a guy saying he prefers his woman with ‘smoky eyes’ (achieved by makeup), straight teeth and a fit body. And if I believe I have the right to my preferences and the right to speak about them out loud whenever I choose, then ethically I must extend that same right to men. My own preferences may not match the mainstream idea of male beauty, but they are pretty narrow (and of course, that’s why they’re preferences and not requirements).

            That, incidentally, is another layer of this cake. It seems that if a guy states his preferences and they are non-mainstream…say, he likes the Goth look, or likes Big women, or tattooed women… that causes less of an uproar than if he says he likes women who are tan, blonde, made up and a perfect C cup. Again, to me, this is ridiculous. Women governing what it’s OK for men to like is just flat-out sexism, end of story.

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