JJ Vincent wonders why men’s appearances are not subjected to the same scrutiny as women’s. Do you have an answer?
I don’t know that I could tell you what sort of tie and shoes Obama wore at his last public appearance; I think Brad Pitt was last seen in clean clothes, and I’m not sure if John McCain was ever seen in blue jeans. But inches of column space get dedicated to Michelle Obama’s sleeves and bangs. Angelina Jolie’s belt and shoes can be headline Yahoo! News for days. Sarah Palin’s glasses were almost as famous as she was.
There was in a story on YahooTV! about Elizabeth Hasselbeck joining the TV show “Fox and Friends”: “Hasselbeck, in a chic sleeveless lavender dress, joined Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade….”.
The remainder of the story was about show content and the woman she replaced, but this comment stuck out to me.
There was no comment of, “Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, wearing coordinating lavender ties…” or “Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, in casual plum shirts…” (or whatever they might have been wearing).
There rarely is.
I’m not a men’s fashion buff, but I’ve noticed that there’s almost never a focus on men’s appearance like there is on women’s. Maybe, after an awards show, a few guys get savaged as badly as the women, but we seem to get a pass just about everywhere. Lines about what we wore don’t pop into these “review” stories. But if a woman’s belt and shoes don’t match? That’s candy for certain journalists.
It’s not just the tabloids…even mainstream news sources will jump on the, “What were the ladies wearing?” stories (and I’m not just talking about Ms. Cyrus and her VMA bikini), while largely ignoring the men.
I’m not saying that I want men to be under more scrutiny – I’d like the whole petty, judgmental aspect of the “appearance under a microscope” part of popular media to disappear. But I’m trying to figure out why we are not.
Gender of the writer or reporter does not seem to matter. Men cover women’s style and size, the quote above was from a female reporter, women and men both write the beautiful and biting commentary that dogs female celebrities and politicians wherever they go. One week a woman stepping outside of the traditional is celebrated, the next week it is vilified. Unless they are Justin Bieber, though, or Joaquin Phoenix sporting a wild-and-wooly beard, or someone in a mugshot, guys just don’t register on the Celebrity-Headline-Looks-o-Meter. If they do, it’s here-and-gone, but people will talk about a perceived extra ten pounds on Jennifer Lawrence for a week.
It extends beyond clothing. As women age in the public eye, they are criticized if they visibly age and criticized if they get plastic surgery. With a few exceptions, their value rises and lowers in response to whether they toe the line of “proper physical appearance”, and they are called brave, even heroic, if they take an “ugly” role. But men can age. They can bald, get lines, go grey, and still be handsome, sexy, rugged. Even gaining some weight can open up new roles or opportunities by bringing new gravitas to someone once just thought of as a pretty face.
Do we get a pass because the media-makers assume that people don’t care? Are our looks and fashion so homogeneous that they’re not interesting? Do people enjoy tearing down or building up women more than men? Is there something “wrong” about criticizing or praising a man’s appearance? Is the double-standard so deeply ingrained that people don’t really think about it anymore?
Ideas? Because the sport of celebrity judging is not going away. But I’d really love to know why we seem to have a “Get out of jail free” card.