Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to save money by looking like Barbie

There's a doozy of a post over at WiseBread, a personal finance/frugal living blog, titled "Sometimes I wish I had beautiful long blonde hair and ample cleavage." From that alone, you know already it's going to be a great post.

The author, Paul Michael, goes on to lament that attractive people, especially blond women (who are implicitly white), often get better deals than "ordinary" people - free drinks, no speeding tickets, etc. His main issue isn't with the women themselves (or so he claims), but the people who give them the deals. He does mention attractive men too, but one brief sentence. Although he claims his issue is with the bartenders, police officers and store personnel of the world, the language of the article objectifies women in ways I'm not sure Michael is even aware of. He refers to the "girls at work," talks about "beauty queens," "sassy blondes" and (my favorite) the "part time Playboy model" who got more attention than he did at the store. By including a picture of a Barbie, he compares women to plastic dolls - yeah, no objectification there.

One of the commenters says it better than I can:
Women, regardless of their physical appearance, are full people. They are responsible for their own actions and only their own. Women, no matter what they are wearing, no matter what they look like, are not responsible for other's feelings of attraction. Women are not responsible for men's sexuality.

I have two main issues with Michael's post. One, WiseBread is a personal finance/frugal living website, not a place to air personal grievances over the way you were treated at Circuit City over the weekend. Although he's claiming being white, blond and pretty gets one better treatment, I really don't see what that has to do with personal finance or frugality. I'd much rather read about money saving strategies than the fiscal advantages of having "beautiful long blonde hair and ample cleavage."

Second and more importantly, Michael objectifies the Barbie image as the standard of beauty and attractiveness for women. He claims all attractive people benefit from this, but consistently he refers to the "pretty blonde" or "sassy blonde" or "part time Playboy model." He seems to be fixated on one image as the standard for beauty as opposed to recognizing the wide variety of beauty in the world.

If Michael has such a problem with the imbalance in how society treats one beauty image, he should take issue with the society that privileges it. By devaluing one beauty standard in exchange for seeing beauty in all, everyone wins (and apparently saves).


Jen said...

Wait, so women go out of their way to dye their hair, shave their legs, and work out for the sexual fantasies of fellow "red-blooded he-men" like the shitbag original poster and he bitches about his reaction?

Hey asshole: maybe women dress like that because that's how they were brought up to dress, and have figured out, rightly of course, that the only way to get any sort of attention and consideration in society is too be beautiful?

He lives in a society in which half the population is convinced that they have to spend money and time to look like his sexual fantasy and he feels like he got the short end of the stick?

Let me play him the smallest violin in the world while I shed a tear for the poor male victims of the patriarchy.

Amelia said...

Yeah, and like a free drink is such a big deal. Woo. Something to cry about.

And my sister has gotten free things before, and she's tan and totally a...brunette!!

And as far as the blond women not getting speeding tickets, the same thing might be said for people with family in law enforcement (not all Barbie prototypes).

But yeah, he seems to fail to grasp the problems that women face when it comes to being taught that looking/acting a certain way will get you favors.

Not cool. I never get free stuff. I feel cheated!

deb said...

Amelia you forgot to mention middle age fire fighters

FeministGal said...

i think the comment you posted from the original site said it best. Women can chose to dress however they see fit.

Also, the problem isn't with the way society reacts, whether it's positive or negative, but rather the social standards of beauty, because of which we all have to strive to fit in to an unattainable standard of beauty.

Lindsay said...

If our culture prized and valued all different types of beauty, maybe he'd get free stuff too.

Cultural concepts of beauty aren't static; they're shaped and defined by society. We just need to stop privileging some over others. Easier said than done, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

"Women, no matter what they are wearing, no matter what they look like, are not responsible for other's feelings of attraction."

Yes, they are responsible when they monetize or otherwise leverage said attraction for their own personal gain. They are also responsible because women's looks are seldom natural -- they have almost always been artifically enhanced precisely to enable such leveraging. In short, women are whores, but they don't all deal in cash.

Andrew said...

You guys are right, this guy has no right to complain about this sort of thing, but the issue of benevolent sexism still remains. The standards of beauty that he's complaining about are only perpetuated when someone is given preferential treatment based on their appearance.

To use the bar situation as an example: it may be nice and fun when someplace offers a "Ladies' Night" or whatever including free drinks, but I hardly think the owners of the establishment are doing it just to be nice. Rather, they know that if they attract women, they will also attract men (who will have to pay for their drinks). They may even get more male patrons on a "Ladies' Night" than they would on an ordinary night in the bar. That seems like pretty shameless exploitation of women to me. Sure, you get a few free drinks out of the deal, but they're taking advantage of the facts that a) society still thinks women need to be doted upon and given "special" treatment (but only in very specific and essentially meaningless situations), and b) that men will flock uncontrollably to these gatherings of women like moths to a flame.

In any case, I'm not saying women are at fault for any of this, and I don't see the author saying that anywhere, either. I also don't think he was intentionally objectifying anyone or any notion of beauty. That doesn't excuse him, but I also don't think it warrants calling him a shitbag or an asshole. There are other people right here on your blog who are more deserving of that sort of derision.

However, for the record, as a fairly average-looking male of 20 (who generally doesn't choose to follow societal standards of appearance), I can't think of any situations in which I noticed that I had been ignored in favor of a more attractive person.

Lindsay said...

I'm not saying women are at fault for any of this, and I don't see the author saying that anywhere, either. I also don't think he was intentionally objectifying anyone or any notion of beauty.

I agree; I don't think he was doing it intentionally, but he was doing it nonetheless.

He wants to know why people privilege that ideal of beauty; he asks at one point what male police officers expect from not giving tickets in situations like those. Although he says he has a problem with people giving preferential treatment, I still feel like the women are being judged in a roundabout sense.

For example, consider some of the commenters here. Some MRA posts an inflammatory comment and we respond with outrage, and then someone says, "Don't write back, they just want to make you mad. Ignore them." So although we're the ones being addressed, it's really the MRAs who initiated the exchange. (I'm not talking about all people who comment here who disagree with posts - just the intentionally aggravating ones).

If you reread his post, he spends far more time talking about the people who benefit from perceived beauty as opposed to the society that privileges them.

Andrew said...

I acknowledged the fact that lack of intent doesn't excuse him; my points were just that: a) he didn't deserve expletives as a response and b) while he did it in an improper and sexist manner, he did bring up a part of gender inequality that is sometimes overlooked (benevolent sexism) when compared to the other, obviously harmful kind.

Also, he did indeed spend more time discussing the "beautiful people" than the society at large -- but you said in your original post that it's a frugal living blog. I wouldn't expect a serious, feminist-informed article about inequality from him any more than I'd expect him to complain about customer service.

Concerning the trolls -- you're right, they are the same in essence (putting responsibility for ending the cycle on the recipient rather than the sender), but one system/relationship is far more complex than the other, which I think makes them difficult to compare.

As for the hostile comments themselves (if you're interested in an outside opinion) -- I think they should either be ignored or removed. If you're devoted to maintaining a completely uncensored discussion, then let them stay and refuse to dignify them with a response. Or, if you simply can't resist acknowledging their presence, focus your informed feminist outrage and relish the act of clicking the delete button. Anyone willing to write "women are whores" on a feminist website isn't worth any more of your attention.

Lindsay said...

a) he didn't deserve expletives as a response

I agree.

b) while he did it in an improper and sexist manner, he did bring up a part of gender inequality that is sometimes overlooked (benevolent sexism) when compared to the other, obviously harmful kind.

It's good that preferential treatment based on looks is being addressed, but I do think he could have done it in a more appropriate manner by addressing the sexist culture that promotes it. I've been watching a lot of Scrubs and House so I've been using medical metaphors more often - so it's like he's complaining about the symptoms as opposed trying to fix the disease.

Then again, he does notice there's symptoms in the first place so that's better than some people out there.

Anonymous said...

The average guy is attracted to certain types of women.


You can't change it no matter how much you natter about it.

Just like I can't change the fact that rich men are more attractive to women than poor unemployed men are.

*shrugs* Ohwellgetover it, if you're not sexy to the average man, do what you can, and better luck next reincarnation. I wasn't attractive to women when I was unemployed, so I got off my ass and got a job.