pressures to be attractive - men vs. women
July 30, 2014 4:46 AM   Subscribe

My husband believes that men are just as pressured to be attractive with the same consequences socially if they aren't attractive. I think the pressures on women are MUCH higher (and much more unattainable), and that the social fallout is much larger if a woman isn't attractive and following the social norms of attractiveness. Who is right? And if I am right, help me explain this to my husband.

I am not saying that men aren't judged based upon their appearance. I am saying that the pressure on women to be attractive, and the lengths we are expected to go in order to be attractive, is much more significant. I also think that an unattractive woman's life is much much harder than the life of an equally unattractive man. He also thinks overweight men have it just as bad as overweight women when it comes to dating. I tried explaining to him that being over weight as a woman is MUCH more detrimental to dating than being overweight as a man. I don't think he believes me about that either.

He really thinks that both sexes have it equally bad but I just don't believe that it is true and it is sort of upsetting me.

Help me clear this up.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Society & Culture (65 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Note: hard facts, numbers, and statistics would be beneficial.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:47 AM on July 30, 2014

Visually attractive?
posted by kidbritish at 4:48 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: yes, based upon physical appearance.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:49 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

In America, at least, just look at TV- I can't think of a single show other than Drop Dead Diva about a woman who isn't conventionally attractive getting a "hot guy", but the reverse is a pretty standard sitcom setup.
posted by mkultra at 4:50 AM on July 30, 2014 [13 favorites]

You are right. Your husband is not just wrong, he's wrong-headed to be making this argument.

There is certainly pressure on everyone to "be attractive," but the meaning of that for men is much looser than it is for women. Consider the commonly understood notion that men maintain their looks as they age, while women lose theirs.
posted by OmieWise at 4:53 AM on July 30, 2014 [23 favorites]

It's difficult for hard data to exist for this, since it's subjective and personal and it's hard for a lot of men to put themselves in womens' shoes. One thing you may be able to point to is the relative ages of male and female actors in on-screen relationships. I don't have links off the top of my head, but I do know that people have definitely charted the fact that 40+ year old men are commonly partnered with 20-something women, while the reverse almost never happens.
posted by kavasa at 4:58 AM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

You might also consider asking him how much time he spends on things like:

-arranging outfits
-his hair
-how much time he spends applying makeup
-how often has he been catcalled
-how frequently do strange women tell him he'd be much prettier if he smiled

and so on.
posted by kavasa at 5:00 AM on July 30, 2014 [27 favorites]

If your husband is the sort of chap to crack jokes about "women take ages to get ready to leave the house", ask him why he thinks that that is the case.
posted by Solomon at 5:02 AM on July 30, 2014

Mind the gender gap for grooming. How many jobs are there that place standards on mens appearances? (Think "professional" appearance for women, specifically requirements for make up, nail polish, stockings, and hair styles)

Here you have a good overview. Worldwide, men spend considerably less time and money on grooming compared to women. Pretty clear it is not an independent, individual decision for a woman to "dress up" or "buy beauty products", that she could abandon without consequences.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:11 AM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's difficult for hard data to exist for this

I don't think that this is true. One of the things that social scientists do is operationalize these kinds of complex issues so that they can apply quantitative methods. This usually involves choosing a narrower research question.

For example, you might not be able to answer the question "are women judged more based on appearance than men," because that is very broad, but you may be able to answer "is there a greater difference in hire rates between attractive and unattractive women than between attractive and unattractive men." (Where attractiveness is based on an average rating.)

I am pretty sure the research is out there but the relevant terms are used for other types of studies (e.g. what makes a woman attractive), so it's hard to sort through. We need someone who knows the research or at least the right keywords.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:11 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's this.
posted by kjs4 at 5:13 AM on July 30, 2014

I think that unrealistic standards for men are quite widespread, and getting worse. Perhaps this is what your husband is noticing. There was an article a few weeks ago that was talking about how the bodies leading men in movies tend to sport these days can only be maintained under careful supervision for a few days, using tricks like intentional dehydration to get that super defined look.

That said, it's obviously not the same. While it may be true that, for both men and women, there is an essentially unattainable standard for attractiveness portrayed in the media, men are more likely to be judged along other axes as well. We do not become invisible if we fail to meet some minimum standard of beauty.
posted by Nothing at 5:16 AM on July 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

Average woman spends £18,000 in her lifetime on skincare & makeup.

women spend more time on their appearance than men

Finally consider the old ugly dude who will seem hot because he has 1) money 2) swagger and his wife will most definitely be young & attractive.

There is pressure on men to get and maintain status but this status is not as looks-based as it can be for women. Remember the comments when Hillary Clinton was running for prez - is the public ready to watch a woman age on tv over 4-8 years??? Mass hysteria.

posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:17 AM on July 30, 2014

Mod note: Please note that OP has clarified that they'd prefer "hard facts, numbers, and statistics" and it would help to avoid this becoming chatfilter and/or debate if folks could link to or cite resources, articles, etc. Thanks!
posted by taz (staff) at 5:22 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Run down the price differences between your clothing, makeup, personal care items, etc., and his. Take him to Target and show him that the women's razors cost more than the men's razors, that the women's clothing costs more and is of flimsy construction.

Also, men don't have to remove body hair other than on their face (and if they want to leave the hair on their face, a neat beard isn't socially unacceptable). Women have to remove all visible hair from their faces, armpits, and legs, or face intense social scrutiny. You could offer to give him a leg wax or let him use an epilator.
posted by pie ninja at 5:23 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Who is right?

Keep in mind that you're asking internet strangers for help to prove to your husband that he's wrong. Will this really be helpful?

Also, you're attempting to apply societal issues on an individual level. Everyone is fighting their own personal battles and think they've got it tough. Society does make it harder for women, in general, not just in personal beauty. But what's your husband's back story, has he had to deal with a lot of crap on his individual level? What do you hope to get out of convincing him that he's wrong?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:24 AM on July 30, 2014 [13 favorites]

Male models make far far less than female models because they have a smaller audience - men spend far less and pay less attention to external beauty controls. Numbers and coverage at Daily Mail, aka the british Buzzfeed, Forbes, and Jezebel.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:30 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also he may be thinking along the lines of this argument: WSJ interview with economist Hamermesh (n.b. Professor but with Mr as his title in several places, so I'm skipping the title):

WSJ: You show that good looks are even more influential for men's earnings than for women's. Why do men's good looks pay off more?

Mr. Hamermesh: There are two reasons. First, not as many women work for pay as men. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics says just 59% of adult women hold paying jobs in the workforce, compared with 73% of men.) If you are unattractive and you know you are going to be penalized for that, and if you have an option to stay out of the job market, you as a woman may choose not to bear that pain. Also, women in general are paid less than men; part of it is that they channel themselves into different occupations, and part of it is pure discrimination.

Basically that women occupy a narrower salary band, and also have pre-selected on the higher side of attractive for work, while men who are less attractive can still get jobs, and this shows a wider range of the influence of beauty on men. Or: a woman has to be a 6 to compete with a male 4
posted by viggorlijah at 5:36 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Only around 1 in 10 people with an eating or exercise disorder is male; 90% are women. There has definitely been an uptick in recent years of eating/exercise disorders in men (more often taking the form of very disordered high-protein diets and excessive working out to be muscular and "cut," rather than losing lots of weight), but the sort of intense pressure to look a certain way that leads to disordered diet hits women much, much harder.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:39 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

The number of conventionally unattractive male actors is much higher than conventionally unattractive female actors.

The number of conventionally unattractive men with conventionally beautiful women is much higher than the opposite. (both in the media and in real life)
posted by bearette at 5:41 AM on July 30, 2014

Another area where this is really obvious is news anchors.
posted by something something at 5:43 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: What do you hope to get out of convincing him that he's wrong?

It isn't out of a "Neener Neener! I'm right you're wrong!" thing. I guess I'm aiming to have him better understand the world I live in, the sort of persecution I have suffered due to my weight and appearance. I spend a great deal of time on my physical appearance - my hair, my makeup, my clothing, wearing pretty but uncomfortable shoes - and I know he appreciates it. He likes how I look, and I like that he likes how I look, but I am wishing he understood that I sort of don't have a choice, that even if he didn't give a fig about my appearance I would still have to do all of this. In order to be deemed a functioning and valuable member of society I pretty much need to be attractive.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:43 AM on July 30, 2014 [22 favorites]

Economists have been studying the effect of attractiveness on wages - the term they use is "beauty premium." On preview, Hamermesh who is mentioned above, has conducted several widely cited studies on the topic. The findings have been mixed.

In academia, though, studies have found a relationship between gender and attractiveness and teaching evaluations. Basically, being attractive and well-groomed/dressed matters more for female faculty than male faculty.

And this indicates that it may not just be gender, but race may also play a part in the beauty premium:
Women's Increasing Wage Penalties from Being Overweight and Obese
"Previous studies have shown that white women are the only race-gender group for which weight has a statistically significant effect on wages."
posted by needled at 5:44 AM on July 30, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think this Mitchell and Webb parody about gender and TV ads helps make the point:
posted by parkerjackson at 5:44 AM on July 30, 2014 [13 favorites]

You are right. This is what I'd say if I was talking to your husband about this: Society rewards and values men and women more when they're physically attractive. But the range of what's considered attractive is far broader for men than women.

Here are some things everyone has probably heard said about men pretty often.

"He's not really good looking, but I think he's so hot."
"I didn't think he was attractive at first but when he started talking about books/politics/his family, I saw how cute he really is."
"Ooh, grey hair and a well-cut suit, that's a distinguished man! I totally would."
"He looks clean cut and respectable, the kind of guy anyone would want to hire/vote for/marry."
"He's short and stocky, but with that smile, it just makes him so adorable."
"He's gorgeous, he could be a model. But the second I found out how ignorant he is, my attraction instantly vanished."
"He just keeps getting better looking the older he gets."

Now think about how often you've heard the same things said about women.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:02 AM on July 30, 2014 [11 favorites]

I don't have links off the top of my head, but I do know that people have definitely charted the fact that 40+ year old men are commonly partnered with 20-something women, while the reverse almost never happens.

Here it is!

This blog is also a great general resource and has lots of other (visual) examples of the objectification/sexualization of women.
posted by damayanti at 6:05 AM on July 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

I guess I'm aiming to have him better understand the world I live in, the sort of persecution I have suffered due to my weight and appearance.

If you haven't already, it may help to talk to him about your personal struggles and if he has any sisters or close female relatives or friends, they're struggles also. You may have already gone this route with little success, hence the desire for more factual studies. But I can easily imagine him being overwhelmed by the studies and either not reading them or taking them seriously, so maybe a few poignant articles from men who have had realizations about how bad women have had in this area?

Yeah, this may sound like "Oh, he needs a man's opinion to hear this" but often it helps people to hear someone from a similar background voice things to kickstart their understanding.

It may also be useful for you two to compare how much each you spends working on your personal appearances. For a week, just compare and contrast, see how it works out.

Good luck!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:06 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Look at the newspapers. Listen to conversations in bars, on the street, everywhere: who has most remarks passed about their appearance, men or women? And how often are those remarks catty, mean, etc? A guy might get the odd jibe about his beer belly or his double chin, maybe a few cracks about balding, but it rarely descends to the sort of detailed, analytical and often highly critical level that women are routinely subjected to. Women have far more attention paid to their clothing choices. Women are, in many arenas, expected to wear make up whereas men never are. In most areas of life men can go unshaven and dishevelled without much comment.

Also, as others have mentioned, consider women in the public eye: news readers, presenters, random talking heads... they are invariably subjected to far more comment on their appearance than men in equivalent roles. You see far fewer older females in these roles, too, and it is because of harsher judgement on the appearance of older women than older men.

I think anyone who does not believe there is significantly more pressure on women than men to look physically attractive is seriously not paying attention.
posted by Decani at 6:07 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ask your husband to do his own research to prove his side of this debate. That should be informative to him.
posted by Dashy at 6:15 AM on July 30, 2014 [22 favorites]

Funny, not five minutes ago I was reading a sociology blog post which I think would be useful here. The Never-Ending Beauty Shift. There are a few links within the post that would also be of interest.
posted by kmennie at 6:17 AM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sit down and watch the Chris Rock documentary Good Hair with him. Chris gives facts and figures and show the lengths women of colour go to in the US to meet standard put on them about their hair. As a white woman from Australia I had no idea but I think it shows the pressures put on women to confirm to some set idea of what is acceptable as "pretty" from the point of view of a man just realising that these pressures exist.
posted by wwax at 6:22 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

He is right in at least one area: taller men earn more. Enough that over the course of a lifetime, it wallops the amount of money spent on makeup over a lifetime. Still digging around looking for the original study, but it was in about 2009.
posted by adipocere at 6:33 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

The balancing act of being female constantly requires women to spent a lot of time and energy balancing between being "proper" and "flirty". You have to be a bit of both everywhere, but in different proportions.

Go through your closets together, and consider why he undoubtedly has less clothing. It's likely that most pieces, either for work or play, can be seamlessly thrown together without much thought. Look at his dress clothes in particular: he probably doesn't need many, and he could probably wear any of those outfits to either a wedding or a job interview. In contrast, a woman's outfits would need to be completely different, right down to shoes and underwear, or she'd look completely out of place. This all requires women to spend not only a lot of time and money shopping, but also to agonize in the morning on whether a particular top is too low cut for work.
posted by susanvance at 6:34 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have two examples. Yes, there's the hot girl and not attractive guy thing for TV. But if I remember correctly there was a bit of backlash for the Bonnie Hunt sitcom when she had a hot husband.
My personal example was some friends. He was model handsome looking guy. He had an attractive girl friend but she was really low key, no makeup, dressed casual. Everyone that we met assumed it was hit sister because they were always together. It never occurred to people they could be a couple.
posted by beccaj at 6:37 AM on July 30, 2014

Some papers:

"The relationship between gender and global self-esteem in adolescence, while modest, has been well established, with boys consistently scoring higher than girls...As predicted, boys attained slightly higher global self-esteem scores than girls did, by a difference of .22 standard deviation units. Contrary to our expectation of more balanced domain effects, boys significantly outperformed girls in 6 of 8 domains, whereas the 2 remaining domains exhibited no significant gender differences. " Source

"We conducted a meta-analysis of gender differences in attractiveness and body image using 222 studies from the past 50 years. The analysis shows dramatic increases in the numbers of women among individuals who have poor body image. Moreover, these trends were found across multiple conceptualizations of body image, including self-judgments of physical attractiveness." Source

"Related to the greater attention paid to the female form is the fact that a woman's body is an important part of how society defines her status (Fisher, 1973, p. 46; Freeman, 1986), while a man's worth is contingent more on career achievements (O'Neil, 1981). Regarding the consequences for failing to meet societal standards of attractiveness, a number of studies have found that the relation between dating frequency and one's own physical attractiveness is considerably stronger for females than for males (Berscheid, Dion, Walster, & Walster, 1971; Krebs & Adinolfi, 1975; Reis, Nezlek, & Wheeler, 1980; Walster, Aronson, Abrahams, & Rottman, 1966). Other studies have found that while unattractive females are judged negatively in almost all situations and on almost all dimensions, unattractive males are sometimes evaluated positively (Byrne, London, & Reeves, 1968; Miller, 1970; Morse, Gruzen, & Reis, 1974). Taken together, these studies strongly suggest that, even though being physically unattractive provides disadvantages to males, the consequences are even greater for females." Source
posted by melissasaurus at 6:46 AM on July 30, 2014 [10 favorites]

I sort of don't have a choice, that even if he didn't give a fig about my appearance I would still have to do all of this. In order to be deemed a functioning and valuable member of society I pretty much need to be attractive.

My grandma had a similar argument with her husband. He was telling her she was pretty without makeup, so stop spending time and money on it. She got dressed to go out one night, and carefully made up just the left side of her face, and when he saw the difference, he stopped complaining about her makeup routine.

One weekend, do an experiment. Don't do your beauty routine. Just be basically clean and neat without any makeup, hair combed but not styled, your plainest clothes and shoes (I'm thinking t-shirt/jeans/sneakers that fit OK but aren't flattering, maybe you'd need to buy some from Goodwill). Go out in public with your husband and let him see how you are treated.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 6:47 AM on July 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

The Beauty Myth

Killing Us Softly might be an interesting watch for the both of you. One of the topics discussed is about how so much advertising directed at women is about convincing them something is wrong with their bodies, while most advertising directed at men does not.

I think it's also easy for someone who lacks an understanding of this to dismiss the amount of time and money women spend on grooming, weight loss, makeup, clothing, etc. comparatively to men as proof that women are inherently more vain and shallow than men are, and not because women are under more pressure. Historically, across centuries, women's basic economic survival was dependent on her ability to attract a partner.

It might also be interesting to read about The Great Male Renunciation, a period of time where high society men stopped dressing in elaborate clothing and began dressing more plainly, leading to the rise of the uniform suit. Men's fashion and status became more focused on being more useful in society, while women remained ornamental (and consequently, a way for men to still exhibit wealth and status). Unfortunately, I'm having trouble finding articles about it that are not behind a paywall.
posted by inertia at 6:57 AM on July 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

For a fascinating book-length discussion of the science of beauty and attraction, you should read Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff. It's about ten years old, but I'd warrant that it would still be an eye opener for both you and your husband. Lots of fun interesting stuff.
posted by alms at 7:00 AM on July 30, 2014

The Society Pages has TONS of stuff to comb through for this. Their posts tagged "Beauty" would be a good start: here

Also there was an FPP a few weeks back with a study about female body hair and actual experiences with not shaving: here

(I realize men are encouraged to manscape, but that pressure is nothing near the social scorn women encounter just from being out in public with unshaved body hair.)

A really simple experiment would be to watch TV for an hour and mark how many commercials are related towards female beauty/grooming/fashion compared to male.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:05 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think that if you look only at the last five-to-ten years or so, your husband may have a point. There is a lot more attention being paid to male grooming than there used to be, and it's definitely starting to bleed over into media/advertising pressure.

However, that's only been happening for five or ten years. If you take the whole of human history into account, you're right. Granted, even there there have been spurts of time where emphasis on male grooming has come back into the forefront, but it's ebbed again after a few years. Women have always had that social pressure, however.

So you're both kind of right.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:11 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

You might also check out OK Cupid's blog OK Trends which has great data driven information on dating, sex, attractiveness, etc... culled from how users actually interact with one another.
posted by brookeb at 7:20 AM on July 30, 2014

There is a lot more attention being paid to male grooming than there used to be, and it's definitely starting to bleed over into media/advertising pressure.

I think this is true and in a weird way it actually shows how unbalanced the whole thing is. A fat, funny-looking man will get a big boost in perceived attractiveness if he's well groomed and dressed. A fat, funny-looking woman is practically required to be well groomed and dressed, but although she might avoid some of the scorn she would attract if she did nothing, when she makes the effort she doesn't get that same boost the man gets, because female beauty is supposed to be effortless. I don't know how you'd find data on that, but just listening to conversations or reading MetaFilter would show him how that all works.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:24 AM on July 30, 2014

Does your husband feel the need to wear makeup to go to work or land a job?
...bosses prefer women who wear makeup during an interview than those who don’t. To add more, they are more likely to be promoted.
Does he remember all those shows he had growing up that taught him how important it was to look good?
Overall, compared to males, females were portrayed as more attractive, more concerned about their appearance, and received more comments about their looks. Females were presented similarly in both genres. Overall, males were shown in varying levels of attractiveness, and were portrayed as more stereotypically brave in the action adventure genre.
Does he remember all the toys he had that had mirrors and hairbrushes, makeup and uncomfortable clothes?

When was the last time he was made fun of or called gross for having leg or underarm hair?

Were you wealthy and well-known, and he very conventionally attractive, would he be called your "trophy" in any way other than a joke?

When did he last see a male beauty contest aired during prime time?

When was the last time a male character was nearly naked during a fight scene, suggesting that body is as important as skill, if not more so?

How 'bout all that commercial porn with ugly women that focuses on the super-attractive men?

There are honestly so many examples. It'd be good for your husband to read up on a lot of the resources in this thread. He could also watch Miss Representation for an eye-opener. You don't have to agree with everything in that documentary (I don't, and I studied media theory), but it certainly does a good job of showing how girls and women are portrayed.

It's important for your husband to understand that just because there is greater pressure for women to look attractive doesn't mean there's no pressure for men. We certainly don't only Photoshop women, for example, and we definitely advertise beauty products to men. We are also in this strange point in history where we want men to look rugged, tough, and soft, which is ludicrous. But men aren't discarded so easily if they don't adhere to whatever impossible physical standard is being put forward.

Moreover, the physical interpretations of masculinity are often entwined with a great deal of personal agency. The same cannot be said of the physical interpretations of femininity. This matters because the former suggests you can fall back on behaviors if you don't meet the physical requirements, whereas the latter suggests you either ace the beauty test or you're nothing.
posted by iamfantastikate at 7:27 AM on July 30, 2014 [14 favorites]

Society certainly does hold higher standards of appearance for women. BUT, this isn't a standard imposed by men but also women. Women are very, very quick to judge other women by their appearance. Pretty women are often mistreated by less attractive women, especially in the workplace. It goes both ways! Is it fair to be bullied and the subject of catty gossip just because one is pretty? NO! In fact, prettier people are often nicer than unattractive people, the unattractive people just don't notice this.
posted by waving at 7:30 AM on July 30, 2014

Pretty women are often mistreated by less attractive women, especially in the workplace. It goes both ways!

And to this point, at least one study has indicated that being attractive can be a detriment for a woman when applying for a job.

When was the last time a male character was nearly naked during a fight scene, suggesting that body is as important as skill, if not more so?

Off the top of my head, Ramsay Snow against a fully armored woman during a battle in Season 4 of Game of Thrones.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:39 AM on July 30, 2014

Look at the clothes women on TV shows wear, especially in media from the US. It drives me mad that female professionals are presented in scads of make-up with skin-tight clothing all.the.time. Even when (supposedly) casually attired. Oh, and not forgetting enormous heels. Men are dressed in clothes that are form-flattering without revealing the absolute curvature of their bodies, but women don't get the same slack (or slacks..) thus enforcing the notion that women's bodies are entirely available for inspection/judgement even when fully clothed.
posted by freya_lamb at 7:56 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

He really thinks that both sexes have it equally bad but I just don't believe that it is true and it is sort of upsetting me.

Well, he's not wrong - there is a lot of pressure on men to be attractive, and there are strict rules in place to enforce those norms.

But he is also not right, though. Women (generalizing here) tend feel more anxiety than men do and respond to those anxieties more. There is actual science demonstrating this, although the cause/effect relationship is still being teased out. the study done was on abused kids, so it is assumed that differences in response are from the abuse. One of the things not observed is the structure of the brains pre truama. It may very well be that some people are wired to respond poorly to trauma - and it is well understood that women suffer from anxiety disorders at a rate far higher than men.

The other thing that has been observed is that people who have anxieties tend to experience things related to those anxieties in an amplified way. So, if you have a person who is afraid of heights and a person with no fear both be urged to climb a ladder by an instructor, the person afraid of heights will report that the instructor was much more harsh and mean than the unafraid person will.

This has the effect, then, of reinforcing the anxiety in the person that is afraid and reinforcing confidence in the person that is not afraid.

Both of those things combined mean that the experience of being a woman, even if the pressure is equal, is that they feel like there is greater pressure being exerted. Far from saying that women need to toughen up, rather what needs to occur is that more care needs to be taken to reduce pressures and anxieties - men being better equipped to ignore these things still means they have to deal with them as your husband observed - and it's sort of a level of bullshit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:57 AM on July 30, 2014

I saw a brilliant film about this recently on youtube but annoyingly can't remember the name. It was made by an actress (maybe 2 yrs ago) who was pissed off at so much of her roles being about good looks.. but it's deeper than that + lots of stats and academics.. said even Tomb raider heroic type women "have to be fuckable". Will post back if I remember it.
posted by tanktop at 8:03 AM on July 30, 2014

Take him to a Sephora to look at skincare, or just browse the website. They sell ninety different products that are specifically designed for eyes, addressing a variety of "concerns" like dark circles, puffiness, wrinkles, loss of firmness, etc. Perhaps ask him to survey his friends (Facebook or Twitter would be ideal for this: broad and impersonal) to see who owns and uses eye treatments, and compare the men's responses to the women's.

For extra credit, try an experiment where each of you asks a salesperson to recommend a "basic" or "minimalist" skincare routine, and give no other direction. Write down every product the salesperson recommends, the purported benefits of each product, and their retail price, and compare notes at the end.

If he says anything like "no fair, that store's for women," tell him you'd be more than happy to repeat the process at a similar store marketed towards men. If he can find one.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:03 AM on July 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

Here's a study from the US Department of Labor about overweight women being paid less. "Controlling for the link between physical appearance and occupational choice, their results show a significant 12 percent penalty for obese women, but no significant penalty for obese men."
posted by Andrhia at 8:04 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

He's wrong in so many ways it would take a Ph.D. dissertation to enumerate them all, but just on the topic of aging: take the "Most Interesting Man in the World" ad campaign for Dos Equis. Now, ask him to think of an ad campaign in which a 75-year-old woman is treated as physically/sexually attractive as well as fascinating, admirable, and "rich in stories and experience, much the way the audience hopes to be in the future."
posted by scody at 8:05 AM on July 30, 2014 [14 favorites]

Another study in the Journal of Applied Psychology on biases regarding gender and attractiveness in the hiring process: "For both ratings and rankings of candidates, clear evidence of attractiveness and gender biases were present. The extent of the bias was generally smaller for the most experienced managers, although less attractive female applicants were routinely at a disadvantage regardless of managerial experience."
posted by Andrhia at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, here's a link to a lawsuit a woman brought because she was required to wear makeup as a bartender. She lost the case, disappointingly, but the double standard is pretty strong:

"Harrah's grooming policy that requires women to wear makeup requires men to have neatly trimmed hair that does not extend below the shirt collar and prohibits men from wearing makeup or having long fingernails.... The program's "Personal Best" standards required all beverage servers to be "well groomed, appealing to the eye, be firm and body toned, and be comfortable with maintaining this look." Female beverage servers were required to wear stockings and colored nail polish, and they were required to wear their hair "teased, curled or styled."

So... men had to cut their hair, keep their skin clear, probably dress in a nice shirt and slacks. Women HAD TO wear nail polish, stockings, makeup, and fix their hair. Men were expressly PROHIBITED from wearing makeup or nail polish.

Yep. And there are other cases like this, too.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:36 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

In high school I remember obese boys taunting obese girls for being fat, without repercussion. But you want numbers, so, from ScienceDaily, one of the most upsetting things I've read about this disparity. Keep in mind that girls overall are more likely to enroll in college:

Obese Girls Less Likely To Attend College

Crosnoe suggests a number of mental health and behavioral issues seem to play a significant role in keeping obese girls from enrolling in college. The study found obese girls were more likely to consider committing suicide, use alcohol and marijuana and have negative self-images.

The disconnect between obesity and college enrollment was more pronounced among non-whites and among girls whose parents did not graduate from college. Obese boys did not differ from their non-obese peers in college enrollment.
posted by ziggly at 9:01 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Speaking as a man, your husband is wrong. I think it's probably coming from an understandable place: men do face pressure to be attractive in many contexts, and that frequently gets overlooked. But it's nothing on the level of what women face pretty much constantly, from all corners.

He's essentially making a "the long end of the stick isn't all it's cracked up to be!" argument. Even when some of the points he might use to support this thinking are true, it's not an argument you really want to make if you have even a vague big picture understanding of how societal pressures about attractiveness focus on women.

Anecdata: I work for a company that positively loves to hire and promote handsome-ish, fit young men who look good in a shirt and tie and have a firm handshake. I got hired while fitting that description and have since gained weight and gone gray. I'm aware of how that changes my outlook in some ways, but I wouldn't kid myself that it's anything like what women face daily.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:13 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

So I don't know if this will be helpful in that it might be hard to APPLY to your life, but I'll throw this out here anyway.

About a year ago, my extended family went to a water park for two days. At one point my brother said to me quietly, "What's up with all the homely women here?" (yes he's a terrible person, but this makes him sound worse than he really is.)

He apologized, but said, "I'm half serious! They're so plain and unattractive - don't you think a lot of the women here look kind of masculine?"

As we continued our vacation I started looking at women. It didn't take me long to realize what it was. My grown ass brother was, for the first time in his life, seeing a large number of ordinary adult women WITHOUT MAKE-UP ON. Truly none - not a touch of concealer or a thin coat of mascara or a light touch of lip gloss. And it was completely foreign to him.

I wish I had a video of his face when I pointed it out to him. No question he realized it was true. Most people (not just men) have a base expectation of what "feminine" looks like, and whether they realize it or not, for most women, this means cosmetics. It's the default - compulsory for most of us.
posted by peep at 9:27 AM on July 30, 2014 [36 favorites]

As for this:

He also thinks overweight men have it just as bad as overweight women when it comes to dating.

please read the stunning post by DrMew, which begins, "My life is living proof that fat is a feminist issue and that people deploy fat-shaming to shut women up in a way they don't use it against men." (Okay, not dating-specific, but definitely addresses the point about how all of society, from family members to doctors, treated a woman's weight differently from a man's, even when that was the same person.)
posted by kristi at 9:34 AM on July 30, 2014 [10 favorites]

"Operation Black Hair" from The Daily Show:
Jessica Williams investigates an Army regulation that discriminates against black servicewomen and their hairstyles. (5:57)
posted by XMLicious at 11:24 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

How many times has he told little boys that they're pretty?
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:10 PM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

At a certain price point this does become true in terms of dollars spent on personal appearance. Rich and powerful men are expected to look the part and it takes a lot of effort and money: hair plugs, trainers, manicures, $5000 suits etc. BUT!! The look they're generally going for is well fed, well groomed and well off. Women are supposed to be all that and teh sexay as well. Even if they're 53 and have 7 kids and are a CEO.
posted by fshgrl at 12:44 PM on July 30, 2014

Your husband is either blind or not living on this earth if he could remotely think such a thing is true. It that's what he thinks there is no way any kind of argument or presentation of facts can show him what he cannot see with his own eyes what is all around him at every moment in every form and incarnation. Perhaps if he were a four year old child such a view would be excusable and there would be hope for him, otherwise not. The vast difference is so great there is no way that some kind of quantified statistics could ever get to it. The worlds men and women live in in regards to this issue are worlds apart.
posted by Blitz at 1:51 PM on July 30, 2014

I think your husband's wrong because women seem to really work at looking attractive, but he does have a point. I have friends with teenage boys who spend as much time looking at themselves in the mirror as any girls I've ever known. And they all have styled hair - not just a barber's haircut. As far as their clothing, I've seen young men with color-coordinated Tommy Hilfiger outfits, including shoes and sunglasses, spiffy as can be. And the other day I read a comment about Geraldo Rivera's mustache - that it was a style from the 80s - and I was dumbstruck to think there are fashionable mustache styles and out-of-date ones. As for professional men, I don't know about "pressure" but if they color-coordinate their shirt and tie, someone will tell them how nice they look and a man who wears nothing but white shirts and bland ties is boring, boring, boring.

Of course, it's all nonsense in some sense of the word. When women work so hard to look so attractive, there's a part of that that's an attempt to show themselves to other women as someone who really knows what they're doing fashion-wise, fitness-wise, class-wise, and the same is true for men - their tattoos are there for other men to admire more than for women to admire and their baggy pants and long shirt or special hairstyle is to make them look cool - mostly to others in their peer group. Women always have competed with each other - even the best of friends - to some degree in the looking sharp category.

That's why retail businesses and flashy magazines and TV commercials love us to death, right? It's good for the economy.

But men vs women? It's a tough call since both have such high standards to meet; that is, IF you're the kind of man or woman who gives a darn in the first place.
posted by aryma at 4:09 PM on July 30, 2014

I have friends with teenage boys who spend as much time looking at themselves in the mirror as any girls I've ever known. And they all have styled hair - not just a barber's haircut. As far as their clothing, I've seen young men with color-coordinated Tommy Hilfiger outfits, including shoes and sunglasses, spiffy as can be. And the other day I read a comment about Geraldo Rivera's mustache - that it was a style from the 80s - and I was dumbstruck to think there are fashionable mustache styles and out-of-date ones.

Yeah but the pressure part of it is, what happens to kids who don't conform that way and do girls really suffer no more than guys? Anecdotally, I worked at a second-hand clothing store when I was in high school and half the time wore random things I found there that were probably from older men who'd passed away, Hawaiian shirts and enormous-collared 70s stuff, mismatched with contemporary cargo shorts or trousers from nursing uniforms or military uniforms, left my hair and beard untrimmed or briefly flirted with Civil War general sideburns while I remember few if any other students having any facial hair, and I'd say I probably got a slightly more positive response amongst my peer group than if I'd dressed more tastefully. But a (straight, religiously-conservative) college friend of mine said she really liked poodle skirts and didn't give a shit about wearing makeup when she was in high school and was ostracised for it by everyone except a few LGBT kids.
posted by XMLicious at 4:38 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

From the Telegraph link: "Men weigh up potential partners almost instantaneously based on their appearance."

Every woman ever seen is instantly judged on one quality: "do I want to fuck her?" The same is probably not said for men, nor is the entire value of a man's existence based on the answer to that being "yes, I do want to fuck her." Men have value beyond their fuckability. Women pretty much don't in our culture, or it is an incredibly hard road to try to not be seen and judged through that lens.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:58 PM on July 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh, he should also read these two articles:

Woman gets rejected for being too old.
Washington Post chat about it.

What happened to Robin would never, ever happen were the genders reversed.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:55 AM on August 1, 2014

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