Women in short skirts: The “debate” trundles on …

Women, Celia Walden argues in the Telegraph, “have got themselves into a tangle over beauty”. Spending “an inordinate percentage of their time worrying about their looks – and the rest of it actively trying to enhance them”, they then object when men show appreciation (as it were). Bizarre. It’s probably because women are fickle, inconsistent and manipulative. Oh, and feminist. That as well.

Citing one example of typical female behaviour, witnessed on the tube “the last time I was back in Britain”, Walden describes a teenage girl calling out a man for staring at her legs:

I felt for him. The girl had very nice legs. The girl knew she had very nice legs, and had chosen to showcase them in a belt of fabric that would draw admiring glances from every male member of that carriage – and a few females besides. Yet she found it demeaning – or “disgusting”, to quote her friend’s empathetic murmur – to be reduced to an object of beauty. Women, she believed, in her indignant, third-wave feminist little head, are more than the sum total of their gloriously appealing body parts.

Ha! Imagine that! Women being more than the sum of their body parts! What will the feminists think of next? (And there are still people who believe trousers are a feminist conspiracy!)

As a feminist, I am fond of beauty products, aka weapons. Every morning I apply foundation, eyeliner and mascara, all in an effort to catch out the enemy, aka the Patriarchy. Many an easy victory is scored when I’m granted the opportunity to call out lechery, or rather, it would be if I wasn’t such a sow’s ear to begin with. But never mind. At least I manage to strike a balance which, by and large, prevents teenage boys from calling me a dog to my face.

Still, it would be nice – well, not nice, but an improvement on life as it is now – if the only time women were leered at, shouted at, not taken seriously, groped, assaulted and attacked was when they’d made an effort to look conventionally attractive (i.e. attractive in a way that Glamour, and other magazines for which Walden might write, considers appropriate). That way we’d have the chance to avoid all street harassment, or workplace discrimination, or whatever else gets thrown a woman’s way when her lipgloss is shining that bit too brightly.

It would be annoying in other ways, obviously. After all, the urge to smother one’s face in mid-priced foundation is innate (God knows how women managed before the existence of Maybelline, L’Oréal and Bourjois). Nevertheless, at least there’d be a reason to resist, much as we love attracting the kind of attitudes which prompt our indignation (it makes us feel alive).

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how things work. Young women attract unwanted attention whatever they do, while older women are treated as invisible on the very same basis. I’m not sure when the exact cut-off point is. Possibly my age which, coincidentally, is also Celia Walden’s. That said, I may continue scrounging the odd insult due to having big tits, as might Walden, due to being luscious and pouting and attention-seeking and vacuous, all of which I’ve worked out just by looking at her byline photograph, which totally screams “look at me!!!” – except it doesn’t, as it’s just an image and not a person.

Of course we judge people on how they look, and of course we make decisions about how we want to appear to others. But that doesn’t mean we consent to the pressures we experience, nor that we invite others to no longer see us as people. And on that rather dull observation, I’m off to sweep the blusher and eyeliner from my indignant, third-wave feminist little head.


5 thoughts on “Women in short skirts: The “debate” trundles on …

  1. “little head” betrays Walden’s internalised misogyny, sorry for the cliche, but it seems to be the most accurate way to describe this slur.

    1. I agree Helen. In fact that whole quote is internalised misogyny. The fact she does think that women are no more than body parts is really quite scary.

  2. I have never worn make-up in my life, and don’t own any short skirts, and I still get unwanted attention. Walden is naive.

  3. There’s something quite depressing about the idea that if a woman wears a skirt or a flattering outfit that she’s available for the delectation of everyone she comes across (mainly men). This mistakes lascivious looks for appreciations of beauty.

  4. I’ve gotten harassed (and slut-shamed) while wearing my down parka. I’m busty, and I’ve finally realized I can’t hide it… and that shouldn’t mean that I get hassled everywhere I go.

    Incidentally, I wear nail polish, all the time, because I’m a compulsive nail biter. Couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks of it. And I just bought a dress — my first in more than a decade!! — because it made me feel so pretty and so happy. I get to feel pretty and happy and good about myself, and I have the *right,* regardless of what charming people like Ms.Walden may think, to walk down the street wearing my dress and not be fondled or groped or harassed.

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