Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
Home » Humans » Women | About me Impressum Contact Sitemap

Imposing beauty ideals


A particular annoyance is how some women try to impose their opinion of female beauty on men. I will go even further: This is not merely annoying, but highly offensive.

A typical scenario

Let us look at how this typically plays out:

  1. The woman starts by complaining about the current beauty ideals being both unnatural and something that men have imposed on women.

    Both claims are highly disputable:

    1. There is an enormous variation in what different men consider attractive; including everything from Twiggy to Kirstie Alley in her “Fat Actress” days. To even speak of one particular set of ideals is dubious; claiming that “men” impose these ideals is entirely out of line.


      I am somewhat less critical of the alternate claim that media impose beauty ideals. (Note, however, that formulations like “male-controlled media industry imposes” are just a “men impose” in disguise.)

      Still, even here the claim is often exaggerated and out of line, e.g. through complaints about “unrealistically” beautiful actresses: That (visual) media cherry-pick women based on looks is only natural and in itself not an imposition of ideals. Further, if we look at e.g. fashion shows and women’s magazines, the women occurring there are not necessarily the ones that men find the most attractive. Notably, the majority of the viewers and (in my third-hand impression) behind-the-scene decision makers are either women or gay...

    2. The most common ideals seem to be youth and fitness—indisputably things both natural and healthy—; whereas the stone-age statues of “mother goddesses”, often cited as proof of a natural ideal, display an unhealthy obesity. (Also note that fertility symbols of various kinds are often exaggerated. Consider e.g. a male fertility statue with a penis too large too fit into a woman of the same scale as the statue.) Even depictions of comparatively fat women in medieval art could be a mere reflection of health as an ideal: In times when malnutrition is the standard, fat could conceivably be seen as a sign of health (or, obviously, wealth); today, too much fat is a much larger problem.

    3. The typical man is much less obsessed with how women look, how much they weigh, etc., than women themselves are—and usually shows a greater tolerance for deviations from what he considers ideal. (See also a discussion of obsession with looks.)

    4. My own (physical) attraction to women seems to be very instinctive and rooted in automatic reactions to certain proportions and characteristics—it seems plausible that this reflects the natural state, rather than something learned, and that other men share the same kinds of reaction (with some individual variation).

    5. IMO, women typically look better the less fat they carry (within reasonable limits); however, some amount of “padding” can make touching more pleasant. It is only natural that women with less fat are given preference in contexts were visual appearances are more important (if other men think the same), and would in no way be an indication of an unnatural ideal—just a focus on one particular aspect of an ideal.

  2. She continues by praising the virtues of her own ideals for herself (typically something “Rubenesque”, cf. above), which incidentally matches the way she actually happens to look—from which it should seem plausible that she is just trying to justify her current looks by raising them to an ideal, by means of various excuses. Interestingly, there is even some indication that women have objectively flawed beauty ideals when other women are concerned, e.g. in that they hate the competitione or dislike buying from more attractive salesgirlse.

  3. She ends with a statement along the lines of “men will just have to learn to appreciate our natural beauty”. In effect, this boils down to “We women should decide what makes a beautiful woman, and men will have to adapt their opinion.”—entirely and absolutely unacceptable! Any human (man or woman) should be fully allowed to his own (largely inborn) preferences for the opposite sex. The choice to adapt or not lies with the other sex: A woman (or, conversely, a man) can chose to prioritize her attractiveness in the eyes of men or in her own eyes, or to give something entirely different priority—either way is perfectly fine. However, she has no right to claim “this is the way I look, and you have to find me beautiful”. (In contrast, “this is the way I look, and I find me beautiful” is perfectly in order.)

    By analogy: If a fisher prefers a different bait or lure than the fish do, then he should certainly be entitled to use it; however, he has no right to complain if the fish do not bite—and to complain that the fish impose unnatural ideals on how hooks should be baited...

Excessive thinness, eating disorders

A related criticism is that the current beauty ideals would lead to excessive and unhealthy thinness or eating disorders.

The former is largely because too many women approach their figure in the wrong way: Where they should do more sport, build up their muscles, and become more toned, they instead put themselves on a starvation diet, destroy muscles in the same tempo as fat, and lack the energy to exercise. This is like trying to drive a car with the handbrake on—and then to complain that the car is poorly constructed. Notably, while well-trained bodies and thin bodies are both typically low in fat, and do share at least some proportions and forms, it is typically the well-trained body which is attractive—not the thin one.

The latter is typically a consequence of female insecurity and obsessiveness with looks, not of beauty ideals. Notably, women with eating disorders often have a target in their mind that goes far beyond what men actually consider attractive—like presenting a man who prefers his steak well-done with something so over-done that he would rather eat Brussels sprouts.


Further, many women go about the dieting it self in the wrong way: Go to e.g. http://www.opendiary.com/e and read through a few diaries of dieting women. It is the same thing diary after diary, page after page: The woman sets a goal for energy intake that is clearly over-ambitious (and unhealthy...), fails to reach it, comfort eats because she failed—and ends up gaining weight. If she instead set a reasonable and attainable goal of, say, losing 2 pounds a month, and went at it with the same dedication, she would be highly likely to be succesful—and would have dropped 24 pounds after one year and, if needed, 48 after two years.

Attractiveness in general

More generally, it is not uncommon to hear women complain about men being too focused on looks or youth, not wanting women for their inner values or their intelligence, whatnot.

The problem here is similar: It is not up to women to decided what men should find attractive.

Further: What women consider a nice conversation is often what men considering boring and uninteresting—and that a particular woman can entertain her girl-friends does not automatically make her charming to a man. Women (and men, this is very wide-spread problem) who consider themselves intelligent tend to overestimate themselves considerably. Many characteristics that women find positive are negative or annoying in the eyes of a man (and vice versa). That men tend not to be attracted to women based on their inside is, to a large part, because that inside brings him much less value than women tend to assume—not just because he has a thing for beautiful young women.

Consider the irony of the “nice guy” issue: Here we have men that are more prone to (at least try to) appreciate women for their “inner beauty”, who try to be the kind of man that women claim that they want—and who, arguably, are good for women. Yet, these are routinely passed over for the next “bad boy”, they are “friend-zoned”—or they have the disputable honour of marrying a woman when her looks have faded enough that the bad boys are not interested anymore. Now, whose inner beauty is not appreciated?

Bottom-line: What humans, irrespective of sex, find attractive is largely pre-programmed. Blame the universe, not the other sex.