Shame that girl

A familiar problem. A 15-year-old girl sends an entry to the Everyday Sexism project; it’s about the way looks trump everything else for girls (and, as she’ll find out, for women).

I always feel like if I don’t look a certain way, if boys don’t think I’m ‘sexy’ or ‘hot’ then I’ve failed and it doesn’t even matter if I am a doctor or writer, I’ll still feel like nothing…successful women are only considered a success if they are successful AND hot, and I worry constantly that I won’t be. What if my boobs don’t grow? What if I don’t have the perfect body? What if my hips don’t widen and give me a little waist? If none of that happens I feel like [sic] there’s no point in doing anything because I’ll just be the ‘fat ugly girl’ regardless of whether I do become a doctor or not.

And she’s right. She’s right, at least, that if the future is like the present there will always be people who will see her and all women in those terms.

Laura Bates sums up:

From the advertising industry and its narrow media ideal of female beauty to the normalised objectification of Page 3; from articles that deconstruct the outfits of female politicians to the programs teaching girls how to nip, tuck, change and disguise their bodies; these messages are everywhere, everyday. The pressure on women and young girls to conform to such stereotypes is overwhelming, and until it is tackled, it will continue to undermine attempts to convince young women like this teenager that she really can “be whatever I want to be”.

She forgot to mention mobs of bullies, stalkers, harassers, and wannabe shock jocks who spend much of their free time telling women and girls how ugly and repulsive they are.



  1. NoxiousNan says

    Argh! I read this, went to Pharyngula and read about Neuroscientist Dario Maestripieri commenting on the unattractiveness of women at the conference of the Society of Neuroscience.

    This infuriates me because I was that girl, and I ended up in mediocrity because I listened to that bullshit and I don’t want that to happen to her or anyone else.

  2. jenny6833a says

    The solution is to adopt nudist/naturist philosophy in which personality and personal contribution determine popularity.

  3. jenny6833a says

    To be accurate, the problem described isn’t limited to those of us of the female persuasion. There are pleny of stats showing that tall, conventionally handsome men get ahead way out of proportion to their numbers.

    For example, think of what is meant by “looking presidential.”

  4. No Light says

    I feel sick to my stomach. The situation for girls (and women) just keeps getting worse, and worse, year on year.

    As angry and sad as I feel, I’m bordering on elation at the fact that I chose to remain childfree. The thought of raising a little girl, in a world full of sick, predatory idiots who’d view her as nothing but a nameless target, it terrifies me. How would I ever keep her safe?

    This holds especially true after having watched America the Beautiful today, and Girl Model last month, because even if these girls are exceptional and beautiful, that just changes the typo of predation and harassment, it doesn’t eliminate it.

  5. S Mukherjee says

    Jenny, what you said about tall men might be true, but it is just not the same thing as the way that ALL women face hyper-critical scrutiny for their looks. Obama, Romney, Biden etc are never criticised for their looks, but their wives and female colleagues are criticised all the time.

  6. F says

    What, no one has attempted to shame her yet? Sexists must be slacking or otherwise occupied at the moment.

    I am curious as to whether it is more disturbing and frustrating to live with the sexism, or to see and understand the problem when almost no one else around you does. But that is a whole different sort of conversation.

  7. No Light says

    F –

    am curious as to whether it is more disturbing and frustrating to live with the sexism, or to see and understand the problem when almost no one else around you does. But that is a whole different sort of conversation.

    Check out comments by Maureen and me on the #justthewomen post

    Not seeing and feeling it must be fucking amazing, like having superpowers or, y’know, not being visibly female.

    I cannot personally grasp what that kind of freedom must be like.

  8. Cam says

    She’s halfway there.

    successful women are only considered a success if they are successful AND hot

    Not really. If you have a lucky set of genes and you work hard to conform to the beauty standard, you’ll probably be better treated than less conventionally attractive women, but you’ll get an extra helping of slut-shaming and you’ll be dismissed as an empty-headed fuck-puppet. Like the song says, “God help you if you are an ugly girl. Of course, too pretty is also your doom / because everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room.”

    Looks trump everything, all right, but there is no actual success condition here. Sorry, kid. It stinks.

  9. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    I’m trying to help several pubescent nieces get over the whole gottta-be-hot thing and it’s not easy. There’s a lot of pressure on youngsters of all genders and it must seem impossible when you’re at the narrow end of the media funnel with all that shit spewing down on you. Advice on good websites, books or blogs or whatever that I can suggest to them would be welcome – anything that might help!

    Despite the media/cultural push, simple looks alone cannot be a deciding factor in whether people get to have relationships since very few can be beautiful (by definition I’d suggest) and yet many people that got called ugly as youngsters (like me, for example) manage by some miracle to find a partner with whom they can build a happy life. Evidently ‘real’ people can actually look further than the makeup layer if they really want to. I doubt that such an observation would help a teen too much though; life is different then.

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