Why do humans care so much about how human females look?

We all know that women’s appearance is a way bigger deal than men’s in our society.

But I had to ask myself — why?

In most every land-dwelling vertebrate, the males are arrayed in splendor, their flashiness being key to attaining mates. To paint broadly: because babymaking is relatively cheap for males (the biocost of a few drops of sperm), their goal would be to get more mates. By contrast, females who pay dearly to make a baby, would have the goal of getting better mates.

Therefore, the males have to be arrayed in splendor to convince females that they’re the best. Females, by comparison, dress for utility (i.e. full camo), to give them the best bio-savings to pay the immense cost of reproduction:

The shiny one is the dude-bird, demo-ing his genetic superiority. The camo one is the lady-bird, hunkering down for efficiency and utility.

I had to ask myself, how did we humans get it switched?

 

I don’t have any solid conclusions. I do, however, have 3 loosely held guesses:

GUESS 1: Humans are particularly skilled at extraction.

When humans get in positions of power, they’re extra good at getting what they want from whatever — or whoever — they have power over.

Just look at nature. When we establish our power over nature, boy do we establish it, and we extract, pollute, whatever-the-heck-we-want. Our intelligence drastically elevates our extraction capabilities.

In most species, the males, no matter how much physical power they attain, cannot ask their females to put on make-up or dress more sexily.

GUESS 2: Monogamy means males too must select for quality instead of quantity.

To the degree that society, for whatever set of reasons, manages to enforce some modicum of monogamy, it becomes diminishingly viable for males to increase their progeny by increasing numbers of mates, so instead, males (like females) must now optimize their progeny by trying to pair with a female of the highest possible quality. That means ladyfolk would now have equal motivation to look biologically awesome as males. And then Guess 1 or Guess 3 takes it from there to create the women-body-idolatry we see today.

Undermining Guess 2: Cardinals are monogamous.

GUESS 3: Males get and use stuff to get mates. Females weren’t able to.

Males, due to physical advantages, have historically used possessions to display bio-virtue, which can make sense in societies where possessions lends greater advantage than physique, and females, excluded by society or physiology from various workplaces and the acquisition of stuff, stick with visual appeal as a strategy to display bio-virtue.

Any or all of these 3 factors could be at play.

I will say this: factors 1 and 3 are naughty, naughty factors. I do not like them. I do not want them to have sway. Especially #1. And factor 2 is semi-disproved by… cardinals. So there’s almost surely some funnybusiness at play here.

In other words, I don’t see a real sensible, healthy reason why we should be way more focused on female appearance than on males. And I’m rather uncomfortable with said level of focus.

And I say this as someone who IS way more focused on female appearance. Who sees it as normal for “men to be visual” and “women not to care as much how men look”. Someone who IS visual… but why?

What are your ‘causal’ thoughts? (or casual, you know, it’s whatev.)

I refrained from calling these guesses “hypotheses” because I don’t really intend to test them thoroughly. Just throwing them out there, wanting to hear your thoughts.

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What to Read Wednesdays: What’s in YOUR Blog Feed?

RSS feed symbolThose of you who are my Facebook friends know that I am infamous for posting a pretty steady stream of interesting articles (or at least articles *I* think are interesting!) on my timeline. Last week, after posting this fantabulous gem of a post, a friend asked me to share what blogs I read. She seemed to think it was cool to hear of some new awesome blogs, and I love what these folks have to say, so I’m happy to share them with you!

Below are the two main categories I have in my Feedly, one for general things I like to think about and ponder and one for things that relate to my work as a web presence consultant and writer. (Disclaimer: not all my Facebook articles come from these blogs! But these are the folks I read every day.)

(Also – asterisks indicate my #1 for each category. If you read only one, read THOSE.)

The Rock Tumbler (i.e. things that make me think!)

Experimental Theology – experimentaltheology.blogspot.com

The theological musings of psychology professor Richard Beck. Sometimes this blog can get a little bit academic for me, but more often it makes me think about really interesting theological questions that I haven’t thought about before! From his bio: “Richard’s published research covers topics as diverse as the psychology of profanity to why Christian bookstore art is so bad. And on his blog Richard will spend enormous amounts of time writing about the theology of Calvin and Hobbes, the demonology of Scooby-Doo or his latest bible class on monsters.”

*Rachel Held Evans – rachelheldevans.com/blog

If you read no other blog on this list, read this one. As a self-described evangelical AND feminist, Rachel continually amazes and humbles me with her fairness and grace as she writes about extremely hot-button issues without demonizing either side. Also, her “Ask a…” series is a great way to learn about all different sorts of folks you might not know personally!

Dianna E. Anderson – diannaeanderson.net

Whereas I would place Rachel Held Evans smack in the middle between evangelicalism and feminism, I would place Dianna a little farther down the feminist side. I really appreciate her thoughtful analysis of women’s issues and sexism in Christian subculture.

Confessions of a Former Preacher – danbouchelle.blogspot.com

As a former teacher and forever PK (pastor’s kid), I totally resonate with many of the issues former preacher Dan Bouchelle discusses on his blog. His insightful, spot-on analysis of some of the struggles faced by churches in our country today is a prophetic voice that I have found very refreshing and helpful in my own “recovery” process. (Right now Dan is taking a break from blogging, but his archives are still up and totally worth a peruse!)

Confessions of a Heretic Husband – heretichusband.com

This anonymous blog is written by Heretic Husband, a guy who began as a Christian, de-converted, and is still working out what it means to be himself and also support his Christian wife and kids. I don’t always agree with everything he (or his guest posters) write, but I find it informative and thought-provoking to read about the Christian Church from another perspective.

Hyperbole and a Half – hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

Cartoons? Check. Hilarity? Check. Epically honest cartoons about struggling with depression? Check. Need I say more?

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary – theveryworstmissionary.com

This blog is wonderful because Jamie (the Very Worst Missionary) is so honest. She calls life, missions work, and the Church at large like she sees it, which is often a mix of funny and broken and beautiful. No longer in Costa Rica, she is now figuring out what it means to be a missionary with her family in California. Just read it. You’ll see. =)

Newspaper Blackout – newspaperblackout.com

I recently discovered this site, which showcases creator Austin Kleon’s creative newspaper-blackout found poetry. This one is just for fun. (Also, it makes me wish I still got a newspaper!)

xkcd – xkcd.com

Sometimes deep and meaningful, sometimes silly or nerdy, this webcomic is so unique and wonderful that I’ll just let it speak for itself: “Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).”

Writing & Web Stuff (i.e. things that help me be a better web presence consultant!)

I’ll zip through these more quickly, since most of you probably aren’t copywriters. (But if you have questions about any of these, just ask and I will happily spill!)

12 Most – 12most.com – This blog is mostly about business and leadership, but really the posts can be about anything as long as the title begins with “12 Most…”

Copyblogger – copyblogger.com/blog – This is why I do my job as well as I do my job. If you are at all interested in copywriting, content marketing, social media marketing, web design, etc., do yourself a favor and start reading!

Michael Hyatt – michaelhyatt.com – A big name in Christian leadership and publishing. Sometimes I feel like he’s a little slick, but he’s sort of a trendsetter, so good to keep tabs on.

Nonprofit Tech 2.0 – nonprofitorgs.wordpress.com – Author of the book “Social Media for Social Good” (which I also recommend).

Rachelle Gardner – rachellegardner.com – Literary agent for Rachel Held Evans. I like her no-nonsense, practical style.

*Seth Godin – sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/ – Seth Godin is like *the* go-to business and leadership thought leader guy. He’s written about a gajillion books and is memorable for his positive, insightful, and pithy (read: sometimes really short!) blog posts.

Signal vs. Noise – 37signals.com/svn/posts – A blog about technology, working from home, and web stuff.

So there ya go! Those are the blogs I follow on a regular basis. (Plus, of course, a few of my friends’ blogs and my sister’s New Zealand study-abroad blog!) Every once in a while all those posts pile up in my Feedly, but I find that when I read them it really gets my brain churning with new ideas and new ways of thinking.

What blogs do you follow? Any suggestions for what I should add to my list? Let me know in the comments!

It’s better to ask “Does Patriarchy Hurt Us” than “Who Does It Hurt More”.

A friend shared this video of a men’s rights activist who particularly dislikes feminism, and asked for my thoughts:

Here’s what I got:

VIDEO SUMMARY:

He’s challenging a single claim: “women are worse off”.

He does so by highlighting ways that men suffer in which women do not, and challenging the notion that those ways are less signficant.

He’s also doing so by questioning the overall-happiness-value of the privileges that men in places of particularly high power enjoy.

In fact, at base, he’s quite nearly arguing something that feminist Jackson Katz (I think) and our dear Martin Lang argue: patriarchy hurts men.

IDEA BREAKDOWN:

Let’s say for the moment that there’s 2 potential viewpoints that could be included in what we call feminism:
1. Women suffer more than men suffer.
2. Patriarchy hurts people more than it helps them.

He’s naming and declaring false and hateful the first viewpoint.
He’s not naming or addressing the second viewpoint.

MY ANSWERS TO EACH OF 2 THE QUESTIONS:

1. Do women suffer more than men? Quite Probably. (…but it’s a very subjective and not totally helpful question/viewpoint.)
2. Do patriarchy hurt people more than it helps them? Very Probably. (…and it’s a very testable, actionable, and helpful question/viewpoint.)

My purpose in this post is not to talk about my own bolded answers to those questions. My purpose is:
A) to evaluate the questions themselves, as I’ve begun in the parenthesis above, and
B) to evaluate the video-guy’s approach to these questions.

WHY THE SECOND QUESTION IS MORE HELPFUL:
I.E. WHY THE GUY IN THIS VIDEO IS SLIGHTLY RIGHT BUT MOSTLY OFF-TRACK:

Trying to figure out whether viewpoint 1 is accurate A) is apples-to-oranges and B) creates division between men and women.

  • Viewpoint/Question 1 divides: The implicit goal of question 1 is to give people the right amount of feeling bad for and/or anger toward themselves and/or others.
  • Viewpoint/Question 2 unites: The implicit goal of question 2 is to make people less hurt and more helped.
  • Question 1 is apples to oranges; which is worse, dying in war, or losing someone in war? Which is worse, prison, or sexual assault?
  • Question 2 is more sensible; I don’t like going to war, and you don’t like when I die in war. I don’t like prison, and you don’t like being sexually assaulted. Let’s figure out whether diminishing patriarchy, or more broadly, what kinds of changes, can cause those things to happen less.
  • Question 2 is still tough; it’s hard to figure out what a world without patriarchy would look like, and whether it would be better or worse for everyone.
  • But Question 2 is still a more viable question, in that it can actually be tested somewhat: “what happens to societies, or in my relationships, when I work to free men and women from roles and expectations? Do the men and women involved appreciate the effects of that change in their lives?” Men and women can each experience their own before-and-after, and decide which is better, whereas it is impossible to experience the conditions of the other sex to decide who has it worse currently.
  • I agree with the original video guy inasmuch as he’s urging feminists to move away from making strong claims regarding Question #1.
  • I disagree with him utterly, for the above-mentioned reason, when he himself makes a strong claim regarding Question #2, namely; that women do not have it worse than men. He condemns feminists for their assumption that they’re treating all the suffering-variables correctly, and yet he makes the same assumption of himself.

In other words, the problem with the statement that “women have it worse” is not that it’s false, but rather that it’s not falsifiable, and yet he claims to falsify it.

As a sidenote, I also notice that he Freudian-slips into poopfacehood, in that although he disclaims that he’s only addressing a certain viewpoint which is only a slice of feminism, he repeatedly returns to his phrase “feminism is hate”.

SHORT MORALISTIC CONCLUSION:

In my marriage, whenever Rebekah and I spend time arguing over who was hurt worse in some relational mishap we had, the discussion is bitter and divisive, and yields little fruit.

When the discussion is about how the systems and patterns of our marriage hurt or help us, the discussion is loving, uniting, and fruitful.

Video-face-guy is probably close to right in urging feminists to stop emphasizing how women “have it worse”, but is utterly off base when he asserts that they don’t.

Let’s all lovingly inspect how the patterns of this world, particularly but not exclusively the gendered structures in our society, hurt people or help people, and act accordingly.

The end.

Projecting my high or low view of myself onto God…

So stuck.

Again.
Nothing new to see here. move along, folks.
I read the old testament, and I’m like, “this is a story, told and written, by people, about people and God”.
Reading the Bible has done anything but create revival in me.
Perhaps I “should” be going to something like BSF? Where you go through the Bible and perky people say exciting words about it?
I think my view / approach to Christianity is that it’s the worst worldview / religion except for all the other ones.
Or, perhaps, it’s the worst one for me except for all the other ones.
In other words, there is a God I know is real, and only via Christian imagery / views / language / worldview can I relate to this God.
Or perhaps, there is a God, and my choice is either to make up my own image of who that is from scratch, or sketch my imagery for God around the scaffolding of a religion of which God can be purported to be the purposeful and unique founder.
Every time I come back to journal it’s more depressed, more grim, more flat and aimless and purposeless.
And so I call / mentally yank at the invisible intangible rope descending down out of a cloud of uncertainty, which I trust is tied to God, who I trust underlies all things, and I say God please do what you would do, what you must do, and also what I want you to do — to … to what? To alleviate the pain of uncertainty? Pobre mi. To make me not be so confused? I weary of pleading for that. I and thousands of others… always pleading… sometimes receiving? Never receiving? I pray saying that I assent, consent, and yearn for your utter and total intervention as well as enlightenment or even indoctrination of my mind and soul.
Oh, for those (arrogant, dysfunctional) exuberant days wherein I walked alongside my (selective, convenient) bastions of certainty, knowing my place in the universe, knowing my role as merely stirring my own little swirls in the already sufficiently radiant and glorious pools of color and majesty with which God has already filled the sky. Tangibly confident both in God’s already-victory in the universe, and in my contributive role.
I actually don’t believe any thing fundamentally different from those notions to this day; it’s just my aspect, my countenance, my pace and breath and gait and feelings and outlook that are changed. I sluggishly raise my hand and mutter “aye”, assenting to the same truth-claim, the same picture of the universe, where God wins and I can choose to be involved, but I thrill not at my involvement, nor even at the victory. Why? Because I don’t feel like I’m awesome. Funny, how arrogance can breed so profusely the experience of humble and adoring worship.
Why? It’s fairly simple; when I feel awesome, powerful, successful, and glorious, but my theology tells me that arrogance is wrong, then I merely continue to be awesome by projecting all my exultation and exuberance onto God. My future looks promising; I’m excited; I feel awesome about myself… but I know better than to attribute that awesomeness to myself, so I affirm in soaring poetry that all this glory and awesomeness is God’s, and I am merely a tiny pawn basking in it.

Nice.
I mean, it’s probably the right thing to do if you’re saturated with exuberance — put it onto God… But the question is where is the exuberance coming from in the first place. It’s a bit phony, struth, to project vainglory-derived exultation onto God, in the same way that I now project self-deprecatory depression onto God, or perhaps onto “worldview” / “reality” / etc.
Cool. Nifty. I can sit here for 30 minutes and problematize how whether I’m excited or depressed, it starts out with how I feel about myself, and then I project it onto Life, the Universe, God, and Everything.
I can sit and problematize myself.
I suppose then I should prescribe an alternative, yes?
But before I so constructively proceed to do so, I must air the chip on my shoulder about my long wounding over having so many times “figured out the better way”, the “right” alternative, and henceforth been powerless to enact it.
I look at the vanglorious Daniel of 2009 and spit psalms of imprecation against him; how the wicked exult, how they rejoice, while the (righteous?) rest of us lament. Yet my lamenting self is no more righteous than the offender of 2009; we both paint the world and God in exactly the colors we see when we look at ourselves; either in swirling beautiful vibrancy, or in flat gray muddled mess.
God, I’m quite sorry for painting you the way I see me.
Here’s an interesting question; do I do the same to Rebekah? Sometimes yes, sometimes the opposite… too many factors… moving on…
The solution is both clear and rather difficult/impossible.  It’s the deeply Zen / Christian (/ etc.?) thing: stop thinking about yourself. Boast in my weakness, delight in God’s fullness. Move past the ego, move into recognizing togetherness with all…
I experienced something like that on a retreat recently; a group of us were supposed to ask helpful questions to a certain person, and in that space I transitioned from resenting my weaknesses and others’ strengths in question-asking to rejoicing in both, in that my weakness left a space for their strength, and vice versa, and we could each move deeper into our own area of strength because none of us were trying to be everybody/everything.
It was real for that hour. It was real for a week after that.
Everything fades.
God, I’m going to continue about my day now, and I’m asking that you help me see and appreciate you as you are, rather than as a receptacle for my overflow of low or high self-esteem.