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:
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.