Thought Catalog

Types Of Women Men Like Better Than Me

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It is an extremely ‘fun time’ to be a woman. Catalyzed by the instantaneous access to information and social support provided by the modern internet, plus the fact women’s health issues have become a charged pivot point in the American political climate, people are more interested in revolutionizing defined gender roles than ever.

It actually isn’t very ‘fun.’ Facebook and Twitter enable the rapid circulation of and probably hundreds and thousands of ‘likes’ and ‘RTs’ for a very rational and empowering article about not judging women by their appearance by a woman who has made a living mostly by being beautiful. We are supposed to take an algal bloom of sitcoms and films starring ‘funny, quirky’ female stars as a positive sign, but Bridesmaids and New Girl and 2 Broke Girls are still pretty much about weddings or girls or earning money and getting a boyfriend and fitting in and everyone wants them to be harbingers of success so badly that no one really admits they’re anemic and dumb, or that it’s weird to have a rash of programming about women that is all called ‘[something] girl(s),’ or that it’s not that exciting for The Hunger Games to have a female heroine because ultimately the story is about which guy she likes and ends up having babies with.

All of this stuff is sort of confusing/ upsetting if you are intellectual, independently successful, curvaceous or overweight, unconventional looking, outspoken, aggressive or any other of the traits that women have pretty much historically not been allowed to be, hence all of the explosion of writing and blogging and tailored advertising fervently focused on letting you know that HECK YEAH YOU CAN and enforcing to the point of tooth rot how it’s all so super okay that you are all of these things.

Like, you are supposed to be happy because occasionally Dove ads show ‘real women’ (thereby implying the models it has shown to date are not ‘real’ or are instead pretend women). The normal-sized women are as halo-lit and photoshopped as anyone else. I want to see underwear ads showing a 50+ parent of multiple children in granny briefs, stippled in cellulite on her daily routine of looking sad in front of a mirror but the underwear make her look AWESOME. I will buy those underwear. You are supposed to feel ‘inspired’ by that Katy Perry video where an overweight girl strips down and jumps in the pool with everyone else. How inspiring and brave of that girl to join the normals!

I mean, the messaging is still really f-cked up. I’m pretty sure that’s because society will enforce weird ideas of ‘norms’ no matter what we do with gender roles. But, like, I’m basically tired of being told that I am now allowed to feel socially admirable because I have big hair and big other things and am hyperarticulate and ambitious and outgoing. Society still punishes these things.

Or maybe what I mean is ‘men still punish these things.’ I know I’m not allowed to think that what men think is important. I am not allowed to feel insecure about my desirability ever because I need to be A KICKASS AWESOME INSPIRING FEMALE HEROINE and if I want anyone to think I am attractive or ‘wife material’ that means I am participating in the evil patriarchy and I have been brainwashed by the ad industry and social conditioning or whatever. Most of the time I am working on being a pretty good feminist but it’s sort of hard in this weird, awkward adolescence for feminism in my generation. It reminds me of having big boobs while everyone else in my grade was skinny and athletic and how gross and awful I felt.

I feel anxious and confused and sometimes I don’t know where I belong or how I’m supposed to feel about myself relative to others. Also, you can’t talk about this as a woman. You can’t feel bitter or weird or invalidated and you can’t lash out or blame anyone. If you have moments of insecurity you are committing the sin of poor self-esteem or worse, what if you have a BAD BODY IMAGE you need to buy some books and take a healing yoga class at the yoga center and five of your friends know really great instructors and they feel SO GOOD since they started taking the classes, they look and feel so good now.

I really wanted to totally spill my guts and write an article called Types of Women Men Like Better Than Me. It would have included the “underweight mysterious Tumblr girl who posts pictures of the gap between her thighs,” the “Semi-attractive Asian girl who always wears cute hats and mittens and cooks vegan recipes,” the “hip ‘nerd grrl’ who wears superhero tees and brags about being a huge dork even though she’s totally normal and hot, and she types ‘rawr’ a lot,” and probably the “super intellect whiz girl who men like because she’s too shy to intimidate them and because she doesn’t know that she is pretty.” “Mysterious blonde with flower crown.” “NYU student with punk haircut.” “Wholesome 22 year old who works with pets.”

Then I thought about how I would engender an inferno of mean or prescriptive comments by writing this article. I thought about how that would be perpetuating the problem by reducing other people to ‘types.’ I thought about how I just wrote an authoritative article about how gross and counterproductive it is to respond to feeling excluded by ‘typing’ others.

I know, I know, I am not supposed to care what men think. Today I don’t want to be an authority.

It sucks to always read about how I should suddenly begin believing in myself now, and that anybody who thinks that Mila Kunis is prettier or cooler than me is sexist and narrow-minded. It all feels like a patronizing ruse. Society doesn’t really actually value these things in women yet. Stop lying to me. TC mark

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  • Joan Foster

    Thank you, Leigh Alexander. Thank you so much. Sincerely.

  • MeeDee

    “I’m basically tired of being told that I am now allowed to feel socially admirable because I have big hair and big other things and am hyperarticulate and ambitious and outgoing. Society still punishes these things.” Thank you for this.  You have capture my eternal struggle: men STILL don’t like women like me (and you) – and society needs to stop showering me with all this motivational, empowering, esteem raising crap because it’s all preaching, and no one is (really) practicing.  It’s frustrating to live this way, but knowing someone else can capture how I feel makes me feels much better. Thank you.

  • Kate

    I didn’t know how I should be feeling about all of the things you listed, but this pretty much completely what I HAVE been feeling. I’m not articulate enough to say how awesome this article is to make you understand how awesome it is. But it is. Awesome. And so very painfully true.

  • Guest

    Word, true shit.

  • http://strugglingsingletwentysomething.blogspot.com/ Katie

    “Society needs to stop showering me with all this motivational,
    empowering, esteem raising crap because it’s all preaching, and no one
    is (really) practicing.” I think you made a lot of great observations and points in this post, Leigh, but one thing you don’t offer is solutions. How do you suggest that people start practicing instead of preaching?

    • Leigh

      i have no idea. keeping my mind perpetually keyed toward acting as a solutions engine sometimes also feels unfair and tiring

  • Anonymous

    You sound fat.

    • GUEST

      fuck you

    • Leigh

      you sound like you never get laid

    • Asdf

      You sound stupid.

  • Guest

    Amen. We’re constantly being told we are now “accepted” and to “be yourself because people will love you for who you are”. Yeah. Easily said, but for some strange reason, its also never really happening

  • Guest

    You’re so wonderful, I can’t even handle it. 

  • Ben

    In the words of Chris Rock ‘Ain’t no happiness no where!’

  • guest

    As one of those over-50 women who grew up in the age of Feminism, I whole-heartedly agree. And sad to say, I still struggle with this, as we all have for aeons. Keep writing, keep telling it like it is. Even after all I’ve seen, I have hope, and especially faith in women of *your* generation. 

    And oh yeah, I would buy those underwear too.  

  • Steph

    I am not completely agreeing to this. Sure, Dove ads and music videos like that show the ‘yeah you can be awesome being yourself!’ but you must remember they still are advertisements no matter what they advocate, and people in general already have their own opinion of what is nice and not. Advertisers are merely using this to their advantage to get to what they want which is to sell a product, or an idea. I don’t agree that it’s fucked up. It has just been set. 

    And I am glad you didn’t write about the types of girls, as there are a lot of unconventional women I know, maybe even similar to your type (or no type), who shine without having to fit into annoying categories. And im not speaking of pretentious hipsters who claim they are ‘different.’

    • Eheemememe

      wow this seems like some sort of automated canned response from dove’s advertisers 

      • Fightforyourmind

        I agree isn’t it amazing how insidious advertisers can be, using buzz words like “anti-hipster” and making it seem like they are totally knowledgeable, in subtle and debasing ways.. prolly would not have caught this if they hadn’t posted twice with the same verbatim canned message defending dove’s image and using it’s advert campaign’s keyword “shine”

      • Tyler

        A little paranoid, perhaps?  8-)

        I’ve worked in advertising for decades, and–trust me–our heads are so
        far up our asses (like everyone else) that no one’s managing THAT level
        of sophisticated “perception management ops.” Esp. not in random blog
        comments.

        But never ceases to amaze me how much credit people give advertisers for
        magically-enhanced persuasive powers, technology, organization and sophistication.
        (Amazing what people have told me they believe, re: subliminal messages
        in ice cubes, advanced psychological manipulation, etc.) It’s actually
        just a bunch of regular nitwits like me–fighting idiot clients,
        creating ad hoc solutions, barely meeting deadlines by the seat of our
        pants…that is, like every other human endeavor.

        That Dove campaign definitely sucks, though.  :-)

  • http://twitter.com/mirverburg Miriam Verburg

    I love it so much. I think from at least a writing point of view we may be finally crossing the event horizon of fake, so that ‘authenticity’ no longer means “only when I feel happy with life, and myself”.

    Down with you go girl, up with ‘just stop judging my life already.”

    Your writing is a big part of this, so thanks.

  • Guest

    I don’t fully agree with your thoughts. Dove ads and music videos still do show what people want to see, because after all, it is still an advertisement no matter what the advocacy is, and they are merely using what the people want to sell a product or an idea. It’s not effed up, it’s just what they do to sell something. So don’t expect a granny with cellulites to be on an ad, even if you think their ‘i can be awesome by being myself’ messages are fake because it’s true that they are still filtered.

    I am glad you didn’t write about types. I know unconventional people who shine without having to fit into any of those. And i’m not talking about pretentious hipsters who like to think they are ‘different and unconventional.’

    • Fuck

      wow this seems like some sort of automated canned response from dove’s advertisers

      • Fightforyourmind

        I agree isn’t it amazing how insidious advertisers can be, using buzz words like “anti-hipster” and making it seem like they are totally knowledgeable, in subtle and debasing ways.. prolly would not have caught this if they hadn’t posted twice with the same verbatim canned message defending dove’s image and using it’s advert campaign’s keyword “shine”

  • pop

    so. what exactly do you want, if you don’t want to hear all of this from society? what do you want to hear in order for you to stop thinking that society is lying? 

  • Michaelwg

    The feminist movement: damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You should call yourselves Paradoxicals, catchy.

    • domino

      it’s not the feminist movement, it’s the fucking world that’s like that.

      • beatrice

        Yet you would also have to look at the amount of progress we’ve made in regards to elitism and racism. Yes the prejudice still exists, but the discrimination is dwindling 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=727725625 Tanya Eunice

    this article is amazing, it’s like you too the words from my brain and put them down on a computer

  • Guest

    I respect and agree with your position, this is all really valid. Except for one small thing.

    You may have written off Ashley Judd’s piece for the exact reason she wrote it. You sort of belittled her point as not valid because she spent her career “being beautiful”, when what her entire thesis was about how the patriarchy that both men and women have bought into in our society basically place appearance as the only thing of actual imporance that women can ever possess. As she stated, its really a patriarchal problem, and I’m not trying to insult your intelligence, but you probably didnt even realize thats what you did. I wouldn’t dismiss the issues she brought up jus because it came from an “attractive actress” and not someone, shall we say, homelier looking. If we can’t take her piece at face-value ( no pun intended)

    • Guest

      …isn’t that part of the overall problem? (sorry i got cut off)

      I’m no feminist, or even a woman for that matter, but as a black man I vehemently believe in the fair and equal treatment of all people. All in all, I’m always glad when people speak out about inequalities such as these. To make a real change tho, we have to completely rearrange the infrastructure, and we have to sart by not judging people on their looks.

      This was a great piece.

      • Leigh

        i just said she is known for primarily being beautiful because while her acting is fine no one will ever call her a great dramatist. there are probably loads better actresses who are not remarkable looking and she will have their parts. 

        there was no fault implied on her part, of course, and providing the uncomfortable context of her statement wasn’t intended to dismiss what again, i felt was a very moving and inspirational article from her. 

      • Guest

        ahh i gotcha, my misinterpretation. I apologize. Thank you for clearing that up.

        I’m very interested in the conversations that pieces like this are starting. I’d wager that THAT’S why its an exciting time to be a woman right now. I appreciate this piece a great deal.

    • Guest

      …isn’t that part of the problem? (sorry, i got cut off for some reason)

      I’m no feminist, or even a woman for that matter, bust as a black man who vehemently believes in the fair and equal treatment of all people I would really like for us as a society to completely rearrange the infrastructure with wich we frame these types of arguments, and i think we have to start with not judging people by their looks.

      This was a great piece, very glad I read it.

  • Johnie Cash

    I suggest you stop worrying so much about what other people think and say. 

    • http://palimpsest.typepad.com/frogsandravens Rana

      You assume that women get a choice in that.

      • anon

        everyone has to make that choice. 

  • Sigh

    What this really reads like: “I hate all women prettier than me”. 

    High school is a bitch, but that baggage will get you nowhere. 

    • Leigh

      i actually spent my whole life hearing about how beautiful i am, so it isn’t that i felt disempowered by my looks. the piece is clearly about identity and social role and not who’s prettier than me  

    • Megan

      no. that is not at all how it reads.

  • Anonymous

    Can I worship you like the goddess you are?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VYDVROKY4PUBOKUHB3QF42FH2Y Paul S

    This article does not deliver what was promised by it’s title. Which I suppose is fitting, since a lot of relationships begin out of false assumptions about the other person.

  • Parades

    Whenever i read articles like this i always feel so guilty. Because right now, i’m 115 pounds and am wearing a superhero t-shirt… but its just who I am. I know that i never see someone’s weight or apparence when i’m talking to them.. i’m a bit of a chubby chaser myself sometimes– on dudes it can be sexy(i don’t know abut chicks simply because i’m straight).

    But i would never sift people into categories… I don’t know, the whole thing makes me feel really uncomfortable, because what do I know, right?

  • MessJess

    I can relate to this in every single way. It’s the thoughts you daren’t say out loud and feel guilty for even having, because you’re afraid that it’d make you a bad feminist. 

    Things are still so fucking confusing, alot of women are still being marginalised and excluded throughout the whole “men are able to like women who aren’t 18 year old blondes with big boobs” mindset. Bleurgh. 

    Sidenote: I don’t want to offend any male readers – I realise that men are attracted to a wide range of women, and vice versa. It’s just seeing this so called epitome of male desire (as described above) in every part of the media and society, and feeling like it’s an unmovable concept, like we can’t get past it.  

    It can get rather depressing is all.  

  • Zack Polozune

    Bravo. Well written and you hit the nail on the damn head. Perhaps there will come a time when we relate to each other as actual *humans* rather than as a conglomeration of labels and categories. Sadly that day is not today.

    As a possibly irrelevant and self-centered aside: I have a thing for strong women. The power that tends to intimidate a lot of my peers (i.e. “modern” men) tends to suck me in. It gets me in trouble from time to time but it seems to be worth it overall.

    • Ellen

      a lot of men say they are attracted to strong women
      then it turns out they have adulthood/electra issues and need you to pay all of the bills not forever just for a little while (forever) 

  • THATlady

     Okay, I’m just gonna be THAT person and say that The Hunger Games is NOT about which guy she chooses. That is merely a side plot. It is about oppression, revolution, injustice and survival. Twilight is about which guy she will choose.

    • Ihatehungergames

       Really? Are you sure? Because the “heroin” never actively does a thing to help the revolution. She’s a clueless pawn…

      • http://twitter.com/fayerfayter Fire

        That’s the brilliance of it. You see this oppressive state from the perspective of one of the oppressed. Katniss goes through a myriad of transformations in her relationship with society. At first she is slightly apathetic, then she comes to understand the viewpoints espoused by Gale/Peeta/etc. However, she has a different perspective of the people from the Capitol, she sees an innocence that most ignore or even vilify. They are as much sheep as people from the districts. Oppression comes from the fine balance of giving to a few and taking away from the many; a sleight of hand where the many are tamed individually. Divide and conquer. In the end she goes a bit crazy as she realizes she has always been oppressed, pre- or post-revolution. She has always been a pawn. She represented the people, the masses, and how power never truly reflects their will, they are always seen as a tool of the current ruler.

        My take on it at least…

      • beatrice

        You just made the hunger games actually sound intelligent. Kudos to you..especially since Suzanne Collins is as clueless a pawn as katniss

    • Anonymous

      Going to agree, however, if you look at the movie interpretation it pushes highly on the fact that it is a love triangle. I just passed a rack of Tee shirts with, “Team Peeta” on them. 
      The message is always the same because it’s what girls have been taught to identify with. It’s a shame. 

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