Dear woman who wrote "11 Qualities of the Perfect Woman" in the current issue of Men's Health,
Hi. I'm Lindy. We don't know each other. In fact, I don't know anything about you. I didn't even Google you. I don't know what other articles you've written, what you're interested in, how old you are, how long you've been in the magazine business, whether you're an intern, or—actually—whether you're a dude with a girl's name or whatever. I don't know if you pitched this terrible charticle thingy you've written, or if it was assigned to you by some intimidating guy with a corner office and fashion-forward Hugo Boss socks. I worked in magazines for years and my byline is on plenty of stupid shit I didn't stand behind. I hope that's the case here. I really do.
Because this article—like the 8 million nearly identical iterations that came before it—is bad. I get that it's supposed to be cute. A kicky little puff piece that aggregates a bunch of data about what men find attractive. How fun! I wrote something kind of similar once, actually (mine was satire, but, you know). And you're certainly not alone here—our culture is deeply attached to this kind of "attractiveness checklist" bullshit. But let's talk about it maybe? Together? Yes, let's.
The formula for the perfect woman is pretty simple on the surface, right? Hot + smart + funny = The One. Yet it seems like every day, we find a new study that reveals another new thing men find alluring about women.
...So it turns out that simple formula above is way more complex than we thought.
Yeah, it is. It's as complex as every person and every other person. I don't know if you've noticed, but everyone in the world is hella different and attracted to hella different things. Like, do you know how varied the women are that men like? It's so varied that a lot of them aren't even women! A lot of them are other men. Some of the women who men like have facial hair and dicks.
If a man finds himself attracted to a woman who doesn't conform to this list (more on the specifics of the list in a minute), does he not count as a man? What if she's "perfect" for him? What if she makes him feel like a whole person for the first time in his life, but she just happens to have chunky ankles? What does "perfect" mean then? What does "hot" mean? What does "the One" mean? What we're setting up here is an impossible cultural standard that excludes...well...100% of women. Because literally no one is that weird Frankenstein's Monster-with-Benefits that your art department put together.
She Chuckles-Even at Your Bad Jokes
So, she lies to you. Laughing at bad jokes is the opposite of a sense of humor. That is not having a sense of what's humorous.
Note that there's no mention of the woman telling jokes or otherwise contributing or talking in any way. She's just there to absorb.
Researchers asked men and women to rate multiple photos of the opposite sex. In some images the person was smiling, and in others, they weren't. And although women prefer men who sport a more serious expression, guys were most drawn to the women who flashed some teeth.
Oh, I've got it! The dudes should just marry the photo of the woman smiling! Then he can make whatever jokes he wants, and she'll laugh every time. Plus, bonus, she's paper-thin.
Men on the Prowl Like Large Breasts
BREAKING NEWS: Guys like breasts. EVEN MORE BREAKING NEWS: Guys like big breasts.
I mean, okay. Except for all the ones who don't.
Longer Legs Are Alluring
Maybe we should start watching the WNBA? According to data presented at a meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, men prefer women with longer legs.
'Kay. I'll keep that in mind next time I take my legs anywhere.
Her Shoe Size Matters
In the same study, men were roughly four times as likely to label the short-footed morph as better looking, which means guys consider small feet more feminine and attractive.
Shit. Where's my hacksaw?
Her Hips Don't Lie
OK, one more tidbit from that study: Men were also more than 11 times as likely to label the narrow-hipped morph as more attractive. What gives? Researchers hypothesize that men may link these characteristics to a healthier childhood and better genes.
Hey, baby. Hold on, I just need to get your hip width real quick.
Like...you realize that almost all of these characteristics so far are completely out of women's control, right? And that plenty of women with short legs and wide hips and small breasts and big floppy feet are finding all kinds of love and having all kinds of sex all over the place, right? So what are we supposed to do with this information, exactly? Here are the potential purposes I can come up with:
1. To make women feel like shit so they'll buy stuff. Like...bone-lengthening surgery, I guess.
2. To make men feel insecure about not having the "right" girlfriend so they'll buy more issues of Men's Health.
3. To make a nuanced, satirical statement about the oppressiveness and short-sightedness of modern beauty standards, which keep women stuck in an eternal cycle of self-loathing and retail therapy and tend to exclude many already "othered" groups altogether.
4. To upset me as much as possible.
5. To fill column inches (duh).
Whatever the reason, this is not helpful. This goes for pretty much anyone who has ever written an article like this, or read one without barfing. Look at what you're saying—that there's a "perfect" way to be a woman, a customized collection of parts (most of which are unattainable) that all men are looking for, and if you do not have those parts then you can be sure in your heart that your relationship (if you can get one, stubby!) is a sham. And if your partner were to leave you for a woman closer to that ideal, he would be justified in doing so. After all, we warned you!
Now, I know you're just reporting on some studies. This is what the dudes put on their wish lists. That's totally fine. In case it isn't clear, I am not addressing what men "should" or "shouldn't" find attractive. I guess I'm just wondering if, as women, we can all start pushing back against this shit a little. A good start would be not printing it up and legitimizing it in a national magazine with zero critical analysis or raised eyebrows or sarcasm. At what point do we start to have some social responsibility to one another?
Think, for one second, about the way that affects the world and the consequences it holds for actual people. Think about a short, chubby 14-year-old girl reading that. Maybe she has small feet but big hips. Maybe her mom tells her she's fat every day. Maybe she's disabled. Maybe she doesn't have feet (the smallest feet of all! Loophole!). Maybe she's got a great sense of humor and wants to be more than just a hollow sounding board for some dude's shitty jokes. This hypothetical girl exists, she's everywhere, and she's listening.
No woman escapes this culture. In all of recorded history, not even the most privileged, genetically "perfect" woman has escaped feeling devalued as a person at some point or another. And you have to know this, woman who wrote "11 Qualities of the Perfect Woman." How could you not know?
People bitch at feminists all the time for supposedly "hating men" (pah! I love them so much it's stupid) and fomenting anger and conflict between the genders, but honestly, it's this shit that's the real culprit. It sets people up to be miserable. Women for obvious reasons. And men because it conditions them to spend their entire lives trying to find a girlfriend who is as close to these specifications as possible—constantly upgrading, for status and decoration and a sense of belonging, whether they like the person or not. It tricks people into getting into shitty, unhappy relationships with partners they genuinely don't like, because Julie passed the foot-caliper test better than Crystal. And then, voila, we arrive at the last 30 years of stand-up comedy.
And somehow feminists are the reason that everyone hates each other. 'Kay.
But anyway, it gets way worse:
Intelligence Is Refreshing
The days of the dumb blonde are done, too. According to research published in The Journal of Sex Research, men reported being more satisfied when their partner had an adequate educational background. But at the same time, men also reported less marital satisfaction when the female was the breadwinner of the family. So success is hot—just not too much success.
First of all, again, literally nothing about the woman talking. At all.
And second of all, how do you write that? As a woman? How do you write that??? I really, sincerely want to know. "Adequate educational background." "Success is hot—just not too much success." How much more obvious can it be? What you're saying to women here—very clearly—is that "who you really are as a person is not important." What you want is not important. Strive just enough to unlock the "husband" achievement and then get down to your real purpose in life—being a pleasing hole surrounded by long legs, and an indiscriminate giggle machine. Maybe it sounds like hyperbole, but deliberately telling women to stunt their intellectual growth for the sake of some imaginary aggregate-man is fuuuuuuuucked UP. Spin it for me, if you can. Figure out a way to make it okay. I'll wait.
JK, I won't wait. I, personally, had the luxury of growing up in a family where there was no question that I could achieve real purpose in my life. And now, at my job, I get to speak to the world about things that matter to me—I have a place where I feel like I make a difference, a place I can care about. I've never felt anything quite like the fulfillment I get from my job. But your article says that if I want a man I have to give that up. I shouldn't be too successful, because success is a male domain.
It's wrong to take that fulfillment and potential and triumph away from women. In fact, it chips away at pretty much everything women have fought for over the past few centuries—but packages that attack with a cutesy wink as a throwaway piece in a magazine about sit-ups. And sorry to use the p-word (I know it's a turn-off for people who are busy trying to ignore inequality), but how is that not patriarchy blatantly trying to adjust the balance? Put women back in their place?
Careers Are Sexy
Are the days of the trophy wife over? Science seems to think so. According to a study published in the American Journal of Sociology, when men were asked about the makeup of their ideal partner, a majority claimed they're looking for a woman who can economically pull her own weight in the relationship. See ya later, gold diggers.
So, just to be clear, men, we have to achieve impossible physical perfection, we can have jobs as long as we don't get too successful, but you DO want to hang on to the part of feminism where you don't have to pay for shit anymore. Got it.
Brown Hair Is In
In a 2011 study out of the U.K., men rated brunettes as more physically attractive when shown pictures of the same woman sporting red, blonde, or brown hair.
Okay, well that's just stupid.
In case you think I'm some bitter ugly chick who's blasting your article because I've got a dog in this fight (or I AM the dog, or wherever you want to go with this), I guess you're sort of right—I've never gotten the opportunity to be what society would consider a "hot blonde." I don't know what that kind of universal approval feels like. But there's no way it's better than what I have had—which is the opportunity and support and luck and gumption to attempt to live out my full potential as a human being. Of course, hot blondes can absolutely do that too, and they do. But what this article says is that you have to give up one for the other—that you should just jump ship at "hot blonde" for your own good before you start to scare off potential penises with your giant brain. And I'm sorry, but that makes people's lives worse. Woman to woman—it makes women's lives worse.
So yes, I am being selfish here. But it's not because I'm not a "hot blonde" (anyway, I'm taken already, and not particularly concerned with lengthening my femurs to please the dollar-store Bradley Coopers of the world). The root of my selfishness is that people who are real people are just better to be around; they enrich my life. When you tell people to artificially conform to arbitrary standards, to neglect and constrain certain aspects of their personalities, we wind up with fewer real people to talk to and interact with and learn from. I have an investment in this because it affects me personally. That's my real dog in this fight. The people who fulfill their potential as human beings—they make a lot of people's lives better. All the people around them. All the time.
Instead, your article suggests that women should be focused on making one shitty dude's life better.
And you don't really believe that, do you? I bet you don't.