A Window Into Lookism & Why Your View Matters
TW for Body Image Issues
When you change your clothes, take a shower, or otherwise do things in the nude in a private space, and that space has a publicly-facing window (i.e. a hole in your wall where the only thing separating your bare flesh from the outside world is clear glass), do you close the blinds or draw the curtain?
If you don’t for whatever reason, this isn’t for you. Also, I hope you don’t get arrested, since exhibitionism is genearally frowned upon in the eyes (or should it be the mouth) of the law in most places.
If you do obscure the world’s view of your body, why do you do so?
If you’ve never thought about it, this might be for you. If your answer is something along the lines of “peeping Toms” or “creepers,” then this is definitely for you. You assume that someone who hopes to do so might catch a glimpse of your flesh.
Some people don’t expose their bodies for general consumption not because they fear others’ arousal in response to our exposed flesh, but because they fear something else. They fear the viewer(s) may become disgusted.
There are certain body types that are demonized and stigmatized in society. Bodies that are hardly, if ever, depicted as delicious, enticing, inviting, and/or beautiful. Bodies that are hardly represented in the visual media that we consume. Bodies, in the rare instances that they are depicted, as portrayed as ugly, smelly, disgusting, awkward, horrible, even monstrous. Any individual’s personal feelings on the attractiveness of those body types doesn’t invalidate how the majority (or perceived majority) of society doesn’t feel that way — and isn’t exactly shy about letting people with those body types know how gross they are.
Disgust and arousal aren’t mutually exclusive, either. If a woman’s body is outside society’s widely-accepted norms and yet found be attractive by a man looking at her, he might take his disgust at being attracted to her and project it onto her. That sort of resentment is, at best, distasteful, as when men refuse to be seen in public with certain types of women with whom they have sex. At worst, it can be a dangerous thing.
Women who can, most of the time, safely assume that their bodies will be considered desirable rather than disgusting lead different lives from those for whom such is not the case. Much of what is described by Men’s Rights Activists as “female privilege,” like paid-for dates, free drinks, and other preferential treatment, would more accurately be called “ways in which certain types of women are treated favorably by men.” Both men and conventionally attractive women often fall into the trap of assuming that conventionally attractive women’s experiences apply to all women, effectively erasing the lived reality of women who aren’t conventionally attractive.
It can be very difficult for conventionally attractive women to acknowledge that they have looks-based privilege. Part of this is the social training that makes women feel that they must deny any compliments they receive. As difficult as it can be to do so, being sensitive and cognizant of these differences is key to ensuring better and more accurate communication and understanding. In already-fraught conversations about gender, sexism, and harassment, avoiding the assumption that what applies to conventionally attractive women applies to all women is key in ensuring that women who aren’t conventionally attractive aren’t further devalued
In a world where calling a woman unattractive is considered an expected, if not quite valid, rebuttal to her ideas, it’s accurate to acknowledge lookism. In a world where all women, hot or not, are subjected to misogyny, it’s critical in ensuring that we see problems in an intersectional, rather than reductive, fashion.