[warning, badly-written article ahead]
Distrustful of Muslim customs since early teenage years, I was very surprised in the first time someone criticized our customs. Specifically, Western standards of female beauty and hygiene. Shaved legs, armpits, and eyebrows; revealing articles of clothing and moderate make-up. What should one make of this?
One possibility is that this shows that our culture unconsciously tailored its customs to fabricate more interesting female for men. Standards are far more rigid for females than for males, even if standards exist for both sides – an inevitable trait of human beings (or so it seems). Frequent shaving and hours spent in hair treatments, cosmetics for skin care or whatever, and make up application every week.
However, couldn’t the same argument apply for men? Out of all beauty standards, the most pressing is the male standard of fitness and strength. It requires not only frequent aerobic exercises, careful diet, and toning of the lower body, but also the intake of supplements and hypertrophy of the upper body.
This seems reasonable, until one sees that every women is demanded at least the shaving part, while it is optional for men to workout (just as it is for women). Well… most men think about working out, and most eventually do – but not necessarily for a long time. They are not demanded. It seems reasonably asymmetric, does it not?
Working out is also becomes male fantasy after a while. Who doesn’t like to feel huge and socially overpower your smaller friends, and going to lift heavy weights to feel super strong, out of all those guys? At the same time, shaving and make up styles also become part of female fantasy, if you will, as frequently as guys love going to the gym. Raised in this culture, just as males, women learn to love applying make up and to feel weird not shaving (much like everybody feels weird not at least hand-combing their hair in the morning).
So, the fantasy argument isn’t looking so good. It tried to establish a bigger asymmetry between male and female beauty standards, enlarging what we already seemed to have, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to succeed. Maybe someone could do a deeper analysis on that.
It is getting late, and I will continue this meditation some time later. I would like to consider if male beauty standards aren’t less strict, and also if they could be far less oppressive (due to various social mechanisms – remember the incidence of bulimia, anorexia, and surgical aesthetic interventions, is much higher in females) than, whilst being just as strict as, female beauty standards.