Susan Walsh of hookingupsmart.com dispenses the kind of crisp, common-sense matronly advice about dating and relationships that I wish I'd had access to when I was a young woman (instead of letting Helen Gurley Brown so seriously fuck with my head). Today in a post titled "Your Looks, Your Call," she points out that women shape their own appearances to appeal to the specific men they wish to attract.
Pretty obvious, no? Yet it's a great response to the readership of sites like Return of Kings that rail about the "unfeminine" look of many American girls: the tattoos, the short haircuts, the refusal to wear high heels or any of the other trappings of conventional "femininity." These choices baffle and enrage young men who feel entitled to fantasy "cookie-cutter" ideals of feminine beauty they see in advertising and porn.
Walsh characterizes the deliberate tweaking of one's appearance as appealing to a "niche market." Since my background is in anthropology, not economics, I am more inclined to see the way people adorn themselves and the artifacts they surround themselves with as tribal markings. They signal that the bearers are only available for mating within their own tribes. That girl with the full sleeve of tattoos and assorted facial piercings is no more aroused by a random dude's six-pack abs or Axe body spray than an African grey parrot is sexually stimulated by the flash of a blue-crowned conure's tail feathers. SMV (sexual marketplace value) is a meaningless concept unless one recognizes that there many different markets.
This phenomenon applies to all genders, BTW. Jezebel yesterday reported a story about a teenage boy whose drivers license picture was rejected because he was wearing eye makeup. The women who commented on the story mostly remarked how attractive they found him. Yes, there is a small but significant "niche market" for men who transgress conventional gendered norms too, as many young male cross-dressers bold enough to sally forth into a Capitol Hill nightclub are apt to discover. (Of course, that gender variant individual has to screw up the courage to present himself/herself in public in order to be identified by members of his/her "tribe" as a potential mate.)
The well-spring of the New Misogynists' fury stems from the fact that, on some level, they cannot
fail to see that these choices in attire and body modification are deliberately made not only to attract members of the same subculture, but to explicitly repel "outsiders" (which is to say them). It's evident that Matt Forney, for example,
wants nothing more than to be recognized as an "intellectual," and part of the cool music crowd, and his
obsessive hatred of "hipsters" and mainstream writers, and the girls who are part of those scenes, is a direct measure
of how wretched he is to be excluded. (The problem is, contrary to what a guy
like Forney believes, it is not the deficits in his own physical
appearance that are shutting him out of that specific market: it's the anger and
self-loathing he wears on his own sleeve.)
Walsh concludes by reminding her female readers, "You’re not trying to lock down all the boys on the boy tree. You only need one." This is the best advice ever for both men and women looking for love, friendship, or even a vocation. Figure out who you are, what you want, and tailor your image accordingly.
Of course, the challenge of adolescence and emerging adulthood is just that: to figure out, as individuals, who we are and what we want. Indeed, some of us spend the best part of our lives endlessly experimenting in an effort to nail that critical element down!