I recently read an interview written in the Philadelphia Inquirer with Amy Gutmann, President to the University of Pennsylvania,. The interview was about her opinions on women and leadership and it was published at this time largely because Penn recently hosted an event called "Empowering Women to Change the World." The last question in the interview was about women’s appearance and whether it was more important for women to hold themselves to a higher standard. She replied that it was and it was unfair.
Long ago I remember arguing with my mother about what I was wearing to school. I can’t really remember what she had a problem with, but I do remember the one thing she said that sparked off another argument about appearances in general. My mother was brought up in a generation when people were very particular about what they wore. Men wore suits to work and people would dress up to go to the movies. When I was young, we had to dress to go “into town”. I remember we used to take a yearly trip to New York to shop for Easter dresses and we always dressed for that. However, when I was in high school, in the late 60s, the dress standards were getting much more lax. She told me that as a young woman I had to be extra careful about how I looked in order to get ahead.
Maybe it’s the whole baby bearer thing, but men seem to be so enamored by how women look and for some women their looks are almost revered. It’s pretty easy for me to become invisible – I don’t wear makeup and wear dark clothes and I am ignored. But you take a really pretty woman whose makeup is artfully applied and who is thin and wearing a figure enhancing outfit and she will not be able to walk down the street unnoticed.
Just look to the media to get an idea of how totally lopsided this is: half of the men broadcasters are gray haired while the women are dead to the TV audience if one gray hair or wrinkle shows. When a woman gets to be a certain age, her career in front of the camera is over. Gray haired men are thought of as wise and knowledgeable. Gray haired women are thought of as old. Older men are said to be distinguished. Older women are said to be used up.
I agree that it is totally unfair, but until people of both genders accept others based on their character and not their looks it is going to be this way. And that’s not going to happen anytime soon.