Yesterday afternoon I was having my hair cut, scrolling through my twitter feed when I nearly jumped from the chair.
This was the Tweet sent by OddsChecker Australia that prompted the reaction:
How funny. How very funny to mock a woman’s appearance. To ask a man to reconsider his choice in partner because his girlfriend DOESN’T LOOK THE WAY YOU THINK SHE SHOULD. How positively sweet for humanity this sentiment is.
The funny thing, though not in a haha sense, is that a few moments earlier my hairdresser and I were having a conversation about the toxic dialogue many women unwittingly engage in with themselves as much as anyone else. About what, you asked? About the way they look. About the way their clothes fit. Their height. Their weight. Their hair.
My arrival twenty minutes earlier was a case in point. As I sat in the chair I blurted out an apology. “Oh god sorry I work from home on Thursdays and haven’t got any make-up on.”
Sorry, what? I actually said “sorry” for arriving at an appointment, where I am paying for the services of a talented woman to cut my hair, and I said sorry for not wearing make up? What is actually wrong with me?
It is in moments like that I realise the weight of my own subliminal expectations about appearance. When I sat down in the chair I didn’t think to tell this lovely woman about the productive morning I’d had. The laps I’d swum. The words I’d written. The phonecalls I’d made. The newsletter I’d sent. The meringues I’d cooked for my eldest daughter’s upcoming birthday party.
Now obviously the primary reason I wouldn’t mention these things is because they are the minutiae of my life. They are details which no one, except perhaps my family and closest friends, have any need to know. But the other, more prescient, reason I was less inclined to blurt those things out is because, without a little conscious intervention, my mind does tend to find the things I haven’t done.
The fact my face was – heaven forbid – au naturel was what my mind reflexively seized on upon catching my reflection. Sorry I don’t look immaculate! How very dare I exit the home in this way! Sorry!
My own psyche is, obviously, the most significant contributing factor in this mind play but there is no denying the societal emphasis on all things appearance. In so many guises, explicitly and implicitly, this message is there. Women, the way you look is everything. Your mark as a woman will, above all, be determined by your physical exterior. Men, the same applies to you – if you happen to have a female partner, your mark will be determined by the physical exterior of your partner.
An ugly manifestation of this was right there on my Twitter feed. A betting agency, with a cool 13,000 Twitter followers, openly mocking a footballer and his partner for not being hot enough. Proudly reinforcing the notion that a footballer’s girlfriend is not a human of any worth herself but a measure of his worth. Casually reminding young men and young women that a “girlfriend” is an adornment by which a man’s success can and will be judged: and the criteria won’t extend beyond her body. A privilege to abuse no less.
Aside from the fact it is devoid of any respect for the man and woman, what about the message it sends to other men and women?
Who knew a single tweet could embody everything that is so toxic and skewed about our cultural obsession with appearance and a fixation on women as fixtures? I do now.
OddsChecker has deleted the post and apologised “for the offence caused“. Obviously that’s something, but it’s hard to believe that sentiment has been erased along with it.
If there is one constructive thing to come from OddsChecker’s tweet let it be this. Let it be a recognition that this is the type of message that young men and young women are being inundated with. Let it be a catalyst for all of us to stop and consider the ways we can counter those messages. If we don’t, what type of relationships do we expect young people to cultivate?