Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Bigger the Backpack, the Brighter the Babe

Faithful reader Mark came up with three aphorisms about the clues that women's appearance can give men about the potential relationship they might have, such as "the thicker the makeup, the thicker the drama."

Faithful reader Rebecca came up with three excellent replies:

The baggier the sweat pants, the bigger the hugs.
The bigger the backpack, the brighter the babe.
The flatter the footwear, the funner [sic] the date.


Anonymous said...

Come on, Professor. People have been judging women based on their appearance for ages. Having it published on a sociology blog doesn't make it any cleverer.

Most of the time, I wear high heels, skirts, hose, and make-up. It doesn't mean that I'm more high-maintenance or high-drama, or less loving or fun - it means that I'm an attorney. It's my job to look professional. Wearing Birkenstocks and washing your hair once a week (general "you," just to be clear) doesn't make you a smarter or more worthwhile person, though I will agree that a woman who wears a suit to work is less likely to be a good match for a man from the Birkenstocks and sweatpants mold.

Gruntled said...

Appearance is a clue to how women act, and men too. My interest is in reading the clues accurately.

Heels, skirt, makeup are normal for female attorneys. If a female attorney wore unusually high heels, unusually short skirts, and unusually heavy makeup, would you not read that as meaningful?

Marty said...

Yeah I don't buy any of these, and find them all a bit silly. The kind of things only less-than-average-attractive women come up with to make themselves feel better about not having a date.

Anonymous said...

I actually agree with Marty. And the ones invented by the man (skirt/heels/makeup) sound like excuses for why no attractive, put-together woman will date said man. Whether that's the case or not, the aphorisms come off as mean-spirited and childish.

nick.carraway said...

Stereotypes should never have blanket applications, but most stereotypes become well known for a reason. There are of course outliers in every case, but that doesn't discount the social validity. As a PC nation, we are groomed to disregard all stereotypes because you don't want to judge an individual based on a group characteristic...doesn't mean we don't still do it though (just usually don't say it out loud...especially in a blog)

Gruntled said...

Sociology is in the business of evaluating stereotypes. It would be scientifically foolish to reject them out of hand just because they are stereotypes. The test is whether they are useful. So, for example, if you were looking for a smart woman among college students, would a bright backpack be a useful clue, or not?

Anonymous said...

I think that if a female attorney wore unusually high heels, unusually short skirts, and/or unusually heavy makeup it may be meaningful, but perhaps (or probably) not in the way it's been described in the previous one-liners on the topic.

The average woman is shorter than the average man. A short woman may wear higher heels because she wants to be closer to the same height as her peers. (I seem to remember a study a year or two ago about people perceiving tall people to be better leaders/more successful?) Appearing taller may make a professional woman more confident and even change the way people react to her.

On the issue of make-up, a woman may be using thicker make-up to hide scarring or birthmarks. Or, she may wear more make-up because she has a childlike face and she doesn't want to look young to peers, or clients, or a jury, etc. I'm in my late 20s, and plenty of my friends (also in their late 20s/early 30s) could still pass for 18 without make-up - not a benefit in a professional environment.

Mainly, my point not that a person's clothing choices don't ever have a meaning, but that these little one-liners about what a woman's clothing choices mean are hopelessly incomplete. I know they're meant to be funny, and I don't mean to ruin the fun with hyper-PC objections, but I've seen them so frequently on the blog that I feel compelled to comment on them.

As for "the bigger the backpack, the brighter the babe," I'd argue that a truly bright babe has probably found a way to avoid risking the permanent back injuries that come from carrying around 30% of her body weight every day. ;)

patti said...

Gruntled is sexist and anonymous caught him. It is alright just apologize. Everyone screws up. Stop talking about skirts and all will be well.