The Scissor Sisters were on television last night. I’m not a huge fan, but I don’t dislike their music, and having seen footage of them at festivals, I can appreciate that they are a hard-working and dedicated band who like to put on a fabulous show. But what came to mind as I watched their performance was the difference between men and women. I have actually previously noticed that men and women are different, but in this case it was the difference in the amount of work that it takes to get them ready to go out in public.
The two singers in the band, Ana and Jake, are clearly “glamorous” people who devote attention to their appearance, and I suppose if Jake conforms to the stereotype of a queer man, he probably looks after himself more carefully than the average. But what does that amount to? A nice haircut, clean shaven, probably a little scented something for the skin. Clothes and shoes that you can tear around the stage in.
Ana Matronic, on the other hand, has had to have her hair coloured (that can’t be natural), braided, and piled high into a Tower of Hanoi. Heavyweight makeup job for the cameras (including gigantic eyelashes). Underwear to hoist her anatomy into an unnatural elevation. Bodily hair removed. Four-inch heels and a scarlet dress in sweeping draped folds. Don’t get me wrong — while there’s artifice involved, she does look great.
I’m probably a tiny little bit autistic. I like patterns. Sometimes, I repeat things. Sometimes, I repeat things. I like symmetry and balance. That’s actually part of the reason that I get so outraged at unfairness or injustice. If the law doesn’t treat everyone equally — say, disadvantaging gay people — I know that’s logically and morally wrong; but for me there’s also an offence against my internal sense of symmetry.
And that’s also why the different attitudes to men’s and women’s bodies bugs me. And yet, I’m complicit in it, because I do like to see the girly things: makeup, hair, shoes and so on. I’m convinced that much of that is “learned” though, given that many of those aspects are not universal across cultures and times. On the other hand, there is some consistency. The famous face of Nefertiti has eye-liner and lipstick, just like Elizabeth Taylor. Some inherent psychology must be being tweaked there.
I’m very wary of explanations based on evolutionary anthropology, because that entire field is mostly filled with untestable “just so” stories rather than actual science. They would say that full red lips are a sign of reproductive health, or something like that. Well, maybe and maybe not.
I suppose that there are fashions in the amount of artificiality which is applied, and we are currently in a phase where the dramatic, if not excessive, is in vogue. Perhaps it’s increasing technological progress too (mascara can now legthen lashes, for example, something Nefertiti would probably have found surprising). I don’t object to the situation. I just would like to understand it more. If you find me staring at you, it’s only in the name of scientific research.