Clothes Make the Woman?

The other day I had a few pithy words on Twitter with Laurell K Hamilton and a few other posters. It was about this article. One woman tweeted that this was an interesting piece and Hamilton, self-styled expert on just about everything, chimed in that she found this to be true.

I called it a crock of bullshit and the war was on. Or at least a pathetic skirmish.

First let me address the problems I had with the article. Dr. Hrdy  sets up a experiment to prove her theory of female competitiveness to win by manipulating sexual access or some such nonsense. I say nonsense because the experiment is set up to prove Dr. Hrdy’s theory and goes no further than that. Of course the full paper might have a more comprehensive and impartial content but this smaller piece is skewed in one direction only.

The short piece says that Hrdy sets up pairs of female participants for a study on female friendships then brings a third woman. This woman is carefully chosen for her looks based on scientific studies of what we find attractive.

Yes, we as women have strong reaction other women especially in certain situations where the other woman is exhibiting inappropriate behavior, be that by her actions or appearance. But we also have strong reactions to women who are a great deal smarter than we are but that isn’t explored. Dr Hrdy seems to be saying that women only make “mean girl” comments about those women we perceive to be more attractive than ourselves. I say Dr Hrdy has a few issues herself.

Hrdy reports that when the young woman walks in in a very short skirt and a bright top unbuttoned to show a marked amount of cleavage the reactions of the female study participants were less than kind.  How many of the participants reacted this way and only carefully chosen remarks were included in the short article.  And I really would have liked to have seen them. Hrdy then sends the young woman in dressed in a rather boring outfit and records that she elicited little response and none of that hostile.

Now Hrdy would have us believe that these negative reactions were based solely on the fact that the participants somehow all saw the young woman as a sexual threat. Here’s a thought for all of you:  How about they saw her as a threat to their dignity, to their all too often hard won respect as intelligent women? And there is no mention of comportment. Did the young woman act in the same way both times or were her actions tailored to fit the images Hrdy had designed?

This is important.

Where the study was conducted is not mentioned but if it was in a laboratory or classroom in the hard sciences then, yeah, I would expect a less than gracious reception to her appearance. Like it or not we are still fighting the battle of belonging. There are men, and women, that believe women cannot and should not practice certain professions. Yes, it is antiquated and misogynistic but it is still unfortunately true.  The whole mess in the SFWA this year is a good case in point.

Appearance and appropriateness are important, we would be stupid to argue otherwise. Stacy London and Clinton Kelly of TLC’s What Not To Wear always stressed that our appearances should reflect who we are and also that we should dress for the job we want and not the job we have but participants were always arguing that their work should speak for them. But what do we say if we dress in ways that calls attention to only our physical appearance when we are in the workplace or an educational environment?

So Hrdy sets up the experiment to produce certain results. “Mean girl” responses. Not the frustrated, disbelieving responses of women who have fought or are fighting for the respect of their male peers but “mean girl” responses. Right. I’m tired of this shit. In this kind of scenario this young woman should be smart enough to know how her appearance will affect the responses of both men and women, unless Hrdy is is trying to say that the young, attractive woman isn’t smart?

Hrdy has chosen only two ensembles, the safe, nondescript, completely covered and the short, tight, bright, and sexy. What about interesting and well-dressed, isn’t the young woman allowed to dress in a smart, well chosen manner? Interesting that Hrdy chooses to recognize only two styles, hardly appropriate if you are going to present a well-rounded study.

Now if Hrdy wanted the study to really mean something then she would also have sent in a young woman not so attractive by the scientific standards she used, then a young woman visibly overweight, then a woman who is a recognized authority in one of the sciences. Dress them all in two  similar outfits, or three if you agree that the third choice is logical and necessary, present the reactions to their appearances.

Does Dr Hrdy believe that women who are not deemed as attractive, who are overweight, who are acknowledged as intelligent and expert in their chosen fields are somehow less of a sexual threat? If so, then why and if not, then where were they in this study?

I bet the responses  would be pretty much the same. Then is it still the “mean girl” response or is it indeed the response of frustrated, tired women, young or old(er), to another woman who is exhibiting a lack of awareness and respect for herself and other members of her sex?

Then the article goes on to other studies and I found this paragraph interesting: But he found that women were more likely to feel worse when they compared themselves with peers in their own social circles, or even if they were in a room with a thin stranger, like the assistant to Dr. Ferguson who ran an experiment with female college students. When she wore makeup and sleek business attire, the students were less satisfied with their own bodies than when she wore baggy sweats and no makeup. And they felt still worse when there was an attractive man in the room with her.

Could it be that seeing a peer or a stranger that has taken a little extra time to present themselves in a more polished, professional way makes us question why we don’t respect ourselves enough to do the same? And notice that Ferguson makes it a “thin” stranger. The doctor seems to be accepting and promoting the common but erroneous belief held by a lot of women that they would be satisfied with their bodies if only they could lose that pesky, five, ten, fifty pounds and only thin can be attractive and desirable.

Once again I defer to Stacy and Clinton who say don’t wait for the body you think you need, dress the body you have in clothes that fit well and are appropriate for your personality and life and you might find out that your body is pretty damn good and that extra weight isn’t the problem you thought it was.

And feeling worse because there was an attractive man in the room? Well, yeah, who wants to look like you don’t care much about yourself in front of a member of the opposite sex? It isn’t even that you are in a competition for him, you just don’t want to let your side down.

In the kerfuffle on Twitter it was all about the first study, Hrdy’s, and nothing about Ferguson’s. Isn’t that interesting? Hamilton would have us believe we are “mean” because it’s all about sex. WARNING! Mean remark coming up. For Hamilton everything is about sex and has been for years and it’s not and it has become boring so could you please get your head out of your vagina and join the rest of us in the real world, Laurell? Mean remark finished.

And a couple tweeters remarked that I was proving the point of the article. Hardly. I said Hamilton was full of shit because she is. I don’t believe in the “we are women we must support each other” . I believe in we can all have and voice our opinions and if I think yours is BS then that is my opinion and if you get to voice yours, I get to voice mine. I’ll address Hamilton in another blog.

The truth is that we, as women, are constantly comparing ourselves to our friends and peers and strangers on the street. And when we do this if we are dissatisfied with ourselves we need to stop and ask ourselves why. We can change our wardrobe, our hair, our weight, we can go back to school and prove that we are smarter than we think. We need to decide what will make us happy personally and professionally. And we also need to realize that maybe we need do nothing, sometimes we are as perfect as we need be just as we are.

I think I’ve wandered off point somewhat. We are all competitive, we have all probably felt threatened by someone we thought was better looking, sexier, smarter. I believe Hrdy’s study to be flawed and Ferguson’s study to be more balanced and objective and more positive towards women.

We are all of us, men and women, hardwired to want to attract the most successful, most affluent, most physically attractive members of the opposite sex but we are more than our basic programming, we are intelligent (some of us, at least) and we can choose to compete for someone or something or not and we can choose to give ourselves the care and respect we all deserve or we can choose not to as long as we acknowledge that all of us judge and are judged to some degree by our physical appearance.

Review- Off Topic: The Corrupted Text

Off Topic:  The Corrupted Text- G R Goodreader, Jr. 

I wouldn’t use it for catbox filler. Yes, I did not buy this scamplet, I just read the first 8 pages that lulu allows. It. Was. Enough. One should not have to endure all 36 pages.

Trying to parody, in part, what reviewers complain about it-formatting, grammar, spelling, etc- TCT fails.
It comes closest to the utter boredom of Melissa Douthit’s writing but lacks the incoherent cray-cray of, say, Sharon Desruisseaux or Rick Carufel. RC, convicted of selling drugs, writes a particularly vitriolic form of incoherent cray-cray. It lacks the “sell out” porn that Kendall Grey has been “forced” to write or the obsession of creepy older men for underage girls that desperate for attention, any attention, Carroll Bryant (yes, CB, here’s some attention but please don’t pee on my foot in excitement) can’t seem to stop writing.

Since it was actually published it certainly bears no resemblance to Lauren Howard/Pippa’s unpublished work of PMS. The author lacks the arrogance and pomposity of The Author William Terry Rutherford.

Whether the author will exhibit the hysteric, screaming outrage of Rebecca Hamilton and her fangurrl, Douthit, something’s-small-but-it-isn’t-my-publisher, M R Mathias, Jamie McGuire and her remora, Jessica Park, or have a supportive, attacking “husband” like Emily Giffen or a “supportive”, attacking agent like Kiera Cass, we’ll have to wait (breathlessly) for his/her/their reaction to this review.

The one thing it does have in common with all these authors and others mentioned in the original book is that it lacks something. This scamplet lacks skill and wit so it will lack good reviews and sales. The authors mentioned lack more important things that can’t or won’t ever be addressed.

Off-Topic: The Corrupted Text

Review-The Clockwork Heart

I tried, I really tried. I seldom give up on a book, even a badly written one but I am giving up on this one. All of the problems with the first book are still present and, unfortunately, Schwarz has managed to make Elle and Marsh even more whiny, vapid, and boring.

I never felt any great spark of attraction between these two, it seemed to be a case of the author telling us rather than showing us. Now that they are married it only seems to make this lack more noticeable.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Elle seems to have lost any ability to think intelligently. If you have to dumb your characters down to make your story work then maybe you need a different story. Forget the plot (I have), what stands out is the clumsy, obvious manipulation of details to move the story along. You could figure out what was going to happen by the stupid choices Schwarz chose for her characters.

It was like being at the theatre watching a bad play and there was no backdrop so you were not only watching bad acting and listening to stilted dialogue but you were also forced to watch a bumbling  stage crew moving props and sets at the same time.

I stopped at 45% and put the book aside. A week later I came back and cheated-I read the last few pages. Nope. There was nothing there to interest me in going back to read the rest. And the ending was a cliffhanger for the main characters but I couldn’t work up a smidgen of interest in whiny, dim-witted Elle and  wooden, passionless Marsh.

I would rather watch paint dry.

But those covers… gorgeous.

Review-Hell Bent

Hell Bent (Broken Magic, #1)Devon Monk successfully revisits the world and the characters  she created in the Allie Beckstrom series. Hell Bent, and next spring Stone Cold,centers around Terric and Shamus the other two Soul Compliments from the Beckstrom books.

Starting three years after the end of Magic for a Price magic is now a mild shadow of itself except in the hands of the few Soul Compliments who can “break” magic and create spells as powerful as before the joining. And now the Authority has learned that a shadowy branch of the government has discovered this and is now coming for any of the four pairs of Soul Compliments in the U.S.

Even before this discovery Portland wasn’t exactly a peaceful paradise; murder by magic victims are showing up in parks and Terric’s new boyfriend is a member of a drug and blood cartel and has plans for Terric that don’t include either Shamus or happily ever after. Shamus finds himself in the gunsite of a mysterious woman who wants more from him than he might be willing to give.  But Allie and Zayvion and Terric and Shamus refuse to hide and decide to stand their ground in their home city.

As they prepare for whatever the government might try an enemy from their pasts reappears and unites them all in a common but deadly goal.

It seems to be a common complaint that when an author writes a book that concentrates on secondary characters   readers are left wondering what happened to the main characters from the previous series. Monk has answered that satisfactorily and also brings back other secondary characters in their previous roles. Readers won’t be left wondering whatever-happened-to and no one has changed radically into someone unrecognizable. This is one of the most enjoyable and logical books of this kind that I have read.

Hell Bent is the first part of a continuing story arc and while certain parts of the story are tied up in this book other parts are left open for Stone Cold.

Contains one of the best lines, ever, “I tried subtle. It chafed.”

Go buy a copy at your local indie bookstore or Barnes and Noble.