Male Beauty

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2004
Male Beauty
3
Sat, 12-28-2013 - 1:03pm

      It seems to me that the words “Male” and “Beauty” do not often go together in current popular culture.  Men may be called attractive or handsome, but I feel men are not likely to be called beautiful.  Further it appears to me that even in many of the cases that a man is called beautiful it is also suggested that something is strange with that designation.  Now maybe I’m wrong about this and actually I would like to be wrong about this.  What do you think of when you hear or read the phase “Male Beauty?”

      Some people may feel that Male Beauty has nothing to do with sexual taboos and I would tend to agree with them.

      Tom,

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2004
In reply to: tom.j.g
Wed, 01-01-2014 - 12:18pm

      Your daddy’s rich

      And your mamma’s good lookin’

      So hush little baby

      Don’t you cry

       The above four lines are lyrics from the Gershwin song “Summertime.”  To me these lyrics captured very well what I feel are the differences in how Male and Female Beauty is perceived in the current culture.  Encoded in these words is the idea that to be successful so as to be able to take care of a little baby, the father has to be rich and the mother has to be beautiful.  The beauty of the mother, I feel, is to attract and keep the father.  Another way of stating this is that women are to be seen and men are to do things.  While this may have been close to the case at times in the past I do not believe that this difference in gender roles is “natural” to the human species, in the sense that humans are born with a disposition toward it. 

      In order to understand why the term beautiful maybe more likely to be associated with women than men I feel it is important to look at society prior to the 20th century.  It seems to me that in all past civilizations (defining civilization as a culture with writing) women have been considered to be second class citizens.  A good example of this is that it was extremely rare for women to be able to vote, even when men were granted this right, prior to 1900. 

      In addition to not being allowed to vote women were also denied entry into or discouraged from entering most high paying professions.  Thus it was difficult for women to support themselves financially.  Because of this most women needed, for economic reasons, to be married, more so than was the case for men and so, I feel, women took more care to attract men with physical beauty then men did to attract women - after all a man could attract a wife with his earning capacity.  On the other hand men being able to earn more than women would not be attracted to women because of the women’s earning capacity.  So, it seems to me that beauty as a desirable tract became more associated with women than with men.  But I believe that this is not something that is inborn, but instead is a result of the nature of social conditions.

      Tom,

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-14-2007
In reply to: tom.j.g
Fri, 01-31-2014 - 2:15pm
To be Devil's Advocate.....we don't often hear women being referred to as "handsome" either.
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2004
In reply to: tom.j.g
Mon, 02-03-2014 - 12:26pm

      Mc001, thank you for your reply – you bring up a good point.  What is important is that the words beauty and handsome have different definitions.  The Random House College Dictionary’s first definition for “beauty” is “a quality that is present in a thing or person giving intense aesthetic pleasure or deep satisfaction to the senses or the mind” while its first definition for “handsome” is “having an attractive, well-proportioned, and imposing appearance suggestive of health and strength; good looking.”  So beauty refers to an intense aesthetic pleasure or deep satisfaction while handsome only refers to good looking.

      I feel this difference in definitions supports my point.  By reserving, for the most point, the term “beauty” for women and the term “handsome” for men, we (our culture) are implicitly maintaining that men cannot be as attractive as women can be and I feel that this difference can be traced back to the idea that women are to be seen and men are to do things and not to some “natural” preference.

      If the words beautiful and handsome meant the same thing I feel it would not be important as to which word is used for either sex, but I do not see them as having the same meanings.

      Tom,