Monday, October 12, 2009

MEN: You in Print [Part 2/5]

Brad Pitt. George Clooney. Robert Redford. Tom Cruise. Orlando Bloom. Burt Reynolds. Robert Pattinson.

These men are all famous for their acting. Aren't they?

To find out if they really were, I bought a few magazines. I also visited a few of these magazines' websites to see what kind of content I could find regarding celebrity men, particularly actors. I was looking to see how much of the content was actually related to their jobs.

Let's take Robert Pattinson, for example. He's in the press quite a lot - although in my squinty viewpoint he's only played a few notable roles (IMDB, for those of you who live in a cavern) - and his press coverage often has nothing to do with any kind of film project he's involved in. Out of sheer luck I stumbled over a handy guide to all things R-Patz* on a website for a popular fashion/gossip magazine, which happily told me a few things about the lad in question that I probably could have found on Wikipedia researched myself, along with a few pictures.

Although it was obviously 'for the fans', I found out a little bit about him. And I feel a little bit mean for my previous judgement - he's been working quite hard, modelling since age 12, he learnt the piano and guitar at a young age, and he supports Arsenal (well, we can't all be perfect). But as the site itself points out: "No-one would have known who you were talking about if you mentioned Robert Pattinson at the Oscars in 2008".

So, assuming that we cast his acting abilities aside, why is he so popular? Oh come on, I'm sick of bloody pretending. It's because he's good-looking.

Let's dissect that a moment. Who says that he's good-looking? Why is he good-looking? Which traits make you good-looking? What defines them?

WHO? Well, Glamour magazine for one. Don't get me wrong, I'm not condemning them for it: nor am I condemning the few girls I know that wouldn't boot him out of bed. And I'm not saying all of my Ladyfriends thought that Robert didn't deserve the attention. Here's the thing: I'm not one of those girls. I like a different kind of man. Where's my representative?

WHY? Robert Pattinson "ticks boxes". And no that's not meant to be a double-entendre, I mean he fulfills certain criteria that makes him attractive.

WHICH? He is tall (at 6ft 1in), physically fit (though he admits embellishing his athletic abilities to obtain the part of Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter films), and he has symmetrical facial features (this makes him an ideal 'mate' or genetic specimen, so I've been told).

WHAT? Apparently there are three factors to physical attractiveness: universal perceptions common to all human cultures, cultural and social aspects, and individual subjective preferences. So, Mr Pattinson fits the first two criteria perfectly: Universal perception is that a physique that is athletic in build and facial features that are symmetrical will produce stronger offspring who are more physically attractive. Cultural and social aspects, such as the culture of celebrity-oriented media portray the belief that men who look like Robert such as those listed above tend to be generally more attractive to the media's target audience (in this case, teenaged- to 30-something women). And the individual subject reference is perhaps the most important factor: if most women didn't find men like Robert, Brad, Hugh, Orlando or George attractive, then perhaps there would be someone different on the cover of the magazine.

I just happen to be one of those people that doesn't particularly find him attractive. Believe me, I can see his appeal. I admire his acting ability, he obviously has talent, and he seems to be a fairly level-headed person (I'm aware of how bland those comments sound, and I apologise). I just wouldn't look twice at him if we passed on the street. And although I'm not the only one, I am aware that we must be a minority. If we were a majority, I'm fairly sure magazines would have a different set of favourite men to the ones listed above.

Right. Now I've finished telling you something you probably already knew, here's a few things you might not, courtesy of the Ladyfriends:

"In women's magazines it tends to be "look at this hunk!" but it's not done to be taken seriously."

That's right: it is all a bit "Phwoar! Look at him!" - it's light-hearted fun, right? I think so, but at the end of the day it is a little frustrating to get to the back page of the magazine and have skipped most of it because I wasn't really interested in hearing about Justin Timberlake or whoever. Magazines are getting a lot better at scope in general: encouraging 'curvier' women, using models above Size 8 (which is good, seeing as though national average last year put the average British woman at a Size 14)**, but when is it going to be the turn of the lads? What, for example, is the average size for men?

Well, I checked, and the most helpful or relevant study I could easily find was from Netscape, putting the average American man at a 44 regular. However, I did find a lot of articles with titles like "British men seeking smaller 'moobs'"..."Bulging British men want a slice of their wives' weight-loss pie"...from several news site all of which left me with nothing, really. Also I was a bit incensed about being called 'plus-sized' by Netscape, so I went to go and get some Ryvita (normally this would read "carton of Ben and Jerry's" but I'm on Weight Watchers and want you to think I'm being good).

Taking that as my (albeit slightly unstable) jumping point: if that's the average man, surely it means there are more men that look like...well, your average man? Your current or recent boyfriend, your friend's older brother, the bartender down your local, the guy behind the till at the supermarket, your colleague. Do any of them look remotely like Robert Pattinson or Orlando Bloom? One of them might, but not all of them. Unless you live in Beverley Hills; in which case stop reading my Blog and buy a proper dog and not a handbag-sized one, you trollop.

Do you find any of them attractive? I certainly do. I find my boyfriend very attractive, thank you very much, but I don't expect to see him gracing the front cover of any of the 'glossies'. But that doesn't mean people don't find him attractive. It just means that he doesn't get the 'majority vote'.

A few thoughts from the Ladyfriends as a parting gesture:

"How many different kinds of women do you know? So what's 'the norm'?"


"...Some popular women's media makes men out to be both stupid and one-tracked. But then it makes some men out to be God-like...I disagree with both views."


"Is men's portrayal in the media fair? No, not at all!"


"If I am to believe the magazines, it's not [my partner] I should find attractive; it should be biceps and muscle."

I don't know what you're all thinking after reading this: guys or girls. But I hope it's given you a slightly better perspective of yourselves. The next Blog will be up in roughly a week, and a bit of a wild-card: I'll say no more, but I hope it works!

*Oh - and please, may I never use a moniker like that again? They make me cringe like a farting bullfrog. I always thought Li-Lo was something you took to the swimming pool, and J-Lo was some kind of vaginal ointment.

** Yes, I'm average. Makes me feel as though I should be bent over in my pants while a medical "professional" stamps a large rubber stamp on my voluptuous arse that reads "MUST TRY HARDER"

Friday, October 09, 2009

MEN: Your Best Feature [Part 1/5]

You join me on the start of my quest to define men, as a whole. Of course, I knew I was never going to be able to do this alone; such blind self-assurance is futile. So with help from "Ladyblog's Ladyfriends", I set out to delve deep into the minds of women and see if I couldn't figure out a few trends here and there.

Neety asks: "What, in your opinion, is men's best overall feature?"

"They have too many to mention..."

Yes guys, this was a genuine answer - in fact, it was the first response I got from a very eager Ladyfriend. And it's true - I can only hope to touch on a few good features, most notably the apparent favourites among us females. While I personally can't really elaborate much upon such a truthful yet vague answer, I would like to point this out to my devoted male readers, at least to let you know what's in store.

"One I have always admired is that they don't (or maybe can't?) bitch in the way that women do."

Oh goodness. Don't get me started - I know some women who aught to come with a big label marked "Toxic Bitchwaste". Outwardly lovely people these women may be, but if you mention the one person they can't stand, you had better take cover or at least put up an umbrella. Out it pours; the torrent of what is universally known as 'Bitchiness', and like something from The Exorcist, the bile doesn't stop.

I'm not saying all women are like this 100% of the time. The percentage differentiates as much as any character trait does. But every woman is a certain way up on the scale, and this can change depending on the individual, the target, the time of day. lists 'bitch' under the obvious noun, and then the object-less, colloquial verb meaning "a complaint". It's quite often used as a term regarding women, and not without reason. But men? You don't seem to do it - or if you do, we girls certainly don't know about it, and congratulations on succeeding in keeping something hidden from a woman. Women can say the nastiest things, quite often bitching goes beyond the realms of rationality and into personal attacks, such as criticising someone's fashion sense because they happen to have upset us somehow. It's a sign of tolerance, of emotional maturity, and a rare and brilliant trait.

"Generally with guys, what you see is what you get."

Now there's an interesting concept. What do we really mean by "what you see is what you get"?

Personally, and without embarrassing my fellow Blogger paramour, I'd like to say that when I first started to look at a good male friend in a different light, I started to really see him for what he was: kindly, gentle, outwardly confident with a generous nature. A few months in and my perception of him has only been approved, not changed. This means, Gentlemen, that you are typically less superficial. This is a very attractive feature. Set the scene: you fancy a steak. You go to Tesco, and there on the shelf is the most delicious steak you have ever seen. Nobody else has picked it up; just you, based on your individual preference of steak. You take it home and prepare it, only to find that once you get it out of the packaging, it's really not what you expected.

Now replace the steak with a man, the packaging with your first impression of his personality and all references to eating and preparing the steak with the notion of being attracted to someone. Men seem to be less likely to try and cover up with attractive 'packaging', at least to us ladies. So when I saw a loving and kind man, I took my chances and found he really was the 'prime cut' that I wanted.

"I admire men's ability to not let other people's comments get to them."

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me. Excuse my un-ladylike language here, but bollocks to that idea. Girls: ever been called a whore? If so, did it hurt? Was it for a good reason? I bet your answers to the latter two were "Yes, a lot" and "No, probably not". In similar fashion, I have definitely called someone a bastard before. Not in the playful "You met Brian May? You bastard" way, but the way that says "I hate you, you stupid rotten bastard". You don't even have to phrase it that exact way.

If someone I knew even casually came up to me and called me a whore, the hard-nosed Neety that posts acerbic Blogs from the relative comfort of her armchair would suddenly disappear and be replaced by a tearful and hurt little girl, lingering only for the time it takes me to get to the sanctuary of the nearest Ladies' room. Take these examples of a bar fight between two members of the same sex:

MEN: One male takes umbrage at the other, for whatever reason. He calls out his foe by calling him a derogative term, for example "motherfucker". The foe retailiates either physically or verbally, calling the taunter by an even worse term, wherein a fight breaks out. After the fight is stopped or resolved, both men resume whatever they were doing.

WOMEN: One female takes umbrage at the other, for whatever reason. She calls out her foe by calling her a derogative term, for example "bitch". The foe retailiates either physically or verbally, calling the taunter by an even worse term, wherein a fight breaks out. After the fight is stopped or resolved, either or both women return to a group of friends who analyse both the terms of the fight and the persona of the other woman. Either or both women remain upset for an indeterminate period of time.

Men seem to let it all come to a head with a fight. You engage in harsh words or maybe fisticuffs, and that's it. You are at worst very wary around each other. You don't hatch schemes for revenge. Which brings me on to:

"I admire my man's ability to not hold grudges, even if it's really annoying them."

Ask me to tell you how I broke up with one of my ex-boyfriends. Really ask me, and see how long it takes to get a straight and unbiased account of what happened, after the barrage of swearing subsides. But seriously: I couldn't tell you most of it because I would get too emotional. Although I'm now at the point where I can say it doesn't effect my day-to-day life, I still retain anger. And not just exes; there are some people, male and female, who I joke that I'd love to see on the receiving end of a badly-thrown javelin. I won't even talk to them.

An example: My younger brother was furious with an ex boyfriend of mine, but he still talks to him. Whereas one of my female friends would walk away from him without a word. I am not saying that my brother's behaviour was disloyal, nor am I saying that my Ladyfriend's behaviour is out of term. I choose not to talk to people who have upset me, whereas I know a lot of my male friends who would just 'grin and bear it'. It does make social situations a lot easier.

"He doesn't worry."
"I admire his calm, unselfish behaviour."

Right now, I am worried about things: I am worried that this Blog reads like my turtle wrote it, I am worried because I haven't tidied the flat, I am worried because I still don't have a job and I am worried that Brawny's neighbours can hear me singing along to Dr. Feelgood at 11.30 in the morning. Feeling a little stuck, I canvassed the man himself to see what was on his mind. Our conversation went along these lines:

  • Neety: Darling?
  • Brawny: Yes?
  • N: Are you worried about anything?
  • B: What...what do you mean?
  • N: Are you worried about anything?
  • B: ...[LONG PAUSE] Well, not massively.
  • N: Nothing at all?
  • B: I'm worried that you're not having a good time.
  • N: I am having a good time.
  • B: I worry vaguely about money...[ANOTHER LONG PAUSE]...and whether the TV's going to fit on top of the chest of drawers...[PAUSE] Will that do?
  • N: Yes. You may go now.
  • B: May I kiss you first?

And thus is the insight into the mind of man: he worries, yes. But not half as much as I do. The AA I believe made studies in 2001 that said while women are better at split-second timing reactions, men are much better at reacting to an inavoidable crisis, for example the aftermath of a road accident. They leave the worrying about the cost, the state of the car, etc. to after they have dealt with the immediate situation. Of course, this is another example of those universal character traits that could be present in any male or female; it is just shown to be more predominant in men.

B: Now I'm worried about what you're writing! [STANDS IN CORNER OF ROOM, STICKING TONGUE OUT]

So there you have it. Men: we can't easily define all of you with the same examples, in the same way that I can't speak on behalf of all women. We do differentiate. However in my research these were men's most common traits: you're unpretentious, you're calmer than we are, you're more rational and you are more likely to just 'move on' from things and 'let go'. Of course I know many exceptions to these rules, and I'm sure at least one of you knows a woman who doesn't bitch and who takes ten minutes to get ready to go out. Enjoy, guys! We may pretend to, but we don't really hate you. Tune in next time..but please don't tell the girls I said that!