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Froma Harrop
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Wednesday 13 February 2013
Go to any romantic restaurant on Valentine’s Day, and observe; the girls are dressed for festivity and the boys are dressed for walking the dog.

On Valentine’s Day, Women Try; Men Don’t

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The following is a crashing generalization, but here goes: When it comes to how we dress, there are serious gender inequities — in standards of comfort and in body exposure. Valentine's Day underscores a third that rankles just as much: inequality of effort.

Go to any romantic restaurant on Valentine's Day, and observe. The girls are dressed for festivity, and the boys are dressed for walking the dog.

The ladies have obviously worked 10 times harder on their appearance than their dates. They've got makeup. They have sparkle. Their clothes say "evening."

Their male escorts, meanwhile, are in jeans, not always the dressy kind, and shoes you could run a marathon in. If they really want to go the extra mile, they might tuck their shirts in. Calling Tim Gunn: L'il Abner needs a fashion mentor.

The February issue of a local magazine has a Valentine's Day-themed cover story about some eligible singles in the community. The men and women all appear to be of good character and steady employment. But the pictures show the women carefully turned out in party clothes, while the men, with one exception, are barely out of their pajamas. The exception wasn't wearing a tie, heaven forfend, but he did sport a tweed jacket. He was the premier catch.

I know some of you gentlemen will not take kindly to this critique. You will shoot off emails calling me all kinds of vile things. Go ahead. I expect nothing less from you.

Of course, the other inequities are in full view on Valentine's Day. Many of the ladies painfully totter on spiked heels, a personal sacrifice made more stark by her gentleman's running shoes. She is also likely to be far less covered than the man — sleeveless or even shoulderless.

And her legs may be exposed as high as the law allows.

Now I do accept that for evening romance, women tend to dress more provocatively than men. And that may require the exposing of some skin. How much can be a matter of taste, figure and climate. But many women should know they'd look a lot sexier if they covered more.

This little fashion tip has not reached the club scene, where the nakedness is such that the only mystery is how little mystery there is. Among the inspirations must be that little black outfit Beyonce wore as she rolled on the floor during the Super Bowl halftime.

One other important point about Valentine's Day is this: Feb. 14 is dead winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It is cold in most of the United States and, in some parts, downright frigid. One can go comfortably bare in formal dress in heated ballrooms. But the average bistro does not guarantee adequate temperature for bare arms, and you do risk frostbite on the way in and out. Note that when it's especially cold, the boys throw on a sweater.

Also, high heels are a challenge even in optimal conditions. Snowdrifts are not optimal.

You don't have to wait for Valentine's Day to find this gender inequality. It's on full display every Saturday night at the shopping center multiplex. The female half of the couple recognizes that Saturday night at the movie theater is not the same as Saturday morning cleaning out the garage. The men often don't. Sense of occasion is not their strong suit.

Again, the above is a crashing generalization. To the man who makes an effort to show respect for the companion dolled up in his honor, this column is dedicated to you. You deserve the best. The rest of you, bah.

Copyright Creators.com


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ABOUT Froma Harrop
Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times, Denver Post and Newsday. The twice-a-week column is distributed by Creators Syndicate, in Los Angeles. Harrop has written for numerous other publications, ranging from The New York Times and Institutional Investor, to Harper’s Bazaar and Metropolitan Home. Previously, she covered business for Reuters Ltd., in New York, and was a financial editor for The New York Times News Service. A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary, Harrop was also honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Over the years, the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has named her for five awards.

I found this article, and the

I found this article, and the varied comments, quite interesting. I'd toss out the idea that the reason women dress up isn't so much to attract men as it is to compete for status with each other. The author's complaint, echoed by the respondents that take her side, reveals a deep sense that a person who is dressed up is in some way morally superior to a person who is not. Contrary to the view that men are strongly attracted to well-dressed women while women don't care so much about how men are dressed, I think it may be the other way around. Female comments I have read and what I've seen in women's eyes would indicate that they are in fact very much attracted to men who are well-dressed in suits or uniforms. Men, on the other hand, probably don't care much at all about the elaborate ornamentation women apply to themselves. True, they may like revealing garb, but makeup, jewelry and elaborate coiffure don't usually add much to their experience, and they are notorious for not even noticing their women's efforts. To my taste, painted nails grown out like talons are downright creepy, and high heels rank right up there with Chinese foot-binding in the "yuck" category. But women follow these fashions, not because men force them to, but for fear of being disgraced in front of other women.

Good article. I'm well into

Good article. I'm well into my geezerhood (68) but I noticed that any sort of dressing for an occasion is a lost art. In men under 50 you'd have to go a long way to find a man who could tie a decent half winsor knot. As for women I'm afraid their attemps to look fetching reminds me of the ladies of the night I encountered in Marseille in my young sailor days. Actually those french ladies were a bit more conservative.

There is no sense in

There is no sense in conformity for it's own sake. Men who always wear a suit regardless of the weather indicate no self respect, but act as mindless drones. The necktie is a worthless piece of clothing. We have had buttons for hundreds of years.. A person of either sex is attractive if friendly and clean. Beware of a partner that will bankrupt you regardless of your income as they become slaves to advertising and the competition of showing off.

Dear Ms. Harrop, Happy

Dear Ms. Harrop,

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thank you for the "Wake-Up Call." It takes two -- it's true.

All the best!

Excuse me!!! You ask for

Excuse me!!! You ask for donations to publish this trite shit?!!
(Don't we get enough of this kind of mindless garbage from corporate media?)

Shit! All of you, fuck off!!

"Excuse me!!! You ask for

"Excuse me!!! You ask for donations to publish this trite shit?!!"

While this is obvious to you, I thought it was illuminating to get the female perspective on this.

LOL. How did I end up at The

LOL. How did I end up at The Onion?

The author is so very spot-on

The author is so very spot-on in matching observations I've made over the last 20+ years:

I've some female friends who "are Done" with the organized singles events here in CA because while they spend 2-4 hours getting ready with shower, hair styles, makeup, perfume, dress, shoes, stockings to make themselves as appealing as possible... the men at the same events make comparatively little EFFORT in trying to make their appearance appealing. They're lucky if the guys are wearing a tucked in, ironed shirt, with a shine on their shoes.

And I know too many men whose idea of dressing to impress is comparable to bowling-alley fashions. These friends of mine think a) "women should accept them for their inner persona, and not judge on superficialities", b) "women who find better dressed men more appealing are really just gold diggers", and c) "they want a woman like their mom who offers unconditional love to her son no matter how sloppy his lifestyle or mangy his appearance."

I'm a guy, and I get tired of going out with my buddies who refuse to try to dress up even a bit, though I plead for them to spiff it up a bit - which they rarely do. Then they marvel with envy at the extra attention I get - which I attribute to dressing up!

Well dudes, the more sh-lumpy you dress and the less effort you put into a night out, the better for us guys who do put the effort into trying to look their best.

Its not just the

Its not just the clothes...Men don't usually try too much period. Do they want to talk about their feelings...no. If they don't understand women do they read books on us to glean something....no. Men putting real effort into a relationship would make them gay or tear them away from a sporting event. That why they so often gut dumped.

Ironic this is under Human

Ironic this is under Human Rights - U.S. women being slaves to fashion and all. I am female, and I think your argument is up-side-down. It's the women who are idiots for dressing like hookers when it's freezing outside. This continued obsession with sky-high heels is idiocy - they will ruin your feet and hurt your back. And who could out-run an attacker in street-walker shoes?

Your column supports the stereotype of women being air-headed shopaholics who can't wait to see the next chick flick.

Shouldn't this be on some glamour/fashion site instead?

Thank you, FirstAmendmentFan,

Thank you, FirstAmendmentFan, you are spot on. The reason why she doesn't see those of us women who like to spoil ourselves with comfortable sensible clothing, is because we are also more likely to be the kind of girls who prefer a quiet inexpensive night at home with out partner, including good homemade food better than anything you can get on a night out, and a little pleasant evening exercise to work it off. Fashion is just fluff, and if you want a woman who has genuine interests and a worthwhile purpose to her life, then you are probably hanging out in the wrong place if you are looking in bars. Try professional associations, or the peace corp, or a blood donor center, a homeless shelter, a Habitat build, or even a church event, anywhere where people are thinking about someone other than themselves.

It's kind of strange logic to

It's kind of strange logic to bemoan the fact that women wear absolutely idiotic garments and shoes, then chastise men for wearing comfortable clothes (albeit slobby). Under the "Human Rights" category, one would think there would be a more profound observation on the status of women, as indicated by current standards of "fashion." Yes, maybe men should try to wear nicer (yet still comfortable) clothes out of respect for their female companion and the occasion, but women's festive outfits should be more comfortable, sensible, and show more SELF-respect.

My family and I worked the

My family and I worked the men's clothing business for decades.
A change of sartorial "mores" occurred in the early 70's among the boomers and continued through the subsequent demographics (generations X, Y, etc.).
Males "train" to rise in the financial ladders with a view toward reaching levels where they rule the roost (or find a skill so satisfying that money is not THE consideration, as long as it provides financial independence).
Only a job that demands "male grooming" gets it. Most males feel artificial and constrained in such garb and will remove their workplace "combat fatigues" when they get home. It's for impressing clients and the boss and no more! It's the Nikes/New Balance/Saucony/Levis/T's/whatever once they get home and need to go out.
In their eyes women "want" the guy with the great salary, the nice apartment, the status car/toys and not much more (hopefully, the guy has some personality, a sense of humor and is not a sociopath).
If a guy yearns to be a model, a film actor or a TV anchor he dresses for that "role" even on his off-hours. If not, it's comfort, comfort, comfort. His inner security does not hinge on looking like a life-time subscriber to GQ or Playboy. I suspect the clothes-horse narcissist has become a rarity among males in this culture. I cannot state the same observation about many women in this post-Bernays-ian universe.
Conversely, when women leave their digs, they dress to _attract_ these "secure- in-their-professional-life-and-tribal-status" types and to out-do the "competition." I don't see women dress up when they stay home. Do you?
Let's be real.

Women pretty much ALWAYS

Women pretty much ALWAYS dress up more than men. Think weddings, think proms, think even the bedroom. Just like it's only men who play with toy train sets--it's one of those things. Most women I know get excited about clothes shopping. Have you ever met a straight guy who is more than lukewarm about the very concept? How often have you seen this scene:

"Hey, Bob, I just bought this new three-piece pinstripe suit, on sale at Macy's for 30% off!"

"OMG, George, that's so CUTE! I love how it shows off your butt! The guys at work are going to be SO jealous...."

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Also, men respond to attractively dressed women considerably more than the other way around. We place emphasis on how a woman looks; they place emphasis on a sense of humor and ability to listen to them. So unless and until women respond significantly to a man getting dressed up, there's little impetus for us to do so. (Do you like how I subtly shifted the blame to you? ;-) )

Yeah, well, men who prefer

Yeah, well, men who prefer women that look like hookers, and spend their nights at bars trying to land one, will get what they deserve: women who adore fashion and being adored more than they do their lover, and are quite ready to trade him in on the latest model if he's not up to snuff and doesn't complement their style. And then they usually complain about how much she'd costing him, both as a spouse or as an ex. Whereas, if a man is capable of seeing inner beauty and goes after a career woman with a sense of purpose to her life, who dresses in a way that is sensible for her job, he's more likely to end up with someone who works hard to cultivate the valuable things in her life and doesn't expect him to treat her like a princess.

With the media telling the

With the media telling the world that men are ugly, evil, disreputable beasts 24/7 then you have dumb princesses expect harry potters magic wand to magically change them into prince charming.

The last 3 decades of media have portrayed men as dumb incompetent cavemen... you get what you richly deserve.

"But many women should know

"But many women should know they'd look a lot sexier if they covered more."

Wrong. You're a woman, and not qualified to judge this. It's nothing sexist; I think it's hardwired into male neural circuitry; bare female skin arouses men. That's just how we're built. It's kept the species going for a million years.

Including fat bare female

Including fat bare female skin? I can tell you that while a totally muscular guy working with his shirt off may be pleasing to (female) eyes, there are a huge number of guys that think they are God's gift to women and love to doff their shirt to show off a hairy chest, but often are also exposing a repulsive beer belly. So maybe there is nothing wrong with flaunting it if you've got it, but please make sure that you've got it, first. And even if you've got it now, making a habit of working outside half naked will cause you to lose it as you age - your skin will get leathery and you may get skin cancer unless you always slather up with sun block first, and the macho types will never let someone see them doing THAT. Of course, gay men often appreciate beer bellies as part of the "bear" asthetic, so if you go shirtless, don't be surprised if you attract some unwanted attention, too.

"Including fat bare female

"Including fat bare female skin?"

In the U.S., there's an irrational bias against fat women, but this isn't universal. Some of us appreciate a full-figured woman, and some men go to places where they congregate, like conferences and blogs, specifically to meet them.

In other cultures throughout history, full-figured women were considered more attractive.

Thanks for your perspective on this.

You are spot on - I have met

You are spot on - I have met guys for coffee via the internet sites - what an utter disgrace most of them are!! And I'm sure they aren't even aware enough to be a tad embarassed. It's time men wake up - I'm tired of the rich slobs that dress better for their corporate office every day than for a date. Shame on all of you!!!

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