Everyone knows that becoming a feminist makes a woman less marriageable, more crass and generally just unpleasant to be around. But does it also make them uglier? Readers have been asking, so I delved into the science to find out.
Certainly, feminists in the public sphere have acquired a reputation for being brazen about their unconventional looks. The cult of “body positivity” has encouraged many young women to embrace excess weight. Feminist writers like Lindy West celebrate their fatness, while Lena Dunham has made a career out of looking wobbly and horrible.
While the sisterhood might not condemn women for piling on the pounds, men definitely do. But the weight gain, bizarre hair colour, piercings and “genderqueer” fashion trends in feminism aren’t, it seems to me, enough on their own to explain why women who strongly identify as feminists are so often either physically unappealing or mistaken for men.
There’s a persuasive line of reasoning that suggests women who are physically unattractive are more likely to have progressive politics, give up on blokes and retreat into feminism in the first place. (The rule doesn’t hold for men.) Even liberal bloggers like West admit that conservative girls are hotter, and, crucially, that liberal women tend to have more masculine features. By way of example, here’s Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men.
Valerie Solanas, founder of the Society for Cutting Up Men and author of the SCUM Manifesto — and the woman who shot Andy Warhol — falls into the aforesaid “genderqueer” category.
This may explain why so many angry, lesbianic placard-wavers look like they’ve been hit by a bus. As West puts it: “I can imagine that liberalism actively attracts people who are shut out of that old-timey paradigm… The women who can’t ‘pass’ for hot are forced to consider why.”
We still haven’t answered the question, though, as to whether a particular philosophical or political position can change how sexually attractive you are, if, say, you come to it later in life. So here goes.
What you probably don’t know is that under certain circumstances behaviour can affect your hormonal levels. Hormones are powerful substances: they are the chemicals which tell our bodies how to express gender, and which gender to express.
It turns out that adopting aggressive, masculine postures and developing combative psychological reflexes can boost testosterone levels by significant percentages. In many cases, women with a predilection for activism have high testosterone levels in the first place: consider the “high-T jawline” so many feminist journalists, newsreaders and actresses share. Radical feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte has a classic example of this.
Increased testosterone also makes you leaner, so jaws can appear more defined. And of course the male hormone increases acne and promotes baldness, while estrogen clears the skin, adds collagen and generally makes a person look fresher and more youthful.
So the research suggests that relentlessly assertive women, particularly women in positions of authority, are unwittingly throwing their hormones out of whack. Higher testosterone levels can produce dramatic changes, most noticeably to a woman’s face. Muscle mass and distribution can shift and hair grows faster and more thickly.
There’s no clear evidence on whether prolonged increases in testosterone over time can change the growth trajectory of bones enough to produce changes in face shape. But if true, it would go some way to explaining Guardian blogger Jessica Valenti’s dramatic transformation in the last ten years. Transgender forums seem to concur that there’s no real change to bone structure but that testosterone does lead to changes in fat distribution.
High-testosterone women are more likely to get guts because it’s estrogen that controls fat around the waist, hips and rear. Lena Dunham’s body shape — and perhaps her behaviour — would appear to be a result of very high testosterone.
As for the other changes women go through when they discover you can make a career out of hating men, well. I can’t explain why it seems as though feminist’s eyes go glassy and dead the longer they are incentivised to behave like bros while sloshing about in misandry for pay. I’m sure an entertaining gallery could be assembled showing how the process takes its toll; perhaps a reader can oblige.
But the power of hormones to radically alter physiology is well-documented. Trans patients attest to the extraordinary shifts in appearance and even personality that can be brought about by changes in hormone levels — as do older women on hormone replacement therapy.
Here’s a dirty secret feminists like to sweep under the carpet: there are objective standards for beauty, and some of them are shared by both sexes. Symmetry is the most obvious and the most commonly cited. But there are also differences in priorities between the sexes that seem to hold across cultures: men are more visual animals, for instance.
That means heterosexual men, even socially conditioned liberal metrosexuals with nice loft apartments in Brooklyn, are reluctant to approach even well-groomed women over a certain size, which is perhaps why Lindy West appears to have married a nancy boy.
Lena Dunham has styled herself as the entertainment industry’s high priestess of defiant ugliness, turning her laziness and mannish demeanour into a virtue. But ordinary women who take West and Dunham at face value, and let themselves go, chop their hair off, dress like a dude and stop bothering to depilate, find it nearly impossible to secure an attractive, well-adjusted, financially secure boyfriend.
Irresponsible celebrity feminists tell women, in a constant orgy of affirmation, to love themselves no matter what their size or shape and that no matter what they look like, they are beautiful and “real.” These supposed role models also encourage women to swarm into traditionally male occupations and hobbies to prove that women are just as capable of being computer programmers or lumberjacks as men.
Such advice is selfish, cruel, and a lie. In fact, if you want to attract the attention of a high-value potential husband, you’re much better off doing things that will make you pretty — spending time with puppies, children and flowers and listening to Mariah Carey ballads — rather than indulging in today’s dykeish and profanity-laced female empowerment culture.
So, on balance, the evidence suggests that rather than feminism producing ugliness, it’s less attractive women who are drawn to feminism, although hormones may play a part over the longer term. Still, if feminist activism, the last resort of the unfuckable, threatens to accelerate the ageing process, thicken the caterpillar on your top lip and isolate you even further from men… well, why take the risk?