Wednesday, 18 November 2009

How to Attract a Man: The Daily Mail Way

Here’s an interesting one. The Daily Mail has an article on a psychological study that says women who bare 40% of their naked, womanflesh in nightclubs are more likely to attract a man than those who don’t show enough or those who show too much.

So what? Well, as usual, it’s the way the Mail reports on these issues that makes them so ludicrous.

“It is the question that has troubled many a young woman as she dresses for a night out: How much should she dare to bare? After all, if her clothes are too revealing, she may catch the eye of the wrong kind of man. But too prim and she may attract none at all.”

Insert your own DUN DUN DUUUUUN here.

Ah, that age old question. Now, obviously there’s no point in a woman going to a nightclub if she can’t attract a man. And, more importantly, she must do everything she can to appeal to a man. We all know women don’t ever go to nightclubs to have fun with friends or – god forbid – attract other women. The article continues.

“Seventy hours of recordings revealed that a man was much more likely to ask a woman to dance than vice versa. While this may not seem surprising, it is important because it meant that the female clubbers had to compete against each other for male attention. And clothing - or lack of it - was one of the factors that helped them stand out.”

It paints a pretty dismal view of nightclubs doesn’t it? Women are reduced to nothing more than passive sex objects whose sole function is to stand out from the pack in order to be “rewarded” with male attention. While sexism from the Mail is nothing new, is it really necessary for the article to use this sort of language? There no place in the article for anything other than an essentialist, heterosexist mating ritual.

But wait – there’s more.

“Suitable outfits might include a sleeveless dress that skims the thighs. But showing off any more flesh than this could be counterproductive. Dr Hendrie said: 'Any more than 40 per cent and the signal changes from "allure" to one indicating general availability and future infidelity. 'Show some leg, show some arm, but not any more than that.'”

Yes, Sir, Mr Science Man! What Hendrie is really saying is that showing any more than 40% of their skin means the woman is a whore, a slut, a slag, and any other insult men fling at women. More worryingly, perhaps, are the hints at something more sinister; we’re all aware of the sexist argument that rape victims’ clothes or behaviour means they were “asking for it” and now that idiotic notion has a pseudo-scientific study to back it up – you were showing more than 40% of your skin, they’ll say, what did you expect?

As a lesbian who doesn’t particular like clubbing (I’d rather go to the pub instead) I’m probably not the target audience for this information anyway but it doesn’t change the fact that it paints such a negative image of women being subject to and seeking men’s approval. As far as the article explains, the study was observational and none of the people in the clubs were actually interviewed, so Hendrie is putting his own patriarchal values onto the data – it is he who thinks that a woman showing more than 40% of her flesh is a bad thing and indicates that the woman is easy or likely to cheat in the future, all the data shows is that these women were asked to dance less frequently.

The fact is women at nightclubs don’t dress solely for men’s approval and nor should they. This study and article fails to take that into account and instead paints women as desperately motivated by the thought of attracting a man, and doing anything they can to gain male approval and attention. The article seems intent on shaming women for their sexual behaviour. While never said explicitly it seems to belong to the same ideology that says that while men who sleep around are studs, women who do the same are slags. Sadly, I’d expect nothing less from the Daily Mail.

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