I recently saw an advert for a local strip club, which featured an alluring blonde woman and the tagline, “Home of the Perfect 10”. I began to wonder about this Perfect 10, what made a woman one, and who decided on the definition in the first place. Being a competitive person, I also did a quick mental assessment of all my body parts, in a shameful attempt to figure out what sort of marks I would get in the Perfect 10 competition. Just because I disagree with the rules doesn’t mean I can’t win the race!
When I think of what a Perfect 10 means, I think of the life-size strip club adverts that decorate billboards and taxis around town. The women are, as we all know, tall, thin, booby and, for the most part, white – except for the token Asian, Latina or African-American women, included to so that the club can cater to a variety of fantasies. When I see these pictures, I am angry at these women, for winning the beauty contest hands down, and I hate myself for not being beautiful like them – and then I feel ashamed for all these thoughts. I also wonder who first came up with this definition of beauty.
This particular emotional response extends beyond strip club adverts. Any time I see a woman in conventionally sexy boots or clothes, with a body like a supermodel, I immediately begin comparing myself to her, hating her for her perceived superiority over me, and myself for demeaning both of us and reducing both our lives to a beauty pageant.
These competitive thoughts make me wonder, why do I care about this contest? What is the prize, anyway? Is this the main competition we are supposed to be entering? Are there other ones I should be taking part in?
Today, a plethora of TV shows, books, movies and other cultural expressions are devoted to the idea that, yes, ladies, this is a competition, and the prize is marriage to the Perfect Man (the problems associated with the current definition of the Perfect Man are also troubling, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day). Even if the pressure is nothing like it once was, women are still pressured by friends, family members and society as a whole, to “win” a man (and not a woman, either, a MAN). If we don’t, we’re losers – no matter if we are wonderful people, do fabulous things with our lives, having stellar careers, etc; this is all brushed to one side if we fail to hold down a man.
Of course, the problem for women is that, if we enter this narrowly defined competition (and, seemingly, it is the only one worth entering), we’re betraying other women. We’re turning our backs on other women, viewing them with suspicion and envy. We’re perpetuating the myth that we women should devote our lives to bagging a man. We’re allowing society to divide and conquer us – and surely that’s exactly what we don’t want.
So, if we don’t want to enter this competition, what do we do? Or, if we do, but we know we can’t win it, what then? If we are not a Perfect 10, what is our response? To redefine beauty? To say we are all beautiful in different ways? To admit we can’t win that competition, and that other women will? To win other competitions? Or to fight all the ideas that are behind that competition in the first place?