Ever since Hugo Schwyzer came to this blog to inform me that he’s had it with me daring to have my own opinions about his writings, I tried hard to abstain from commenting on his articles. It’s difficult, though, because he often writes things that make me think that I’d rather have no male feminists at all than ones who write this kind of stuff. See, for example, a recent post from somebody who, let me remind you, teaches about body image on a college level:
When I ask my female students, as I do every semester, “How many of you would say it’s easier to get along with guys than with girls”, invariably over half the young women in the class raise their hands. The reasons they give are always the same: “girls are so competitive”, “boys just have less drama”, “guys aren’t as critical.” Of course, not every woman feels this way – but plenty do. So it may surprise you to know that the research on eating disorders shows that critical comments from boys are much more likely to lead young women to start to diet or purge. In a major 2008 study called Family, Peer and Media Predictors of Becoming Eating Disordered researchers found that the hurtful remarks of male peers were more damaging to girls’ self-esteem than comments made by other women of any age, including peers and female relatives. Only the media had a comparable impact on young women’s self-esteem.
Leaving aside the fact of how annoying it must be to shell out a huge sum for a college education only to end up in a classroom where you get your time wasted on condescending kindergarten-level questions, it is mind-boggling that anybody would honestly believe something as silly as this. Self-esteem is something that is created on the basis of one’s very early childhood experiences. After that, nothing short of extensive therapy can influence one’s self-esteem in any significant way.
A person with a high self-esteem can watch media images of skinny women and ripped men all day and every day for decades and remain completely unaffected. A person with a low self-esteem can go into a major bout of depression because s/he thinks that somebody might have looked at them in a critical way. If your self-esteem is high and you know for a fact that you are stunningly gorgeous, nobody will even try to insult you with nasty remarks about your appearance. Let’s say you want to annoy, offend or bug a person for whatever reason. Will you come up to them and say, “You have three heads”? I don’t think you will because something that is so patently untrue is not likely to offend.
When I was little, I was always surrounded by a group of adoring adults who would exclaim, “Here comes our beauty!” in unison whenever I would enter the room. Today, 30 years and many pounds and wrinkles later, I still hear this admiring chorus whenever I appear in public. I just took a walk around the block and tried to remember a single instance when “a girl or a guy” made a nasty comment about my appearance. I came up with nothing. So if you have little kids – or are planning to have them – just make sure they know that they are beautiful. If you do that for them, neither the scary media nor condescending male feminists will scare them.