The interminable Cute Factor

Conventional wisdom has it that men grow distinguished, while women merely grow older, and at least one contemporary doctrine contends that this is an inevitable consequence of patriarchal privilege; I tend to believe that we guys simply give less of a damn. But this may be changing:

I think the historical discrepancy between men and women’s level of concern for their own attractiveness may be shrinking. A woman with money and power and a life she enjoys may be interested in her appearance, but less so than if everything in her life depended on being attractive to men, particularly after a certain age. No highly experienced professional woman really gives much of a hoot whether she can look like Eva Longoria, any more than a successful man wastes much time wishing he were a young Brad Pitt. A powerful woman in public life just hopes her looks are respectable enough that we can change the subject and consider something else; Elizabeth Warren easily passes this test, while Hillary Clinton, unluckily for her, does not.

Of course, if actual physical appearance mattered all that much in politics, Sarah Palin would be starting her second term right about now, and she’d surely have a wardrobe consultant at taxpayer expense. I suspect that a substantial portion of the electorate — maybe half, maybe more — doesn’t care.

Update/Disclosure: After I first read the passage quoted above, my first thought was “Yeah, but look how much younger Warren is.” Eight, ten years? Two. Which proves, I suppose, that I can jump to conclusions at least as well as someone half my age.


  1. fillyjonk »

    29 January 2013 · 2:12 pm

    I suspect it’s very individual, and it comes down to how much a person trades on their looks in life. I’ve known men who freaked out about hitting 30 (exasperating, I know) and the concurrent slowing of metabolism and all that. And I know women who don’t really care what the number on the calendar says, as long as their health remains good.

    In a way, my having been (perhaps falsely) convinced of my own unattractiveness at an early age was not such a terrible thing; it meant I developed other avenues of making a way in this world that thinking of myself as mostly arm-candy would not have allowed.

  2. Brett »

    29 January 2013 · 8:20 pm

    I suspect that Warren’s Native American heritage plays a large role in helping maintain her youthful appearance.

  3. CGHill »

    29 January 2013 · 8:45 pm

    Well, a sixteenth of it, anyway.

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