"Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy." (From a recent viral email.) This article discusses the role of dressing up and dressing down using the 'front-heavy, bald, beer drinker' virtual effigy in context of societal hegemony and intrinsic factors in dressing up.
Let's give our 'front-heavy, bald, beer drinker' a name, say, Fred with apologies to the entire World's population of Alfreds and Fredericks. If Fred thinks he is sexy, sexy epitomizing all that is regarded beautiful, are our standards wrong, or is Fred simply deluded? It is difficult to imagine a man being very sexy or beautiful when his mid-riff protrusion is so big he needs a mirror to see his own willy.
Fred knows his condition - push-ups are not feasible these days because of his knees, you know, and the bathroom scale? "It's not precise anyway" as if the error margin was plus or minus 50 kg. His deluding rationalizations or flight of imaginations are beyond scope but merely bench mark, loosely, the spectrum of beauty in the lower echelons.
Dressing up then, is seen as a repositioning on this spectrum. At a very young age the expression "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" was understood as "Beauty is in: For thy be older" by the author. In context of so many other age-unattainable things, this, quite logically meant to the then 6-year-old, that beauty would be bestowed sometime in the future. (Sadly, it never happened but 60 years later he is still waiting).
Is beauty then a societal construct or does it have an absolute endowment scale, perhaps calibrated by the Standards Association of the Devine One (SADO). The question has been asked by many thinkers since well before the mythical Adonis.
Would Fred reposition himself on that scale if he did some dressing up in a nice suit and a well-fitting peruke? Would that sweet young thing who pre-occupies his fantasies respond to his dressing up?
If Fred thought he was sexy walking down the street shirt buttons straining in the button holes, imagine what his fantasies could do with a tailor-made suit bespoke to his monumental proportions.
For his fantasies the suit and peruke come supplied standard (he even sheds a pound or two) but for the real sweet young thing down the street...?
SADO was disbanded due to lack of Heavenly Allocations and the work was taken up by the Committee for Critical Thought. They offer this framework of thinking on motivations for dressing up:
1. Hegemonic - where external pressure influences the choices made in dressing up, for example:
• Social scripting: One would not dream of dressing up in a Melbourne Cup outfit complete with large feathered hat to a parent-teacher interview and expect to be taken as a credible mother.
• Parental scripting: "Do you really think someone will hire you dressing up like that?"
• Fashion ideals: Glossy magazine covers depicting sweet young things passively but powerfully reinforce the idea that women need to look like that and be dressing up like that to be beautiful.
2. Intrinsic - where dressing up or dressing down choices are made due to influences that operate from within the person, for example:
• Personal enjoyment: There is much to be said for the personal satisfaction to be gained by dressing up in attire befitting some magical setting. Look at what dressing up in the suit and peruke did for Fred's Fantasy love life.
• Avatar: Does dressing up like Elvis improve your singing?
• Rebellion: The teenager (or the passive resistor employee, spouse, etc) will wear the very opposite to what is expected for the occasion and so be dressing down.
An Interim Statement by the Committee for Critical Thought reads:
• Genetic lottery determines where you are on the crude SADO scale.
• The SADO scale needs recalibrating every 10 years with the changing of societal ideals.
• Dressing up and how you present elevates or lowers you on the SADO scale but only in the appropriate setting.
• The SADO scale and dressing up appear to correlate with success in life.
• Recommend making the most of what you've got by dressing up.
When Fred was interviewed for this article he said: "I just don't care about all that dressing up stuff." The author? He is still waiting for his beauty endowment: "Any time soon now" he said.