Amy Schumer proudly posted her photo by Annie Liebowitz for the Pirelli calendar, featuring the Trainwreck star in nearly all her glory. She described herself as “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless.” The press coverage has been positive, with emphasis on the beautiful, strong, pretty, sexy, flawless part, though no doubt she’s faced some backlash from the gross, fat, ugly, disgusting side. The paradox of her self-assessment pretty well captures the mixed signals women in general tend to struggle with.
I believe women typically look at themselves quite differently from the way men look at them. I speak as a straight male, without special insight into the perspective of other types of humans, and indeed cannot claim to represent the viewpoint of the entire diverse membership in my gender and orientation. But I think my observations are pretty typical.
Women often evaluate themselves on a deviation-from-perfection scale, starting with a concept of ideal beauty and then deducting points for every feature that falls short in comparison. Men, on the other hand, tend to regard women as perpetual sources of amazement. They may be common as ants, but when one walks by it’s like a unicorn sighting. Have you seen a dog being astonished by a magic trick? That’s men: “Wait a second! What’s going on there? How’d she do that?”
Women may feel bombarded by images of slender waifs in fashion magazines and Hollywood productions, and perceive societal pressure to conform to a literally narrow concept of beauty. The problem with men, though, is not that they impose an exacting standard to which a female must adhere in every particular in order to be deemed attractive. To the contrary, the problem with men is they are apt to say I like that one, and that one, and that one, and that one, too.
Almost everyone feels insecure about their looks. But you have to have faith in the compelling power of the basic design. If you see a pair of leopards, you don’t say that one’s nose is a little longer, the other one is much more beautiful. You regard them both as gorgeous creations. After all, a man is capable of getting turned on by a potato, if it has a shape vaguely reminiscent of a female torso. If a woman has the standard components in the conventional configuration, there’s a strong likelihood some guy will think that’s pretty interesting.
Does that mean everyone is equally beautiful? Or that individuals don’t have particular preferences? Of course not. It’s not a constitutional right, or subject to commands and policies. And it goes without saying there’s a lot more to sex appeal than the contours of physical appearance – attitude, grooming, carriage, wit, dress, smarts, expressions, heart, and much more. All women are beautiful the same way every day is important. Within a range, you can do a lot to make a given day count more.
There’s no accounting for taste, and no predicting who will click with whom. I believe anyone looking for love will eventually find a special someone who is just right. Some people are luckier than others, just like some are taller, smarter, funnier, more talented, and yes, better looking. But compared to monkeys, we’re all pretty lucky, tall, smart, funny, talented and beautiful. I happen to be the luckiest, on an absolute scale, because my wife is undeniably the most beautiful and the very best one is every respect. But the Amy Schumers of the world have no reason to be ashamed, and little to hide.