Re: School and Cosmetics

Sun, 20 Oct 1996 22:18:01 -0600 (MDT)

jo f warner writes:

> I was the only girl in my family. Most of my cousins were boys and I now
> have three boys of my own. So I believe I speak with some authority when
> I say boys are _more_ concerned with their appearance than girls. (O.K.
> than some girls) It is just as big a prejudice to worry about girls
> spending time on looks as it is to worry about girls staying in math
> and sciences. Boys spend a great deal of time getting there hair
> 'just right' etc.

I doubt that we will ever find out whether boys, in general, care
more or less about their appearance than girls--there is too much
individual variation and too much emotional complexity involved.
However, I would argue that, as others have already noted, the real
difference is that boys know (subconsciously, at the very least)
that appearance is not the only thing they can rely on, and that
if they achieve in other areas they can overcome limited physical
attractiveness. There are many examples, even in the image-struck
fields of film and rock music, of men who succeed extravagantly in
spite of downright ugliness or extreme carelessness in the choice
of clothing, hairstyle, and cleanliness.

The predominant message to girls is quite different, and it comes
from parents and peers and the news and entertainment. Girls are
told that women must be both talented and beautiful; being talented
is not adequate by itself, and in many cases appearing to be too
talented or intelligent is a liability. The surface expression
of concern about appearance may seem to be similar with boys and
girls, but the underlying feelings leave boys with other options
and avenues for acceptance.

> There are other factors causing problems for girls staying in math
> etc.

Admittedly we started this discussion with a simplified and
limited causal relationship, but we shouldn't reject the
connection between appearance and achievement simply because
there are other factors. In many cases "other" factors can
reinforce the perceived importance of appearance, as when
teachers (consciously or subconsciously) discourage girls
from continuing in higher-level math courses. It would be
much more useful to look at the inter-relationship between
appearance and other motivations and influences.

-- Bob

Robert Tighe
Technology Resource Teacher
Instructional Technology The possibility of communication
Albuquerque Public Schools resides in the impossibility of two
220 Monroe SW people having the same experience
Albuquerque, NM 87108-2811 whether or not their attention is
505-256-4266 directed one-pointedly - JohnCage

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