Is Vanity a Virtue? [Guest Post]
How Important is Physical Attractiveness and How Harmful is Female Vanity?
To distinguish: I want to discuss physical attractiveness as a more-or-less “objective” measure, as opposed to physical “attraction” between two people, which is entirely subjective and not always directly related to their objective attractiveness. There can be “chemistry” or attraction between unattractive people (sometimes nothing more than sex drive/libido or r-selected characteristics at play).
Physical attractiveness is commonly spoken about in terms of a scale from 1 to 10. We all know that there will be wide differences among men and women as to whether they will experience physical attraction towards any particular individual. However, there is much less variation along the 1-10 scale when judged solely on the level of objective attractiveness.
I want to primarily address men’s focus on, or away from women’s physical attractiveness level when judging relationship potential. In other words, “Is she marriage material?” The reasons I want to address men’s selection of attractive women to date, and not the other way around, are:
- Men in general are much more visually-stimulated than women. Women can and do find attractiveness in men based more on resource-acquisition and loyalty potential than on physical attributes. Physical attractiveness of men is important as well, but in different ways. We can address this issue in another post. Men’s physical arousal by visual stimulation is a biological and physiological product of evolution and thus should be respected as a vital adaptation strategy. Ie: attraction to beautiful women is neither irrelevant nor destructive.
- Men have been systematically propagandized in an attempt to convince them that they should accept less-attractive and even ugly features in women for their future wives. They have been brainwashed and shamed into accepting that a fat or ugly or masculine woman makes just as good a wife as a beautiful one. This is not true, and I would like to explain why.
- A primal drive to seek out a beautiful or attractive woman to marry can be overridden by cerebral and philosophical rationalization. Smart men can be convinced to pursue less-attractive women if they are given a good case to do so. Thus a rational argument may be needed to provide a counterbalance. If biological drives have been set aside to too great of a degree, or K-selected men have been persuaded that they should avoid attractive women in pursuing a “more virtuous” relationship, then my counterargument may help restore some balance.
"But Aren't Attractive Women Vain?"
Definition of vain
Definition of vanity
- 1: inflated pride in oneself or one's appearance : conceit
Yes and No. Women who spend a lot of time, money and energy on their appearance obviously are demonstrating that beauty and physical attractiveness rank high on their list of priorities. But, as you can see above, being “vain” is relative only to one's judgement as to whether there is UNDUE or EXCESSIVE pride in appearance. How do you determine that? It’s been my experience that the word “vain” is thrown around mostly as a way to shame or suppress the natural drive to improve one's physical fitness and sexual market value. Can you think of a time when you have heard the word used in a way that was NOT poisoning the well against the impulse to care for one's physical appearance? I propose we take back and embrace this impulse as wholesome and virtuous, and no longer accept that such pursuits are cause for shame.
Why Would a Virtuous Woman Care About Her Appearance?
This philosophical woman echoes my thoughts when I first decided to pursue fitness and beauty in earnest. I wanted to find a high-quality mate.
"I realized earlier this year that no matter how much money I make, how much work I put into my intellectual growth, how kind and loving I am...my appearance matters to other people and men are visual beings. I don't see my appearance as being an intricate part of the value I hold, but others do...and being overweight limits my options in finding a partner...So I care in the way that it has an effect on my life that I can't "control" unless I start caring. I don't want to settle, I don't want to be limited, I don't want to end up staying with someone out of fear that no one else will want me. I spend every day thinking about how much of my life I've wasted....and I have a crippling fear that it will continue to be wasted. So if being thinner helps me find a husband- yes I'll be happier.” - Samantha
This woman recognizes her future husband’s needs in the relationship, and her future children’s need for the best-possible father…That sounds like empathy to me. What do you think? Is she pursuing virtue or vanity?
A Challenging Journey
For my own part, now 1.5 years into fitness and improvement of my physical appearance, I admit and accept the label of “vain,” then go on to explain how this is not a bad thing. Vanity and concern for my appearance and consequent sexual market value has motivated me to get in shape, quit smoking, quit drinking, wear makeup, do my hair, buy flattering clothes, and get manicures and pedicures. This has been a lot of work! Being beautiful and attractive requires discipline and persistence. Believe it or not, there are a lot of challenges to overcome. If you know the feeling of getting a bad haircut, trying on lots of unflattering clothes, eating until you’re overfull, failing to make it to the gym regularly, etc, etc…you know that it’s not always smooth-sailing to look your best!
I've overcome these challenges consistently, although not 100% every day because it is a process--sometimes two steps forward and one step back. My confidence is now sky-high and my health is impeccable. My daily discipline is exponentially greater, now that I am dedicated to regular exercise, not overeating, and ultimately paying myself the care that I need. I am able to overcome most any challenge, as a result of achieving my fitness goals: I know how to get what I want and practice the strategies that work to make it happen. Does this sound like a shallow, vapid airhead to you? Or does this sound like a recipe for a good wife and mother?
Vanity or Virtue?
I’d like to share with you a few more quotes from philosophical women who have recently rediscovered the value and virtue in “vanity”:
"I always looked down on the girl that did her hair and makeup every day. For years, I've been careless of my appearance- from taking care of my teeth to having acne for years that I just ignored. I had this sort of false intellectual pride, and thought I was better than other girls as a result. I could get men interested in me by appealing to their minds, and so was somehow better than the girl that tried to look good. It's been painful for me to realize how far off this is from reality. I grew up in a strict church where women didn't wear makeup and dressed frumpily. Being homeschooled, my sexual market place of competition was really small. Now I see a false pride in my carelessness, and even laziness, and also a lack of proper self respect. A good wife is attentive to detail- from cleaning, to cooking- the well being of her children- her attractiveness to her mate. I'm really focusing right now on growing my awareness and ability in attention to detail and organization in my appearance and life. It feels good too! It was far too easy for me to say- 'but I have such a good figure!', or 'I am such a good conversationalist!' 'Any man would want me!' This carelessness in my appearance I think is fundamentally unfeminine, allowing me to view myself as appealing to the opposite sex, while avoiding any work. It allowed me to indulge in my hobbies (politics, etc) while avoiding looking at reality. Here's to becoming the best version of ourselves, and to knowing that our outer appearance reflects our inner state of mind and daily habits.” - Rachel
"You do realize that the lack of attraction to overweight women in great, strong, alpha men isn't purely aesthetic though, right? Fat is unattractive, sure, but some men enjoy it. High quality men don't, though, because it signals to them that your genes are not likely to create or maintain health and vitality, firstly. Secondly, it also is a good indicator to men that you are more likely than not, incapable of the discipline, confidence and resource management that is not only crucial to sustaining your relationship, but also an entire family system. The way you take care of your body says a lot more about your habits and your values than anything you could ever explain with words, and in fact is sometimes a direct contradiction and an obvious inconsistency in terms of what you say vs. how you act. A lack of integrity for following through and truly living your values is what a quality man (or woman) will see when he (or she) looks at a fat woman (or man) who claims to be of virtue, and it is a red flag. That being said I think it is optimal to aspire for genuine health more than thinness or physical fitness. But in striving for health, the thinness and fitness is typically what follows, and it is the most immediate indicator to potential partners that you are healthy.” - Chelsea
Now what do you think? Is time, care and attention to one's appearance a vice or a virtue? Should you pursue more attractive or less attractive women? Is your thinking about who to ask on dates different, or the same, and why?