Boy, nothing gets women piqued faster than telling them that men are the better-looking sex.
I had this conversation with two female friends recently, one of whom skeptically said to me, “Do you really believe that?”
Yes, I do, though perhaps not in the way they might think. Of course, the average woman – with her makeup and her Spanx – might be more gussied up than the average guy. But what I mean is that aesthetically, the best-looking man is better-looking than the best-looking woman, that I would take the Apollo Belvedere over the Venus de Milo any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Blame it on hormones. Male hormones give them bigger, hotter, lusher, more dangerous looks that read easily across a crowded room. Consider Colin Kaepernick, photographed by Bruce Weber on the cover of the new V Man magazine.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, he has a nose like a toucan, closely cropped hair and lots of tattoos, which displease some of the fashion police.
And yet – wow – those eyes, like Cognac in firelight; those long, thick lashes; that cut jawline (to go with that cut body). Ladies, ladies, do you think a woman could carry those off? Do you think a woman could absorb his so-called imperfections? Please: It’s no contest.
Still, women are reluctant to relinquish their status as primary sex objects as they have learned to wield that status in the battle of the sexes. I was reminded of this when I wrote about the exhibit “Strut: The Peacock in Beauty and Art” (Oct. 11-Jan. 18, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers) in WAG magazine’s October “Brain Power” issue. Because nothing captures the way women have cornered the beauty market like the peacock.
It’s is one of the most aggressively male animals. As I said in the article, I once saw a peacock, tail feathers spread, square off against an Old English Sheepdog. Ah, those iridescent feathers, as if they were colored by Louis Comfort Tiffany; that stratospheric squeal – and all in pursuit of the drab peahen to make mottled chicks.
But since ancient times the peacock has been the province of women, sacred to the queen of the Roman gods, Juno, and all of her daughters from modern dance diva Ruth St. Denis to ecdysiast Gypsy Rose Lee to movie siren Hedy Lamarr to saucy songbird Katy Perry. Indeed, Lamarr – whose creation, with composer George Anthell, of frequency hopping would be used by the U.S. military and become the basis for modern spread-spectrium communication technology – would wear a gown of peacock feathers gleaned from director Cecil B. DeMille’s farm for her role as the Philistine temptress in his “Samson and Delilah” (1949).
What does it mean to wear another’s skin (or feathers)? It means to conquer the other but also to identify with the other, to vanquish by submitting, to, in the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “yield and overcome.”
In the game of beauty, women still stoop to conquer.
For more on “Strut,” visit http://www.hrm.org/exhibits.html.