"If women weren't so damn forgiving of slobbiness, if they weren't prepared to look for the diamond buried in the rough of a man's beer-belly, men might have to shape up a little," declared an exasperated Andrew Sullivan last June, missing -- with wit and style -- the point about the survival-of-the-fittest rationale behind "looking good." Ann Althouse, citing Andrew today in support of the idea of the "disadvantage to women rooted in the different attention men and women pay to beauty," may miss the point as well. It's not a disadvantage at all. It is, in fact -- as the French say -- la difference. Andrew's complaint:
The only reason gay men are -- on the whole -- better turned out than straight men is because they have to appeal to other shallow, beauty-obsessed males to get laid, find a mate, etc. The corollary, of course, are lesbians . . . Even the most enthusiastic Sapphic-lover will have to concede that many are not exactly, shall we say, stylish.
We leave the finer points of male and female homosexual stylishness to Andrew & Company. But you know, there IS a difference -- probably Darwinian -- between men and women when it comes to what turns them on (and there are surely exceptions to the rule, but). The female, who evolutionarily bore and raised the little ones, has more of an investment in the pairing and therefore looks for constancy. It's all about the look in the eye of the other that promises you are "the one." The male, goes the theory, is mainly looking to father as many offspring as possible. He goes for the eye candy -- one-night stands need apply -- and recognizing that, heterosexual women and homosexual men are deeply into looking good. Darwinians will tell you the female is looking for a healthy father for her child, but we think it's more basic: Girls just wanna have fun. If the eye is the window to the soul (Love is blind, don't forget), beauty is in the eye of the beheld. We give Ann the last word:
Sullivan would have women insist that men uphold higher standards of beauty themselves. Again, the women who take the advice merely remove themselves from the competition: there will always be another woman ready to accept the man with his faults. The competition for men will continue, and those who took Sullivan's advice will just lose in that competition.
Update: InstaLanche tacked on to Ann's felicitous critique of the Mother of all Misbegotten Monologues:
Eve Ensler has a new play. I'd rather be strapped to a treadmill than sit through it.