Most women could point to at least one instance in which their looks have become the target of criticism. Leandra Medine, otherwise known as The Man Repeller, wrote of a circumstance recently, in which a guy she was in the process of starting a business relationship with accidentally forwarded her an email to his (female) assistant in which he called Medine "verrrrrry funny," and smart," before following it up with "She is ugly as f*%&, tho. Truly a man repeller."
What the what? Is this guy for real? There are so many things wrong with his email that I don't know where to begin. First, never send a nasty email like that to someone you hope to work with (I am shocked that this has to be said at all). Second, and more importantly, what do Medine's looks have to do with her ability to conduct business? The guy in question knows that she is smart and funny and that he wants to work with her. He said so himself! Why was it necessary to make her looks an issue at all?
Regardless of his reasoning, this guy's willingness to comment on Medine's looks speaks volumes about his sense of entitlement, lack of decorum, and critical-thinking skills—namely, that if you have to resort to commenting on someone's looks when they have nothing to do with the issue at hand, you have none—and I could go on and on, but Medine posted a response on her blog, and it's pretty perfect. I've highlighted what I think is the best passage below:
"I am comfortable with how I look. I don’t hate what I see when I look in the mirror. Even if legions of others don’t agree. I have accepted the reflection that reliably bounces back at me for its perks and its flaws. I understand that there are thick, dark circles under my eyes. I have grown to appreciate them. I have noticed that my nose grows a little hookier on a near-monthly basis. That’s fine. I know there are wrinkles ready to stake their claim as full time residents on my forehead any moment now. My dad has those, too, and I find that endearing.
My eyes will never be blue, my bone structure will never allow for you to mistake me for a Scandinavian model. I am who I am and even if that infers “ugly as fuck,” I think it’s, I don’t know, beautiful."
I love Medine's attitude, but I hate that she had to make a point to say it at all. Here's the thing: She shouldn't have to write a public blog post defending her choice to go without makeup. Yes, she's a semi-public figure, and yes, that does mean that she's opening herself up to criticism. I'd even argue that putting yourself in the spotlight means you do give up a certain amount of privacy willingly. But in Medine's own words, she's not "selling bodies," she's selling "ideas—and clothes." Her ideas, her words, her business practices—perhaps those are fair game. Her looks? They are not public property.
Criticism can be constructive, necessary, and edifying. But if the only thing you can do is resort to name-calling or insult someone's looks? You need to get a better argument.