Not a beauty contest

Youth and beauty are really poor reasons for picking world leaders. Lots of people in the real world and on tinterweb point out that Obama is younger and prettier than McCain. Well, no doubt about that. E.g, Things younger than McCain or look at this image on Covert History with obvious implications that Obama is fitter to be president as well as win the swimsuit round.

Ditto, in the UK, which tends to copy the USA, but following the precept that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. The homely older Brown is contrasted with the younger better-looking David Miliband.*

I’m certainly all for Obama, although less won-over by the Blairite-careerist-style charm of Miliband. (Am buggered if I can see any significant policy difference between Brown and Milliband. I want Alan Simpson for PM, whether he’s standing or not….) But, is “younger and prettier” really an adequate criterion for picking a leader?

The only justification I can see for this is where a leader is just a front-end. A marketing device, cynically stuck there while the real power gets operated elsewhere.

Who cares about how user-friendly the front-end is, when it comes to politics? Or if we are all happy to pick the prettiest candidates, with the longest political-aristocratic pedigrees, then we’ve only got our own stupidity to blame.

* No, that’s not the sociologist (“Belgian-born Marxist theoretician Ralph Miliband” a/c Wikipedia)whose books I read as a student. He’s said sociologist’s not-at-all-privileged-by-birth (sarcasm alert) nuLabour offspring. Wikipedia is quite informative on how he got to Oxford.

David Miliband was educated at schools in London, Benton Park School in Leeds and Boston, Massachusetts before being educated at Haverstock Comprehensive School in North London, where he obtained a Grade ‘D’ in Physics A-level, and 3 Grade ‘B’s. Despite these results being lower than the normal entry requirements, via a scheme for children from deprived backgrounds, he was admitted to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he achieved first class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. (from his Wikipedia entry)

Blimey, how lucky that schemes for “deprived kids” are so broadly defined. I mean you can hardly get more educationally-deprived than being the son of a world-class academic. (w00t, my A level results piss all over his. 😀 In your face, foreign secretary. 😀 But, obviously, I had the good fortune to grow up on a council estate so I didn’t get the benefit of schemes for deprived kids like him…..)

Nor is it his brother Ed who has also overcome the obstacle of his background to get into Brown’s cabinet.

Isn’t democracy great? None of that ancient “hereditary principle” crap, so discredited by the Enlightenment. I mean look at George Bush who won political power on an amazing log-cabin-to-White-House trajectory.

Raising an eyebrow

Time for a new topic. Why do so many women pluck or wax their eyebrows?

I find this really hard to understand. By definition, pulling hairs out by their roots has GOT to hurt. A lot.

So why is this a well-nigh universal female practice?

(Except for people like me, blessed with such a depth of vanity that we assume we are naturally close enough to perfect. And would, at least, need some damn good proof to the contrary before we underwent some painful beautifying process. )

Everybody wants to look acceptable, at least to the degree that strangers don’t stare and point at you in the street.

I’m not an eyebrow purist. If you have an embarrassing novelty eyebrow, I can’t see any problem with correcting it. It would seem perfectly reasonable to me to shave off the middle of a total unibrow. If your eyebrows were growing into eye moustaches and reaching your cheekbones, fair enough. Cut the buggers.

I’ve been carrying out an unscientific survey of men’s eyebrows. (This involves looking at brow ridges quite a bit more than would be considered polite if they were other body parts.) Even in this groomed-within-an-inch-of-its-life world, men’s eyebrows are still allowed to grow as they choose. And I haven’t seen more than – oh, I don’t know – one in a hundred men of any age who have eyebrows far enough on the outlying edges of a conceptual normal eyebrow-size-and-distribution curve to warrant a second look. Let alone a shriek or an instant gagging response.

So, do a disproportionate percentage of women suffer from gross eyebrow deformities? Perhaps there’s a bizarre tendency for women to grow comedy eyebrows, that can only be kept in check by pulling hair out at the roots.

All the same, I shudder to imagine a natural eyebrow growth of such a luxuriant excessiveness that it would be weirder than the eyebrows that I see on women every day. (Some of which actually do make me want to point and giggle. At the least, my eyes are inexorably drawn to the novelty eye furniture, to the point of being unable to take in anything the wearer says.)

My favourites include the one where the browridge has been depilated to the bone and the eyebrow replaced with an approximation of a eyebrow. Drawn on. Using a jet black pencil. Even when the wearer’s head hair has been bleached to a brilliant yellow. What do I mean “even when…” . The correct phrase is “especially when…”

This artwork is based on the “incredibly surprised” model from “Drawing cartoon faces 101”.

More sedate eyebrow models include simply plucking the hairs until the eyebrow is about 2 mm thick and starts to sprout just above the pupil. This also tends to make the wearer look constantly surprised, if slightly more mammalian.

(When I was at school, there was a brief fashion for girls to shave their eyebrows completely and then draw an unskilled approximation of a curve onto their newly-blank forehead canvases. This was initially quite impressive to a 14-year-old me, until the impressionist sketches were seen to be nesting in a visible lawn of brow prickles a week later.)

It’s hard to see what possible advantage this brings anyone, in terms of attractiveness. Do men really think “Well, I quite fancy her but she doesn’t look surprised enough?”

Stepford wives and husbands

An advert on the radio today offered men the opportunity to avoid having to go to female salons -a men’s beauty parlour was offering a full range of services including “traditional waxing”. My knowledge of tradition is obviously lacking because I didn’t know about it. To my outdated ideas, “traditional” barbers offered men shaves with hot towels and a cuththroat razor, rather than waxing. I didn’t know men were queuing up in women’s salons to get waxed and go on sunbeds and get manicures.

It’s almost tragic to me that men are going down the self-hating route – the starving themselves, plucking out hairs, smothering themselves in chemicals in case they might sweat and all the rest. OK, there’s an element of justice, here. If women have to do it, then it seems only fair that so should men. Continue reading