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?”


Delighted to see Bad Science has soundly rubbished the “girls like pink, boys like blue” nonsense that has been in the media this week.

Some neuroscience research involving a couple of hundred subjects showed that female colour preferences were slightly to the redder end of the spectrum. From which the media oddly extrapolated that this proved women preferred pink for evolutionary reasons relating to hunting and gathering skills.

Ben Goldacre, a Zoe Williams piece in the Guardian and some commenters on Bad Science have all done a great job of pointing out the flaws in this.

Most tellingly, Goldacre pointed out that colour-gender identification changes according to the cultural context. E.g. A century ago, pink was considered most suitable for boys and blue was the girly colour. In Chinese culture, where red is greatly valued, both sexes prefer reddish colours. And so on.

From birth, we are assailed by cues telling us that pink means “feminity” and blue means “masculinity”. Go to any toy store. A pink mist will rise up before your eyes when you get near the girls’ toys. Amazing that any girls can resist a general preference for pink over blue.

You could almost argue that the fact that the colour preference differences were so tiny – given the social pressure to identify pink as girly – that girls really may have an evolutionary aversion to pink…..

The media’s usual pop science distortions fall into a predictable pattern when research relates to gender. Any statistical difference between men and women that fits current prejudices is exaggerated, generalised to all men and women, then treated as indicative of innate biological difference.

Surpise, surprise, they all tend to support a view of women exemplified by a more docile version of Paris Hilton. Argh.

The manly code

Another rant about gender values. Click away now if you like. This one’s about manly honour and its miraculously contradictory manifestations.

On the BBC site, there’s a piece about how a judge called a killer a “coward.” Branded him a coward even, how exhilaratingly medieval. Not a mudererer, note, or a killer, or even a manslaughterer , if there’s such a word. A coward. This seems to have been the worst penalty he had to offer.

(Don’t you just love our gradual conceptual return to medieval “community justice”?)

Playing field killer ‘a coward’

A killer responsible for the death of a 16-year-old on playing fields in Kent has been branded a coward by a judge.
Lee Cowie, 19, was sentenced to four years at a young offenders’ institute. He had admitted the manslaughter of Michael Chapman,…At Maidstone Crown Court, Judge Andrew Patience said he was not “man enough” to challenge Michael to a “fair fight”.

Apparently, he attacked the boy from behind. The dishonourable unmanliness seems to have caused more concern to the judge than the actual death. This half suggests that there wouldn’t have even been a crime if there had been a formal duel challenge and seconds.

It is an annoyance to me that the realm of life where women are consistently luckier than men is in the realm of murder. Women can often get away with murder by playing the “Don’t blame me, I’m just a girl” card.

Now it looks as if men might be also able to minimise the time they have to serve for crimes of violence, if they just have the sense to observe the rules of gentlemanly combat.

Dishonour killing

There’s an interesting site, though it’s such a depressing topic, called Gendercide that has some intelligent discussion of so-called honour killings, as well as a fair amount of other information about killings where the gender of the murdered person is a main factor.

Sometimes, men are also killed for being men, as in Iraq under Saddam, where Kurdish men were seen as potential future fighters and killed.

In fact, whether you are male or female, Iraq must have been close to the worst place to live on the face of the earth for a couple of decades now. (This appears to go double if you are Kurdish.)