What makes a woman beautiful?

This week I’m hosting Jana from An Attitude Adjustment. You’ll see when you visit her blog that she’s been kind enough to host me too.

Jana writes about culture, literature, motherhood, politics, womanhood, and so much more. Her blog is one of my daily must-reads. She’s a stimulating, intelligent writer who’s posts I find intensely satisfying. When I read her blog I find myself thinking, really thinking. I come away feeling my mind has broadened and been enriched.

I am honored to post for Christine today. Her posts are always sincere and accurate in reflecting women’s joys, fears, and often, worries. Thank you, Christine!

What Makes a Woman Beautiful?

You may have heard of the Sex and the City test. When a woman is asked, “Who is the hottest woman on the show?” she’ll have a very different response from a man.
When I was asked this question, in jest, by my husband, I didn’t know how to answer. I don’t really use the word “hot.” And I certainly don’t know what makes a woman “hot”; I assume that, for men, it means she shows a lot of skin, or her thong creeps up out of her jeans.
To answer, I thought about all the personalities of the women on the show. There’s Carrie, the writer, the thoughtful one, who uses her experiences with her New York friends as inspiration for her weekly column. There’s Miranda, the lawyer, the feminist. When I revisited the first season a few years ago, I was surprised to see how much Miranda’s clothing had changed over time. When the show first aired, she was supposed to be unabashedly boyish in her pantsuits and ties, her hair slicked. She was cast as the one most likely to go home with a woman after drinks. I liked her intelligence, her defiance of shallow New York culture. Then there’s Charlotte, the romantic who dreams of a penthouse apartment with children and cats and nannies. And finally, Samantha. The sex kitten. A woman who will commandeer any good-looking man who walks in the room.
As you can see, figuring out the answer to this test requires a lot of intelligence.
“I guess you’d say Samantha. But I don’t agree.”
“No, it’s not Samantha. Women just think that.”
I don’t like the word “hot.” An attractive woman, to me, is a woman who I’d like to be. So I flailed my hands and chose Miranda.
Wrong again. Miranda’s hair is too short.
The answer, according to my husband, who learned of this test from much lesser men, is Charlotte, obviously. She’s the most good looking. Period.
And that’s apparently my problem, women’s problem, in understanding the word “hot.” It’s not about personality. It’s about surface, pure and simple.
I don’t have a penis, so maybe that’s why this concept is hard for me. I really can’t look at a person–man or woman–and judge her beauty or attractiveness based on surface symmetry. It’s a wire that just doesn’t exist in my brain.
Because so much of our society focuses on women’s beauty, and even women adopt a male gaze when looking at other women, I’ll start there. Media images encourage us to look at a woman’s waistline, hips, and breasts to discover her beauty. You won’t find a fashion magazine where a woman’s torso isn’t prominently displayed. And in the Puritanical environment of America, sexy is showing lots of skin. Why else would Victoria’s Secret launch an ad campaign where women parade in underwear and angel wings, asking “What is sexy?”
But for a woman to be sexy, in my eyes, she has to have a glow, a confidence, a kindness that emanates from her, a warmth. On the surface, it might only be a V-neck blouse, a slit in her skirt, a display of her wrists and collarbone. I’m Victorian that way.
I wish sexy, or hot, was the same for men and women. But it’s not. For men, sexy means sex, and anything that catches their eyes and makes them immediately think of sex (which is a lot, granted) is sexy. For women, it’s more mysterious, more an aura. I don’t really find any of the women in Sex and the City sexy. They’re all too skinny, too insecure in themselves, too prone to making bad decisions.
Sexy, to me, is Virginia Madsen in Sideways.
It’s Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air, naked butt double excluded. 
It’s a woman who’s earned her laugh lines, her life lines, who exudes a level of wisdom and thoughtfulness and mystery, for all of us have interior lives we like to keep hidden. It’s a level of classiness.
Now, how can we convince men to change their minds?
Sex and the City image taken from newchatter.com
Please leave a comment for Jana below and remember to visit her at An Attitude Adjustment. I guarantee she’ll fill your mind with insightful text.

Also a big thank you as always to Amy from the Never-True Tales for sharing this series. It’s a privilege to be a part of it and to share my favourite bloggers with you.

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