The Beauty Advantage: What if Men Had to Follow Female Beauty Rules?

A century of beauty ads Courtesy of Duke University Library

We sure spend a lot of time talking about ideal female beauty—and why women spend so much time obsessing about it. But what if we lived in a world where women had always been the kings, the presidents, the bosses (and, thus, the arbiters of beauty)? Perhaps we'd call it a "Gynocracy"—a place where superficial women would set the standards for attractiveness, and men would have to conform to them. It would be a place where ugly men would have a hard time getting a date or a promotion, and the women would burn off steam over beers at a restaurant called Hunks, where all the waiters must have 30-inch waists and grapefruit-sized biceps.

You certainly wouldn't see many paunchy, balding, older guys on TV. Sitcoms would feature couples where the men are tall, muscular, and hot, while the wives are chubby and witty. Salons, cosmetic-surgery offices and Weight Watchers meetings would be filled with men who spend a fortune trying to get that iconic masculine "V" shape women crave. And the maintenance—ah, the maintenance!—would shock men in our world. Think if you took a random group of men from your office and told them that they had to conform to the standard grooming norms of the Gynocracy. The rules might look something like this:

1. Weekly Forearm Waxing

No hairy arms or knuckles. It's a crazy fashion thing that just sort of evolved—like the way women had to start shaving their legs a hundred years ago. To keep up with the beauty ideal in the Gynocracy, men have to wax or shave their forearms. To avoid it, some men just keep their sleeves rolled down—even in the summer. But if they want to wear short sleeves, or get a date with a woman, they absolutely have to be smooth and shaven from the elbow down. Sure, they could rebel, and show up to work hairy, but it'd be like a woman in our world sitting in a meeting with thick black hair on her legs. It'd be a STATEMENT.

2. For the Short Guy: Heels or Leg Extenders

Any guy shorter than 5 feet 10 feels uncomfortable in the Gynocracy—magazines are filled with tall men, as are the boardrooms. So, most short men wear big wedge heels. Once again, a guy could choose not to conform, but it might be tough when all the other men are wearing heels. Plus, lots of guys like the way they look with longer legs.

3. Hair Replacement

Being bald or even having thinning hair is just as unacceptable in the Gynocracy. Sure, some guys go natural, but they tend to be Men's Studies professors at liberal universities. So guys who are unlucky enough to be losing their hair usually wear hats, or get hair replacement. Even the ones with thinning hair get extensions—and the salons are just full of men trying to get that fashionable, thick, wavy hair women like so much. Some say they're doing it for themselves.

4. Hair Coloring for Him

There simply aren't gray-haired men. Women can let themselves go gray, or even have white hair—people think they look smarter, hotter, more "distinguished." But men? Never. So guys of a certain age who don't want to look like they've passed their "use-by" date are always running off at lunchtime to get their roots done.

5. Tummy Tucks and Ab Work

Because the style for men in the Gynocracy is to wear skin-tight T shirts, men are obsessed with having a flat stomach. Older guys with the intractable paunches that sometimes come with middle age have a very hard time with these fashions. They either look sad in their tight shirts with belly rolls, or they cover up with frumpy "Chico's for Men" shirts that make them look old and dated. And of course female bosses are always paying more attention to the young guys in the tight shirts, so just for economic survival, some guys have resorted to wearing full torso girdles called Manx—which is murder in the summer.

Some men in the Gynocracy do rebel. They ask: why won't women love us for who we are, or for our money, or our success, instead of our flowing hair and broad shoulders? The women shrug their shoulders. "We can't help it," they say. "It's pure biology and evolution." Occasionally some unattractive guys break the mold. (One was even secretary of state!) And there are a few TV newsmen who are getting close to 50—but they're really talented. And then there was that little frumpy guy who ran for president. He got a respectable number of votes—though he could never take off his suit jacket without all the political columnists writing about how his butt looked flat in pants. Secretly, no one really blamed his wife for cheating on him—he did seem like shrew—always bossing everyone around and insisting on people doing things "his way."

Men in the Gynocracy would have to make time for hotness maintenance and still do all the other things necessary for success. They'd exhaust themselves trying to juggle family and work. Some would slowly give up. Others would try and change the standards and try to get women to like male models with beer bellies. Maybe some women would see beyond the superficial and say: "I don't care if you have stubble on your forearms, your gray roots are showing and when you take off your Manx, your belly expands like a balloon, I'm crazy about you. Sit down near me and have a beer." Surely there'd be women in the Gynocracy like that. In fact I even know a few men who do it for us here in this world.