The Beauty rules are different for women and here’s why

The Beauty Load

In 2015, Karl Stefanovic, a morning TV presenter on the Today Show in Australia, did an interesting experiment to see if there was any bias between the expectations on him and his female co-host. For a full year, Stefanovic wore the same blue suit and not a single audience member noticed.

Meanwhile, his co-host Lisa Wilkinson whose outfits changed and varied as normal, received regular, unsolicited fashion appraisals such as, “Today’s outfit is particularly jarring and awful. Get some style.” Now, we don’t know if those comments came from other women or men, but the expectations were clearly different. As all the while that Lisa was being judged, the man sitting next to her was in the same outfit day in and day out.
(Reference: Sydney Morning Herald, November 15, 2014.) Read about Karl here.

Karl said: “No one has noticed; no one gives a shit. But women, they wear the wrong colour and they get pulled up. They say the wrong thing and there’s thousands of tweets written about them. Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.

This, is a reality for women in the spotlight. But it is also a reality for all of us. We get judged more harshly than our male counterparts on our looks, our bodies and our wardrobes. This is what I call the ‘beauty load’.

You’ve probably heard of the ‘mental load’, the term to describe all the invisible labour involved in
managing a household and family, which typically falls to the women, well, I believe that we also have a ‘beauty load’ resting on our over burdened shoulders.

The ‘beauty load’ is a load that is felt by everyone in our society due to the consumerist and body ideal messaging that we are all exposed to, but in my book of the same name, I argue that it is felt more intensely and more damagingly by women and here are some reasons why;

For women, unlike for men, our sense of lack about our appearance seems to have a direct link to our self-worth.  This is not the case for men, due to their worth being sourced elsewhere for the past millenia. Men, who have been the voices of knowledge, power and innovation in society, seem to be more protected from it being personal or a blight on their character. ‘The beauty load’ doesn’t seem to shame them or feel like it affects their value. But  it does us women. And the more women rise into places of power or celebrity and become visible to the public, the more we see ‘the beauty load’ being used against us in the form of shame. 

Leave a Comment

Nicole Mathieson

Hi, I'm Nicole Mathieson, a relationship and body image coach, couple therapist and author.

My relationships blog helps couples learn practical ways to cultivate a deeper understanding of one another, find safety and connection in relationships, navigate difficult conversations and repair after conflict.