While it cannot be disputed that women have made a lot of progress towards equality in the last century, we are still immersed in a culture that encourages women to be very concerned with what men think about us, what we can do to impress them, and even how we can “get them” to marry us.
Unfortunately I believe that this mindset around “snaring a man” is what leads many women to be overly concerned with their appearance. We learn from an absurdly young age that boys like pretty girls. As we grow older, those messages only become stronger.
In reality, almost every smart, handsome, charming guy I know is drawn to women who are real. They aren’t looking for airbrushed plastic, but for a woman who thinks for herself and has more to offer than just a pretty face or a banging body. In a perfect world, women wouldn’t be so overly concerned with what men think of them in the first place, but a good first step is to recognize that most men are attracted to complex, genuine human beings. If men step up and acknowledge that truth, perhaps women will in turn feel less pressure to think about their weight or their “flaws,” and more freedom to think about who they are and all of the strengths they have to offer.
Real Living Beauty will try to spur this idea forward by interviewing a great guy who loves real women every month. If they are single, we’ll talk about what they’re looking for, and if they’re taken we’ll talk to the Real Women they’re with as well. Either way, we will as always talk about how the media portrays women, and what we can all do to make things better.
What follows is our first feature in Men Who Love Real Women, and I am lucky enough to come from a family of great men who are drawn to great women. So for this first interview my brother Patrick Dwyer and his wife Kelley Dwyer were kind enough to sit down with me and share their thoughts and feelings about what it means to be Real.
RLB: To start things off, tell the readers of RLB – What are you all about?
PD: I’m a 30 year old man married to a beautiful woman, we just bought a house in West Seattle… I am an open-minded, progressive, laid back guy. I’m a mellow person, I rarely get agitated. I’m in school right now, on the 20 year plan for my bachelor’s degree. I love to write and I love to read. I have a strange juxtaposition about people. I have a lot of love in my heart and I feel really accepting towards all kinds of people, but I tend to be pessimistic about the human race in general… I have a hard time with people who are ignorant or bigoted.
KD: Well I’m 32 years old, I’m a nurse and I work my tail off but I love what I do. While, like Patrick, I have a hard time with close-minded people, I am also a people lover. I tend to see the best in people. I’m very happily married and super excited about living in our new house in our new neighborhood. I am very goal-oriented and driven. I don’t do very well when I don’t get my way.
PD: I also almost always get my way.
KD: It’s still my turn.
PD: I know, I know. Go ahead.
KD: Some of my favorite things are my family, reading, shopping, vacationing… and I am passionate about food. I also think beauty is more about being kind to others than looking pretty.
RLB: Patrick, what first attracted you to Kelley?
PD: She laughed at my jokes, she was very open and kind, and uh… she laughs at all my jokes.
We have the same taste in music, which is really important since we both love music… and the food thing. On our first date, she Literally cleaned her plate. I look up, I’m not even done, and her plate is spotless. Like they brought her a new, clean plate from the kitchen. I was like, “Where’d your food go?” And that was impressive.
RLB: Shifting gears a little, it’s fair to say you guys are media buffs, right?
RLB: We recently posted a quote from Tina Fey about the unrealistic beauty expectations for women today. In response to that, what are your thoughts about how women are portrayed in the media, and how important do you think it is that there is a shift toward the media portraying more realistic images of women?
PD: I think it’s very important, but my pessimism makes me not so sure it will happen. If it does I think it has to happen on a more grassroots level. Sending a message that there are all kinds of beauty is not as likely to happen in a mainstream setting, at least not as quickly. There’s the mentality that “sex sells,” and companies use that to portray unrealistic images of women. In smaller arenas, or with individuals, you have the opportunity to create role models. With people like Tina Fey and John Stewart and Rachel Maddow, you have the exceptions to the rule. They defy the fact that most media is shallow and empty. It’s realistic that women come in all different shapes and sizes, and it’s important that we as a society acknowledge that. As we grow out of this obsession with ribs showing and other unhealthy images, I think we will get back to more realistic perceptions of beauty. With some people it is already starting to happen… Look at Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, women who are making much more of an impact as entertainers, and redefining the beauty standard in the process. Sadly I have doubts that the actual media establishment will go through much change from the top down.
RLB: But you do believe that it’s possible for people to be a part of the media industry and to make a difference from the inside?
PD: Oh, absolutely. It’s hard to imagine a major establishment change, but that could be because I have so little faith in the greater populace. People tend to embrace superficial mediocrity, the easiness of beer guzzling men and women with huge breasts. Any greater scale change would require people to stop being lazy and demanding more than what’s fed to them. Any changes we see in our lifetime are likely to happen on smaller levels, as a result of educating people and being more accepting of people’s differences in our own lives.
RLB: How about you Kelley – What are your thoughts on the phenomenon of women from inside the media trying to promote a really positive self-image while simultaneously trying to meet certain demands imposed on them as public figures?
KD: I feel like the standards are changing, but it does depend on where you get your media. There are already certain shows and magazines that are a lot better about portraying women of different shapes and sizes, women who are interesting and strong, healthy role models, but there are also things like Cosmopolitan, which will probably never make any change to how they portray women. It does effect some change to not support the type of media that displays negative images of women. Honestly, women in media will always be held to some sort of superficial standards of beauty, but that doesn’t have to be the focus of their image – I think they (women in media) have a responsibility to promote more positive and meaningful traits. Certainly as we raise our own children we try to instill certain values; I believe we play a larger role in developing self-esteem than the media… But it is increasingly difficult in the information age to have much control over what your children will be exposed to. I’ve read things about little girls, 8 or 9 years old, watching what they eat but not in a healthy way – which is super scary, but I still want to believe that has to do primarily with their role models. So I think that we can affect change as individuals, and that the more people who are willing to do that and support healthy self-esteem in themselves and each other, that change will grow.
PD: Kind of to add to that, I agree that it all does begin on the family level, and the sense of self that you give to your children. We live in a world of Jersey Shore and child beauty pageants, and an overwhelming amount of superficial, cosmetic beauty. It’s pretty entrenched – it’s the American Way. I think there is a certain amount of change away from all that, and it will continue depending in part on how people raise their children. There are so many parts of America where image is everything and people play right into that. Just like race relations and gay marriage, a lot of this change will happen as new generations emerge and we as a species evolve.
RLB: On that note, I want to pause and have you guys watch a quick trailer for a new documentary tackling many of these challenges…. What are your thoughts on this trailer and how this film might contribute to making positive changes in how women are portrayed in the media?
KD: Well that’s it in a nutshell. This film looks like it will really address the negative impact of how women are portrayed in the media, and hopefully what we can do to change things. It’s necessary that the media be a part of the change, even if it does start with the individual. I’m definitely excited to see the film, and I’m almost more excited to see what the public’s reaction to such a documentary will be. In a time when so many strive for societal standards of beauty and people start to look alike thanks to plastic surgery, I’ve always maintained that it’s our imperfections that make us beautiful.
PD: I was essentially raised by two women, so I have a fairly unique point of view. Mom likes to tell this story about when I was maybe six years old, and at the dinner table I asked her, “Mom, what’s a feminist?” and she said “Someone who stands up for women’s rights.” and I said “Well, I’m a feminist then.” That’s how I was raised and those ideals have only strengthened as I’ve gotten older. We live in such a male driven society that it’s going to be very difficult to change the way that people look at the world. When I look at men and women, I don’t see any difference other than the obvious biological ones. Men, women, they’re all just people to me. I’m in the minority, even among my friends. They don’t necessarily see the world that way. They look at women a certain way, because that’s just how it is for them. Not that my friends are disrespectful, but they do see a fundamental difference between men and women. In order to make real progress, you have to change the narrative. This is where the media plays such a strong role. Consider the movie Aliens, where Ripley is the bad ass hero. We don’t see many movies like that, and when we do the heroine is usually not just a bad ass but she’s also super hot and men everywhere want to have sex with her.
RLB: Like a Lara Croft Tomb Raider situation. (In the awesome documentary that I keep promoting and have now had the pleasure of viewing, a woman they interview gives this archetype a brilliantly accurate moniker: The Fighting F*** Toy)
PD: Right. It’s such an intrinsic part of the narrative that currently drives our culture.
RLB: You’ve mentioned that the media presents the message and that we do live in a very patriarchal society where a lot of the media is controlled by men, so they control a lot of the portrayals of women that currently dominate the media. You’ve also said that you are an atypical sort of man. What would you say the role is that men can play in changing the narrative?
PD: What I think men can do is educate people who look up to them. Teach them to respect women, which is so fundamental and obvious… In addition to respect you need to be willing to defend women as human beings, and acknowledge them as equals. Men can work to get the idea across that this is a cultural issue, and so we have the power to change it. Most men don’t realize that, and they can be so focused on the differences of our culturally established genders. So every time a man insists that this isn’t about men and women, this is about people – that can start to equalize the playing field. There’s nothing wrong with the message of Respect Women, it just isn’t enough. As men we have to stop looking at it like there’s this big gulf between us. Or that women are somehow beneath us. We are all the same, and what matters is what kind of person you are. These are not popular ideas, and standing up for them takes courage… I think sometimes guys just want to fit in so much, they don’t want to be mocked or looked down upon or beat up. But you have to get past that, and that’s the only way things will ever change.
KD: Calling other men on thoughtless behavior, which does take courage. Certain ideas and attitudes about women are so ingrained in our culture that it’s unlikely that everyone will change their perceptions, but the goal is to make them the minority. So that kind of ignorance and callous behavior has to be called out.
PD: Right, we can make it so the ignorant or narrow-minded people aren’t the ones controlling the conversation, that the misogynistic men are the ones who are considered fringe. If they are seen as pariahs and not dismissed as “men being men,” that’s a sign that the culture is changing.
RLB: Awesome. So, to wrap up, let’s talk some Real Beauty. Kelley, how does Patrick make you feel beautiful?
KD: Um, well he tells me all the time. He literally tells me I’m beautiful more than anyone ever has. I would even say that I didn’t really look at myself as really beautiful until I met him.
RLB: This has to be asked of every woman interviewed for RLB: Kelley, what are your three favorite things about your appearance?
KD: My eyes… my lips, and… my cheekbones?
RLB: You do have great cheekbones, so I say yes absolutely. Patrick, what are three of your favorite things about Kelley’s appearance?
PD: Actually, those are my answers. Her eyes and her lips, and cheekbones. But also she has really nice hair.
So there you have it. There are men in the world who care more about who you are than how you look! Amazing. If you still aren’t convinced, many, many more of them will be featured on this site in months to come. As always, if you have questions, comments or concerns you can post here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelley and Patrick, both lookin’ good at the best wedding ever