This week, Huffington Post Style ran a listicle of “23 Trends Guys Hate (But Women Love),” in which anonymous men who are (were) friends with Huffington Post Style editors completed the sentence, “I hate when women wear … ” The list includes fold-over ankle boots (“it looks like the shoes have foreskins”), high-waisted skirts (“It’s one of those things where you’re trying too hard”), bangles (“super annoying”), oversize sweaters (“seriously, get out of the ‘80s”), heavy eye makeup (“TOO MUCH EYE MAKEUP”), and 18 other types of clothing or eye makeup intended for every single conceivable part of the female body. One might conclude from this list, if one were a space alien trying to understand human sexual dynamics, that men do not want women to wear anything at all, and that implication surely accounts for some portion of the 26,511 Facebook likes the list has accrued over the past two days.
Predictably, for a post that pits women and men against one another like a Borscht Belt stand-up comic, the HuffPo listicle elicited derision from feminist bloggers. “It’s hard for a woman to know what exactly to wear to deflect unwanted attention from men. … The question is how to wear all of these things at once,” quipped The Cut’s Kat Stoeffel. Jezebel took a less subtle, more defensive approach at mocking the list. “See, fellas, this may shock you, but on most occasions, most women aren’t dressing to please your eyes and your wang. … So basically, we don’t really care whether or not you think our bold lip makes us like a ‘hooker.’ We wear it because we like it,” wrote Madeleine Davies.
Davies is directing her derision at the wrong target. Personally, I feel somewhat sorry for the guys who were quoted in the list, since their opinions were edited and combined to make them all look like misogynistic assholes. There’s nothing wrong with a guy not liking peplums. But when his dislike for peplums is framed as a statement on behalf of the male half of the human species, he doesn’t come across looking so great. (A word to the wise: If a journalist ever approaches you and asks you to complete a sentence along the lines of, “I hate when [protected group] [verb] … ,” the correct answer is, “No comment.”)
Plus, Jezebel’s assertion that “most women aren’t dressing to please your eyes and your wang” makes the same offensive error as the HuffPo list. Some women dress to please other women. Some women dress to please men. Some women dress to be comfortable. Some women dress in order to go to the office and run errands without attracting strange looks. Different women have different motivations for putting on clothes in the morning, just as—and this is the main conclusion that one should draw from “23 Trends Guys Hate”—different men have different tastes in women’s clothing. Some men think leggings are hot; other men think they are stupid. Many men simply do not care. Similarly, some women hate leggings, others love leggings, and plenty probably haven’t given leggings much thought. There are lots of different opinions that one might have about leggings regardless of one’s gender. And the idea (perpetuated by women’s magazines since the beginning of time) that men are some monolith interested in one type of femininity is just as insulting as the notion that women are.
A much more accurate title for the Huffington Post’s list would be “23 Trends Some People Hate (But Other People Love).” But then it probably wouldn’t have gotten all those Facebook likes. Apparently, gender essentialism is very shareable.