Being the investigative type that I am, and a former, albeit poor, history student, I know the importance of reading source material. So when the latest issue of Cosmopolitan appeared on a colleague's desk I jumped at the opportunity to go behind enemy lines.
From the soft porn image of Holly Willoughby staring, slack-jawed and glassy-eyed, from the cover, I knew I was in for a treat. But this was a serious investigation.
So I resolutely ploughed through the magazine, barely batting an eyelid at such gems as Jameela Jamil decreeing Beyonce the ultimate feminist because she doesn't let anyone dictate what she wears, reading the 'heart-breaking' human interest story and reading page after page of identikit beauty tips. Then I reached a page entitled 'Beauty's Only Skin Deep', which revealed the findings of Cosmo's Body Beautiful survey. Naturally, said findings totally debunked the title of the infographic, as the whole thing is about how women, and men, most want women to look. But one stat in particular caught my eye. According to Cosmo, 66% of women would rather look like supermodels but with £16k salaries, while the remaining 34% would prefer more money and fewer second glances. (The men surveyed split 61/39 in favour of the more moneyed women, but Cosmo notably changed the wording from 'hate how you look but earn more' to 'average looks and a high salary'.)
(Image via Google)
This is a conundrum alright. Should I be outraged that Cosmo's surveyed female readership don't understand the concept of money and believe that looks fix everything? Should how I hold resentment for my ovaries to forever cursing me to be lumped in with these airheads?
Should I direct my anger at the seeming scroungers who would prefer an average-looking bird with a big salary that they could rely on to cover rent while they use theirs to go out and hit on the 66% spending their few pennies on one long, lingering drink in the pub until one of the 39% buys them another?
No. I'll hate the sin.
Maybe the 66% are on to something. No, I know the 66% are on to something. We are judged by our looks from Day One - blame the baby beauty pageants, and the fact that we naturally gravitate to the beautiful creatures - so why should we except anything different from our biology as we grow? The 66% are adopting the 1966 approach (Betty, not Peggy) that good looks and a non-threatening career trajectory are the best bet for doing what they have been told by the womens' mags is the most important thing - attracting a man. And not just in the bar, but in the boardroom too. A piece in Grazia pointed out that the average starting salary for men is £45k but for women it's £26k - if the men setting these salaries get word (by means of Cosmo's salary review campaign, perhaps?) that hot women will work for less, what a mess we'll be in.
By far the most fundamental result of the Cosmo survey shows just how obsessed women are with looks, but it also shows how much we'd prefer to be happy in ourselves than rich enough to mask it. If the majority of women would choose to live in poverty, at peace with her body and her looks, over living in wealth but hating herself, then we've got an unwittingly heartbreaking picture of how deep-seated body confidence is to happiness. Unwittingly, one of the biggest attackers of our self-esteem has held a mirror up to this action, and shown us just how desperate the average woman is to look good. That she'd sacrifice financial security for it. Perhaps shelling out what could have been a deposit on a house, a car, pension money...for a boob job, because she believes that it will solve all her problems.
I wonder where she got that idea from.