In an issue of Cosmo UK, humorist Matt Rudd was the feature for “The Big Question,” a section in which the man of the month wonders why women do certain crazy women things. Matt’s question was why women didn’t “big up” their bodies, which is either British or Matt slang for “Why do we sell ourselves short”?
What might have been an interesting analysis on the way in which women typically downplay their good features and act falsely modest about themselves as a way of avoiding seeming arrogant instead opened with an unfortunate comparison between the female body and a piece of real estate and your eager prospective male buyer.
“Imagine the following unlikely scenario,” Rudd says, “An estate agent is showing you around your dream house. ‘It’s perfect,’ you say. [...] ‘I want it.’ As far as you’re concerned, this is the sexiest house you’ve ever seen. But rather than licking his lips and whipping out a contract, the agent looks worried. ‘Are you sure?’ he asks. ‘I mean, isn’t it a bit saggy? Look at the bedroom. It’s a bit rubbish. I used to sell much better houses, but I’ve really let myself go.’
Rudd argues that women ought to be better “estate agents” and not point out our saggy breasts or bag-ridden eyes or slightly fuller midsection. Rudd is aware that you’re really just looking for reassurance — for your boyfriend/husband/partner to say, “But of course not!” but Rudd is tired of the fact that he’s supposed to say it, and even more tired of how often he’s expected to say it.
More importantly, if you keep putting yourself down, then your husband/partner/boyfriend who used to consider you way out of his league may start seeing you through your eyes and will eventually come to view you as having all of the faults you complain about.
That last part seems fair enough — after all, most flaws are far smaller than anyone thinks they are, and 0ften you don’t notice someone’s “totally weird neck mole” or lazy eye until they point it out themselves, but that doesn’t change the fact that Matt has dramatically underplayed or misunderstood the factors going on here. It’s not just that women want to be told, “No, of course you don’t look fat,” but I think also a huge factor is that women — especially North American woman — have been trained that self-depricating modesty is cute and expected. Women who think that they are hot, sexy and gorgeous are arrogant bitches. Cute girls who pretend not to know how beautiful they are are called leading ladies in romantic comedies.
But what’s your take? Why do women tend to downplay their attractiveness or over-emphasize their perceived faults?