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I Hope She’s Pretty – Boys Will Be Boys

I Hope She's Pretty - Boys Will Be BoysLast weekend my daughter, Monica, performed in a musical theater benefit concert. The cast was stellar, the singing and dancing well done, and the production wonderfully entertaining. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening all around.

As I become more aware of problematic elements in our culture (and others), however,  my perception also changes. Last Saturday, the song “Tradition,” from  Fiddler on the Roof  disturbed me in a way it never had before.

I performed in this musical as a teen and my oldest daughter also was in the cast in high school. I’ve seen the movie and stage versions many times. It’s not my favorite show, but I always end up being surprised that I like it more than I remember. (Even “Sunrise, Sunset” — easily the most boring song in all of musical theater history — is more meaningful as I hit the target audience.)

It’s also important to acknowledge that this is not only a period piece, but the song itself intentionally presents gender stereotypes and the show addresses both the good and bad of long-standing cultural traditions.

Given my growing discontent with gender disparity over the years, I heard the young male verse of this song differently than I have in the past:

At three, I started Hebrew school. At ten, I learned a trade.

I hear they’ve picked a bride for me. I hope she’s pretty.

I hope she’s pretty.

It’s not that I question the veracity of that lyric. It’s that it did and still does so often conform to fact that bothers me. That when looking for a lifelong partner for raising children, for solving problems, for working through issues, for growing old together the only thing the boys are hoping for (or worried about) is that their bride is a hottie.

The pervasiveness of female objectification makes it difficult to overcome. But with knowledge and persistence, I believe it can be done.

{ 20 comments… add one }

  • Barkleee January 27, 2014, 4:11 pm

    Just looking at that picture makes me want to throw up. Seriously. I’m so glad smart women are finally starting to speak out about this. It’s time men stopped being so damned stupid.

  • Margie January 27, 2014, 4:27 pm

    I bet you get guys saying, “that’s just how it is.” Stupid. Real men grow up.

  • Kathleen January 27, 2014, 10:27 pm

    I think that is our sons hear us praise our daughters on their brains, talents and feelings, rather than how pretty they look in every dress they put on, that will go a long way in them learning that being pretty isn’t the be all end all of the world. It can only help that we show we value things other than looks and they should as well.
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  • Alison Moore Smith January 27, 2014, 10:31 pm

    I so agree. It starts a bit at a time, doesn’t it?
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Daily Snark: Parenting BlogsMy Profile

  • Jennifer Beckstrand January 28, 2014, 9:21 am

    I have to disagree with you. (Yes, I know, gasps of dismay.) If I were a girl living inside the weird bubble of “Fiddler” I would want to know if the groom was handsome, first thing. Then I’d want to know if he was rich. Honestly, in today’s dating culture, both boys and girls are attracted to the looks first. Then and only then do they look for the other qualities. It’s not just a guy thing.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 28, 2014, 12:24 pm

    Hey, Jennifer. You ALWAYS agree with me, so what’s up with that? ;)

    It’s funny to me that one of the most frequent comments I’ve received (in social media) is, “Girls do it, too!” So, for the record, talking about one thing doesn’t remotely imply that there aren’t other important things that can be discussed. I’d just like to focus on one at a time. (Women objectify themselves, other women, and men, too.)

    Of course physical appearance is meaningful, given that, unless you are blind, you do tend to SEE people before you can possibly know anything about them in MOST venues. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t say (as some have implied to me) that the goal is to look for the least attractive partner you can find. It’s that physical beauty is THE ONLY THING they mention.

    But, honestly, the idea that you would REALLY look FIRST for a handsome guy is unbelievable. Sincerely, when you met a guy you decided right off “face value” that he could be checked off the list and you never looked back?

    I think the “I hope she’s pretty mentality” is enormously problematic in our culture. Do we not make the connection between men (usually monied men, which is another post all together) who marry, divorce, marry younger, divorce, marry even younger? Because, you know, “I hope she’s prettier than my 42 year old wife…again.”

    I have to disagree with you that “only then do they look for other qualities.” Personally, just little old me, I know about two dozen very happily married couples for whom that isn’t remotely true. Some were distinctly NOT attracted to each other’s looks (on one or both parts) and got to know the personality/character of the other through work/school/program/church interaction and came to love the real PERSON, not the changeable outer covering. I know some of these couples very, very well and watched the transformation.

    And I’m pretty sure you could find — in about a two second google — hundreds of examples. (I mean how in the world does anyone who’s deformed or terribly scarred or anything else ever find love??? And, please, don’t tell me there are people who just really think 100% facial scar tissue is a turn on.)

    I’m trying to teach my boys — actually, really, truly — to look for things far beyond the package and it’s an uphill cultural fight for them more than anyone.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Best Toys RoundupMy Profile

  • Marcus January 28, 2014, 10:03 pm

    Watching the comments on facebook pushed me to comment here. I am a man and I don’t understand. It’s like stupid is raining from the sky.

    Yes, sometimes women focus on looks, but not ******nearly****** as much as men do.

    I have *****three***** sons and one daughter and fortunately my wife is smart enough to understand the reality of this situation. Men do it far more. Please don’t act stupid.

    We are horrified at the thoughts of young men ogling her and seeing her as only butts and boobs. So we are teaching her that she us MUCH more than her looks and we are teaching the boys what is to be valued in a woman.

    ***OF COURSE*** we are teaching the boys that girls are more than their looks. To look for intelligence and strength and honor and courage and kindness and loyalty and goodness. But it’s not nearly as hard for boys in that area. (What they struggle with is being seen as more than a job or income.) And we are teaching our daughter to look for much the same.

    Sorry for all the ***** but it’s as if people cover their eyes and ears and act like they don’t have any idea what’s happening in the world.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 28, 2014, 10:28 pm

    Marcus, I feel your pain. You must have been on FB just a minute ago because I’m kind of banging my head on the monitor, too! :)

    Here are some things to consider:

    1. I heard this song Saturday and the SON’S verse struck me for the first time. So I wrote about it. I actually complained about the DAUGHTER’S verse when I had to sing it as a kid! I never NOTICED the sons verse before.
    2. Writing about a topic, does not require one to write about all other topics.
    3. Writing about a topic does not imply that no other topics are worthy of discussion.
    4. Female objectification is far more pervasive in our culture. FAR MORE. So if I’m going to worry about objectification, statistically, that’s most likely where the conversation will go.

    I don’t mind disagreement, but disagreement with points I actually made instead of straw men would be helpful.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…The Ethics of Business on Thanksgiving (and/or Other Holidays You Like)My Profile

  • Lorelai January 28, 2014, 11:11 pm

    ROFLMAO

    Saw the facebook deal going on and decided it’s easier to post here. I hate that little comment box and that you can’t make paragraphs.

    ___If I were a girl living inside the weird bubble of “Fiddler” I would want to know if the groom was handsome, first thing. ___

    Jennifer Beckstrand, I will try to be polite (Allison got mad at me a year ago for being snotty! :0 ) so I will just say WHY?

    Maybe if you were a stupid 17 year old who had no clue, but as someone obviously older than 17, don’t you think acting like that’s a good idea is dumb? I mean I get that when someone is too young to know what’s important that they might giddy about beauty of handsomeness (is that a word?), but as an adult with experience, shouldn’t you moderate that dopiness with maturity?

  • Lorelai January 28, 2014, 11:17 pm

    Ah OK. I just clicked through your name link. Now I get what Allison was talking about with mormon romances. (I was so confused!)

    You write ROMANCE NOVELS about Amish people? OK, so I guess they’re all “Hey, I don’t care if you can build a house or drive a buggy. You’ve got that hot looking beard going on there! Because how you look is all that matters!”

    Sorry, I just had no idea there was such a thing.

    How do the Amish feel about it? You don’t look Amish from your pictures. Do they like having romance novels written about them by outsiders? Just wondering.

    Allison, I’m going to start writing mormon romance novels. :) Just to annoy you! Wait, isn’t that Sister Wives? (-;

  • Charlie January 28, 2014, 11:32 pm

    Lorelai, OMG, do not write romance novels. You’re too much of a snark. I know who you are!

    Alison (at least I know how to spell your nam), I saw this on the fb discussion and don’t understand. Enlighten me because I want to defend myself agains the manhater!

    *****Mostly because your blogs are almost exclusively the “Men are pigs” kind. That’s probably not what you’re going for, but that is often how your blogs come across. I feel the need to defend the male sex, because it’s not politically correct for them to defend themselves. *****

    I want to know where all these blogs are!

  • Alison Moore Smith January 29, 2014, 12:06 am

    Lorelia, there’s a reason you got in trouble before!

    I don’t know anything about romance novels (Amish or otherwise), but I hear Jennifer is a great writer, which doesn’t surprise me. (We’ve know each other since elementary school.)

    I’m going to ignore your sister wives foolishness.

    Charlie, I’m not really sure. I’d hardly characterize any of them as “men are pigs” since I’m not remotely of that position. Not to mention I’ve have spent my entire married life (including a Relief Society (LDS women’s group) lesson this month) being called “the woman who never says anything negative about her husband.”

    Not only am I a lover of men, but a defender or men. I’ve argued against quotas and special dispensations for women for decades. I’ve argued against women’s groups that promote such things.

    Mostly, I want equal consideration and call out unfairness when it’s problematic. (Not in the progressive sense of the word.)

    For fun, I will list the titles of ALL the posts I’ve written from today going back to October 1. Are they “almost exclusively the ‘Men are pigs’ kind”? We report, you decide!

    1. I Hope She’s Pretty
    2. My Favorite Comment Spam
    3. Dixie Allen, Common Core, and Why We Homeschool
    4. Happy New Year from Mormon Momma
    5. 70% Off Entertainment Coupon Book + Free Shipping
    6. I Want My Popcorn
    7. (Really) Stupid Christmas Jokes
    8. 5 Ways to Be Annoying This Christmas
    9. The Ethics of Business on Thanksgiving (and/or Other Holidays You Like)
    10. Why I Don’t Teach Cursive
    11. Apple Cranberry Walnut Relish
    12. When Decent Mormon Men Don’t Get It
    13. Sex is Bad — Then You Get Married and “Like a Light Switch” It’s Supposed to Be Good
    14. Easy Bake Oven Recipes
    15. Snag Yourself an Eternal Mate — But Don’t Use Your Lure
    16. Don’t Love Like That
    17. A Mormon Mother of Daughters Talks to a YSA Bishop About Intimacy
    18. Daily Snark: Parenting Blogs
    19. Government Healthcare — Shock and Awful
    20. The Toddler’s Creed
    21. How Can You Stand to Be Around Your Kids All Day?
    22. You Can Homeschool — You Just Don’t Want To
    23. How To Start a Homeschool Game Club
    24. New Semi-Annual General Women’s Meeting Announced
    25. Pumpkin Coconut Belgian Waffles
    26. 12 Steps to Start Homeschooling Tomorrow
    27. The New Janitor
    28. Do You Need to Be Organized and Detoxified to Begin Homeschooling?
    29. The Cannery Is My Spiritual Home No More
    30. Solving the Homeschool Field Trip No Show Problem
    31. Ethnic Halloween Costumes — Honor or Offense?
    32. One Stop Wedding Shop
    33. Another Mormon Wedding
    34. Obamacare and the Decline of Basic Arithmetic Skills
    35. Simple FHE Ideas: Gratitude
    36. Singing At the Top of One’s Lungs In the Car With the Windows Down?
    37. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity
    38. Learning to Love Math
    39. General Conference Fall 2013 Open Thread
    40. Obamacare Tips the Apple Cart

    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Best Gifts: College Finals Survival KitsMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith January 29, 2014, 12:24 am

    By my count, that’s 1/10 that deal with gender issues and problematic stereotypes. Obviously I need to get on the ball and write some more on this topic! I’m a slacker!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Argumentum Ad Hominem – Logical FallacyMy Profile

  • Lorelai January 29, 2014, 12:40 am

    Charlie at least I know how to spell “name.” :p

  • Paula January 29, 2014, 7:10 am

    I think it is important for all young men and women to realize that it is what is inside that counts.
    Paula recently posted…10+ Projects to InspireMy Profile

  • Tiffany W. February 1, 2014, 7:29 am

    I hate that line in the song too. When I was growing up, I was so worried that boys wouldn’t notice my qualities of intelligence, integrity, etc, that I definitely dressed to avoid any attention to my body or face. It paid off with lots of conversations and friendships with boys but not too many dates, both in high school and at university. I am still not sure how I feel about that, but I turned out all right and I have a great marriage, so I don’t really obsess over it.

    I grew up with my husband. We were good friends throughout junior high and high school. In fact, we played Chava and fyedka in Fiddler on the Roof. I thought he was okay looking, but he wasn’t my type. He thought I was cute enough but wasn’t interested in me that way. When he returned home from his mission, we spent a lot of time together doing things as friends. I honestly fell in love with him because of the character traits that he demonstrated as opposed to his looks. The physical aspect of my feelings for him came later and they are still going strong, so I think we are good there. As I look back on it, I am glad we fell in love the way we did because I think our relationship started with a depth that has only improved while other couples who base their relationship on physical attractiveness struggle to develop.

  • KathrynH March 21, 2014, 8:43 pm

    Hi there. I am late to the party, but I have been reading many of your posts on your various blogs (I got here via a link to the car seat/shopping cart post). I have enjoyed reading much of what you have posted and I have given you a “like” on Facebook.

    I have to say, though, that the attitude about wanting a good looking spouse was expressed by both males and females in the play. It is one of my favorite musicals, actually, and I just watched it again a few weeks ago. In the “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” song, the girls express a desire for a handsome husband:

    “You bring the groom, slender and pale.”

    “For me, well, I wouldn’t holler if he were as handsome as anything.”

    The thing is, both the young women and young men in the culture were subject to marry whoever was chosen for them. I would say that someone pleasing to look at could merely be a bonus in the whole deal.

    Thankfully, we do not live in a culture that embraces arranged marriage and we can choose the one we want. As long as we teach our children to follow their hearts and marry for love and look to the hearts of others, then I’d say we do pretty well. One of the most encouraging messages I find about the play is that the girls do the choosing of their mates and stand up to their father and “tradition for tradition’s sake” for love.

    I am not at all claiming that girls and women are not objectified or reduced to their looks, they certainly are, I just feel like this case doesn’t seem particularly egregious to me.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 22, 2014, 12:24 am

    Egregious, KathrynH? It’s musical theater, after all. :)

    Like I said in the post, “Given my growing discontent with gender disparity over the years, I heard the young male verse of this song differently than I have in the past.”

    The past 4,000 times I’ve heard this song, it just seemed normal, typical, usual. This time I heard it differently. And it bothered me.

    It’s that it did and still does so often conform to fact that bothers me. That when looking for a lifelong partner for raising children, for solving problems, for working through issues, for growing old together the only thing the boys are hoping for (or worried about) is that their bride is a hottie.

    It does bother me. In the grand scheme of things, appearance is such a pittance. And I don’t understand why we so readily accept and encourage the incredible focus on it.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Career Inequality No More – Obama Will Pay You to Be a Super Model!!!My Profile

  • KathrynH March 22, 2014, 12:46 am

    True, my wording is a bit strong for musical theater. I honestly always felt like that line was meant to be a bit cheeky, for lack of a better word. :) I think it might stand out, though, because the male voice in the play is generally Teyve’s, and the line is a bit out of place in the whole thing. Even in the examples I cited in the other song, the daughters’ position and perspective on arranged marriage is explained in more depth (using the word lightly!), which makes the “I hope she’s pretty” lyric feel even more offhand, and that must be all that the young boys thought of. I think the overall message about appearances and love in the musical is quite good. The daughters do marry for love and even Tevye and Golde discover that they have learned to love each other even without good looks or love at the beginning.

    I know well how over time, things that seemed harmless or never garnered attention can stand out upon later viewing/hearing/reading. I suppose it depends on where you are at at the time. The guy I married wasn’t the most handsome guy I dated (shh, don’t tell him), but the more I got to know him, the more attractive he became. Now, 11 years into our marriage, I feel like he is even more handsome, even if he is worried about balding and weighing a bit more now. :)

    Though, I think it might be time for bed if I am discussing the finer points of a 40+ year old musical!

  • Antoinette April 19, 2014, 8:01 pm

    Yeah, boys will always be boys! We don’t know how they think and what they think when they see even though it’s not that inappropriate situation but on how they look on something that will urge their men side.. But have they think it in though in just for the minute to take things out on one positive way that they also have women in their family.

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