Feminists, Physical Attractiveness, and the Success of Social Movements

I feel a need to add to my post from yesterday The Babe Theory of Political Movements given the comments and emails I’ve gotten from folks.

First, P.J. O’Rourke, who coined the term, is a humorist. If you take all of what he says seriously you would gladly murder his children, since he offends pretty much everyone.

Second, a confession: I am a feminist. I believe women have been oppressed for many years. I support women’s causes (with my time, National Center for Women and IT, and money, MS. Foundation). I’m not sure what the official definition of "feminist" is, but if taking a proactive interest in the issues qualifies, then I qualify. Here’s my post on Caitlin Flanagan on feminism. Here’s my book review of Female Chauvinist Pigs. Here’s my post on motherhood vs. womanhood. Here’s my post on progressive feminists and happiness.

Third, I did not mean to imply that all feminists are unattractive. I did not say this. I apologize for not being clear on this and for any offense.

Fourth, I received an email from a male that said, "Any objective, rational person knows that raging feminists are less attractive than their non-feminist counterparts, but I would never say this in public because most women consider themselves feminists and are bound to be offended." I don’t think this is a useful stereotype, but it does seem like this belief is out there.

Fifth, I do think there is an interesting angle to this: How do social movements spread? What are the components to effective activist causes? We cannot deny that physical beauty is a factor. Research has shown that, all else being equal, we’re more likely to hire the person we’d want to have sex with. We’re more likely to pay attention to attractive people. So it follows that we’re more likely to rally behind causes led by people we’d want to have sex with. Is this the only factor? No. The most important? No. But it is a factor.

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