…all across the world, it is an unspoken given that women’s primary markers of “womanhood” will be their sexuality and their ability to inspire attraction. This is not something that women are thought to have a “choice” to opt in or out of; it’s more thought of like a fact, one that is so a part of the way life works that it’s not even thought twice about: just as the sun is to rise and set every day, women shall present as beautiful, attractive beings. It’s the “natural order of things.”
There’s nothing wrong with an attractive woman, or an attractive man for that matter. What we are talking about here, however, is an invisible but always-there sense of expectation that beauty and attractiveness is what a woman does, point blank (this does not apply anywhere near as much to men; however, men have their own version of such things also in other areas of life, so stay tuned). Then there are the social norms about what counts as attractive – norms that individual women have no control over. Once you put ubiquitous sexualization of the female gender together with dogmatic beauty norms [about everything from flat stomachs to hairless body parts to “ladylike” kinds of behavior] it’s a sexual Molotov cocktail: All the stereotypically female obsessions over attractiveness and sexual projection stem from this reality of life lived under a set of expectations to be “attractive.”
This is true even in cultures with a rich history of feminist dialogue – the message still lurks in the background anyway: Big Brother is watching you – and judging you by how you present your sexuality in everything you do, from how you walk, to how you talk, to how you wear your hair and clothes, to how you laugh and eat and socialize and look at others. Even when sex is the last thing on your brain … it doesn’t matter. Your actions, as a woman, always have a possible sexual aspect attached to them, like it or not."