“A well-tailored suit is to women what lingerie is to men.” This is a common phrase that not only depicts what men and women are looking for, but also confines the success of each gender to a certain part of their identity. The implications of this saying can be understood if you simply deconstruct the words and analyze their meaning. Lingerie is a sexual item that women wear in order to boost their appearances. It provides women with sexual power, but sexual power is informal and is typically expressed privately with a significant other. In turn, sexual power depends on physical appearance in order to have the desired effect. A suit, on the other hand, can be worn as a symbol of wealth and status in public. It commands self-respect and speaks to the power and authority that its wearer holds independent of their outer image. Therefore, women are measured in terms of their looks while men are judged by their success.
This contrast in purpose of lingerie and suits creates a dichotomy that assesses each gender’s worth using a different scale that negatively affects women. By placing a higher value on women’s looks than their actual abilities, society degrades the effort of women’s hard work. At the end of the day, how successful a woman is may be more greatly determined by her outer beauty; no amount of effort in the workplace redeems a lack in physical beauty.
In China, successful women wish to find love, but they usually fail because Chinese men are intimidated by their success. Men feel emasculated by women holding power despite the financial stability that wealthy women can offer them. In addition, it’s difficult for rich Chinese women to find husbands because their family will disapprove of them marrying men of a lower social station. Their primary option then is to seek out successful men, who prefer to have wives who can spend more time in the household instead of working. This puts Chinese women in a tough position since society’s confines on what makes a woman a suitable candidate for marriage undermines Chinese women’s business goals.
However, the reverse does not hold true for rich men. In fact, rich men are in high demand by various women. As mentioned in a British newspaper article, numerous young and attractive women are trading their beauty for monetary gain. Through matchmaking websites such as Seeking Arrangement and Seeking Millionaire, pretty and single women openly search for relationships with wealthy, older men who offer a taste of an upscale lifestyle in exchange for spending time (or perhaps spending a night) with them.
This double standard in the definition of success is unhealthy for women who strive to achieve financial stability based on their own talents and drive. It debases women to being just another pretty face or plain Jane regardless of their actual capabilities. By reinforcing constraints that devalue women’s hard work, we continue a never-ending cycle that suppresses a woman’s worth beyond her superficial appearance.