Pretty Helps and Hurts: Examining Internet Beauty Bias

I hate the color pink. It is Pepto Bismol branding for girls and women, assigned to us before we were born. We are bred into choosing pink by virtue of the clothing put on us from infancy. Rebel that I am, my favorite color has long been the shade of blue most like the Gulf of Mexico at sunset. I used to avoid wearing pink until I admitted that it complemented my shade of brown.

But I still hate pink in principle, if not in practice.

For the past month, I have been shopping for WordPress templates to give the blog a makeover. (More news on that coming soon!) The world of blog design is a wide and wondrous place, with dozens of flashy offerings clamoring for a click the minute you enter the search term, “WordPress template.” Choosing the right one is not so easy. From what I’ve read, web development is still a very male-centered field and the landscape reflects that.

~Here’s how to recognize a Guy Blog: lots of angular shapes, bold use of screen space, primary colors, focus on the utility of the website.
~Here’s how to recognize a Girl Blog: Pink. Lots of it. Everywhere. Roundness and circular icons. And ribbons and polka dots and pastels.

Le sigh. What is a pink-phobic girl who doesn’t want a masculine Guy Blog to do? I have searched blog demo after demo hoping to find functional, attractive sites that do not scream Girl Blog with “pops of pink” offending my eyes. But most blog templates that advertise themselves as feminine don’t skimp on the femme. Strangely enough, I find them beautiful, oohing and aahing and wistfully sighing at whimsical clip art.

So what’s the problem? I write about life, race, culture, and occasional nerd activities, subjects that appeal to both genders; the design should reflect the message. Honestly, I am afraid that if I make my site too pretty, men won’t read it. My friend calls girly sites “cupcake blogs” and this-blog-right-here, as you well know, is not about cupcakes. As much as I love them. I am of the belief that if a guy sees something feminine, he will click the X button faster than Olivia Pope drops drawers for President Fitzgerald Grant. I’ve heard men say they will avoid something just because women like it.

Not on your life.

I think that men and women, including myself, dismiss pretty things as trivial. Recently, I was watching a What Not to Wear episode that featured a cute, curvy woman (Vanessa) who dealt with the insecurity of having a willowy model for a younger sister. Throughout the show, Vanessa, a chemist, threw subtle, almost subconscious shade toward her sister and other attractive women. She said (paraphrasing), “I thought if you put a lot of effort into looking pretty, you must not have a hard job. If you are pretty, people won’t take you seriously and will think you’re not smart.” Or: you only got where you are because you’re pretty.

As problematic as those statements are, I admit to sharing some of those misgivings. I am just coming around to dabbling in “girly-girl” trifles after spending much of my adolescence and adulthood emphasizing intellect over eyeshadow. My concern is for people who would encounter my blog, see “pops of pink” and dismiss me offhand as a woman who doesn’t “have a hard job.” Or assume I write just for women. I am spinning my wheels trying to market myself as guy-friendly but still womanly enough to be me.

Ultimately, I have made my peace with my girl parts. Whatever blog design I choose will be reflective of my personality, which is apt to gush over fantasy football and nail polish in the same breath. Just know that there will be no baby’s breath clip art on my site. And no pink. 

So, ladies and gents, be honest with me. Do you frequent any “cupcake blogs” and does the notion of a pretty website turn you off? Am I off in my assessments? 

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8 thoughts on “Pretty Helps and Hurts: Examining Internet Beauty Bias

  1. Here’s to years of “intellect over eye shadow” and the realization that maybe a few accents here and there are just what we want! LOL I go for green as my color – vintage jadeite glassware, pasture green, etc. My Farmer got really lucky in this department. 🙂

    I do frequent some “cupcake blogs” and pretty is not a turn off. My main issue with blogs is how busy the design is. I can agree with Cortni that PW has a good example of balancing pretty with a challenging & rugged lifestyle. I live that same lifestyle and follow other agriculture wife blogs – we all seem to be searching for our pretty and legitimate look online – away from the muck – have you ever thought about how the Internet does not have a scent?! What PW does is great for her target audience, but her site is too busy for me. I do want men to read my site and plan to add content with them in mind in the coming months (I just started blogging).

    I don’t think you’re off in any of your assessments. I hope you’ll keep your new design simple with a feminine touch, because detracting from your writing would be a crying shame. I really like your work.

    If it helps any, I’ll let you know that when I was choosing my WordPress look, I admired what I thought looked feminine and legit, so I bought the Watson Theme and made my own font header while I save for and consider a professional design.

    Here are a few looks I admired –
    Lauren, a teacher and new ag blogger
    http://www.paintthetownag.com/

    And Megan, a historic preservationist and recent new mama to twins
    http://restoringtheroost.blogspot.com/

    and Restoring the Roost’s designer – The Mustard Ceiling
    http://themustardceilingdesigns.com/

    Maybe not what you’re going for, but some links for thought.

    Can’t wait to see what you decide! Will keep on reading over here!

    Best,
    Emily Grace

    1. Emily Grace, thank you for all the links! Best believe I clicked and perused every single one of them. First of all, you’re a knockout writer yourself and you’ve officially sucked me into the world of farmer wives. 🙂

      Pretty blogs are great. I have one that I love the color scheme for http://www.livinginyellow.com, but I also want to shy away from Easter colors. lol. Ugh. I think, color-wise, I’ve settled on a turquoise and red scheme. Those are two of my favorite colors and using them feels true to me.

      I liked Watson, too, but I still haven’t decided if I want more frilly or spare design. I completely agree that busyness on a blog is distracting and off-putting. I’m trying to find a balance.

      Again, thanks for stopping by and reading 🙂

  2. I must admit that I don’t frequent “cupcake blogs.” It’s not because of the design, but the content. It’s a correlation thing, I supose. Most of the blogs like that read like an extended comment on cluck: self-centered, feminist….utterly worthless. Again, it’s not really about the design, but you really shouldn’t take any chances. You’re a hybrid like Blade. Instead of half human, half vampire, you’re half feminist, half decent human being. And that’s not a dis. Being a half decent human being is better than most. 🙂 I want the decent human being in you to prevail so we got to encourage that side until an antidote can be found to cure the feminism. So until then, I need you to fight, Dara. Fight! I know you’re still in there somewhere. Don’t let it win.

    1. But Yoda, what else but feminism is going to make me think I can even HAVE A blog while doing the cooking, the sexing, the cleaning, the ironing, and the budgeting? You know you want me to keep at least A LITTLE feminist tendency around…to make it interesting. 🙂 What else would you have to needle me about?! And then you wouldn’t read me anymore! lol

  3. i only follow a few blogs. One of the first blogs i followed was a woman’s blog – but she is also a photographer so her pictures/graphics were impeccable! i go to blogs based on content versus design – but design can influence how often i return. i value function more than anything.

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