Introduction

Women’s fashion is much bemoaned as oppressing to women, and with good reason. I have written elsewhere on the economics of women’s fashion and accessories, and that may be relevant here, too.

The line is that women are expected to spend a lot on shoddy goods that only fit a certain type of women, and that women have to spend a lot and go through a lot of pain and hassle to look “beautiful,” which effectively means minimally acceptable.

There are a few problems with this. One obvious one (to men) is that any given woman will be attractive to some group of men no matter what she looks like, how much she weighs, what she’s wearing, how much or how little makeup she smears on, or how much she does or doesn’t shave off. Actually, that’s kind of the main point. The fact that “the fashion industry” says that there’s one type of woman, hair, skin, body shape, etc., that’s “beautiful” and everybody else needs to “correct” themselves is another issue, again a memetic one, probably more of an effort to shame men than women, and one that I’ll probably get to in another essay.

My thought is: why do women do all of this stuff to make men like them, when men will like them anyway? I have an interesting idea based on memetics, which may explain this, what’s going on the women’s side, and why it looks like women’s fashion “works.”

Who’s Sending the Memes?

An attractive woman tends to be showered with male attention. To her memetic brain, it seems like she’s not doing anything to elicit all of these displays, and none of them seem to be in response to any memes that she is deploying (if any).

Problem?

She does not get any memetic reward from this cacophony of male activity, since she has not deployed any of her own memes, has not opened any memetic loops, has not incurred any residual memetic debt which these male meme enactments would resolve, and which they appear to be in response to. Also the men are enacting memes, most of which will get no response, no reward, i.e., response from the woman against which they are directed.

Sounds like it might be exhausting and frustrating for both parties.

Phantom Memetic Deployments

Women’s fashion to the rescue? Now the woman, a priori, has made a memetic deployment in the form of dressing up, putting on makeup, possibly losing weight, getting her hair done, or other such extraneous preparations which, as we’ve covered, probably make little difference in terms of garnering all of the male attention she’s going to get (naturally) anyway. However, now she’s in the situation of having deployed a set of memes before all of the male attention comes rolling in. She has residual memetic debt, she has open memetic loops, than are now resolved by the (inevitable) male overtures. Likewise, on the male side, the men can tell themselves the story that they are responding to the woman’s gestures of fashion sense, in other words, they are also taking part in a complete memetic transaction.

Does this make sense? It’s kind of like double-entry accounting. Memetic transactions may in fact work this way. One way to balance out to zero is to start out with a plus one, so when you spend one, it evens out. Or in the woman’s case, you put yourself in the hole for one, so when you get one for free that you know’s coming, you balance back out to zero, so to speak. A women dresses up nice and expects to get a bunch of male attention as a result — but it’s not really the result of anything she did.  A man reacts favorably to how a woman made herself stereotypically attractive according to prescribed fashion, and she “did” something already, so she’s no longer expected to react to his overtures.

It’s like it’s our animal nature in conflict with our (newer) memetic nature, and yet another kludge to make them sort of work together and cut down on the damage. This little exchange afforded by the pretense that a woman making herself pretty is the cause of a man showing her attention may be what allows a woman to go out in public and not have to beat off all the men in the room with a stick or get exhausted reacting to each and every one of them, or all of the men getting horrendously resentful.

Keep in mind that this is a memetic system, with much more to it than women doing up their appearance and men and women acted affectedly towards one another. There are all other sorts of memetic exchanges which must be involved, and which could doubtless be inventoried. In doing so we could learn much more about what they fashion industry does to women and men, and how it might be manipulated.

The Bad Part Is…

Okay, so women dress up, and that may save them having to fight off a bunch of men who are otherwise dying for attention. But it’s not a very honest exchange. The problem is that women are getting memetic reactions for things they think they did, but they really didn’t, that is, they are getting natural attention from men. A normal memetic transaction is that the women deploys a meme, and the man deploys a reaction meme, and they both enjoy a memetic reward. In this case, a woman is deploying memes (dress-up, make-up, etc.) beforehand, expecting to get a specific reaction from men (and other women). In fact, the men (and other women?) behave how they would normally regardless. So if a woman has spent all her time and money getting skinny and blonde and so forth, and all the men at the venue go for the chubby, dark women, she will be disappointed, suffer from residual memetic debt, when in fact there is no reason for it. She’s setting herself up for disappointment. The lie is that fashion makes a woman more attractive to men (or anybody). The reality may be that that lie allows women and men to deal with the overwhelming deluge of residual memetic debt that naturally crops up in “meet market” social situations.

Summary But No Conclusion

Women being slaves to fashion creates a virtual, phantom memetic deployment, i.e., incurs residual memetic debt before the fact, which is then resolved by social interactions with men (and women) later on. The kicker is that this “attention,” from men, anyway, would happen regardless. Women are paying in advance for something they will get anyway. Plus, there’s no element of control to what they get — women get what they’re going to get anyway, regardless of what they do. If they try to get a real reaction for a normal meme, like, telling a story or a joke, they will get the same reaction, or no reaction at all.

Women are probably guaranteed attention, but they often have no place to put it. Fashion may resolve this problem, but at the cost of a pre-paid resentment in the form of residual memetic debt.