War hag and super model:
I do not remember much about the story, not plot, title nor author.  The phrase is not mine, and I would give credit if I could.  In the tale, at one point in the adventure the heroin had been through so much that she had acquired a sort of timeless appearance, gaunt, sun bleached hair, weathered skin, in short a war hag.  The phrase stuck but nothing else.

People like to look at pictures of women, and most pictures fall into categories.  One category is the “high fashion model,” more recently hyped to supermodel.  She is young, thin, brown and blond made up with lipstick, eye shadow and maybe rouge and has a clearly phony smile.

Consider the appearance of a young woman who has been stressed for a long time.  The same features are there.  Abuse does not make people young, but for a woman it is a clue that she can have children.  Thin means starved.  Brown often means left unsheltered in the sun, although these days it is more common to see models who are naturally brown, not tanned.  Blond suggests the same thing, left out to fade in the sun.  Lipstick makes the lips look chapped, a sign of exposure to the elements.  Stress stimulates the adrenal cortex with something called ACTH, which cross reacts with MSH to produce dark rings under the eyes.  Rouge means the same as chapped lips.  The obvious phony smile suggests she is frightened and being appeasing. 

Of course woman can produce a sincere looking smile.  It is just a matter of raising the corners of the mouth.  The muscles of the face are muscles from the primitive GI tract.  The logic must start with the smile.  That has to mean, “Life is good.  I am eating something.”  Looking at a smile, a healthy person will identify with the other person and enjoy the same sense of pleasure from the smile.  The smile lifts the face.  A frown means the opposite.  It means, “I am yuking something up.  Life is not good.”  A frown pulls the face down.  A model is trained to smile with her upper lip but pull the lower lip down and show the lower teeth.  Bright against the dark of the mouth, the sight of both upper and lower teeth announces to anyone looking from a hundred yards away that there is a conflict here.  She is probably faking the smile.  There are exceptions, but I mean in general.

So what does this constellation imply?  Any society that is going to survive must protect its children and its fertile females.  That is the top priority.  That is the future.  So a woman that bears the stigmata of terrible and prolonged stress is the product of a society that is disintegrating.  Frequently through the long annals of history and prehistory, that has meant a society that is losing a viscous war.

High fashion models appeal to rich men.  They are presented in expensive clothing such as a rich man might be able to provide.  But less financially aggressive men are not that much attracted.  They prefer a woman with some softness to her, at least in her appearance. 

So why should a high status man prefer a woman who looks so glaringly low status?  Her tribe is near to annihilation.  What’s attractive about that?  Maybe it appeals to some basic nurturing instinct.  He wants to rescue her, just as a lot of women seem to team up with men who are disasters.  If you can believe, that, fine.  Stop reading this at once.  I do not want to be the one to destroy the last shred of human innocence.  I will give you plenty more to think about in the future.  Just go away and treasure that inner light.

Still here?  I thought so.

Financial success is more likely to come to the man who wants it and is willing to compete for it, to fight for it as it were.  So when, in the fullness of time, have fighters met war hags, and what did they do?  Victorious soldiers encounter them.  In an instant, the fighter must make a decision.  His choice will affect his own tribe’s long term viability.  He could do the decent thing and let her go, but that would be bad for her tribe.  She might rejoin her own people, bear children, and his own grandchildren would have to fight the war all over again.

He could kill her.  Nuf said.  Or he could try to make her pregnant.  That’s where the phony smile comes in.  Given the choice, that would be better for her.  It is quite likely just what he will do. 

Now given evolution as it is generally understood, that is very strange.  If his tribe has won, they should have the better genes.  She should be chasing him down and trying to get his magnificent genes in her.  He should be squealing, “Mercy kind lady, have pity on my youth.”  But that is not what happens. 

If he can make her pregnant and let her go, he has left a genetic time bomb.  His foreign genes, mixed with those of her own people, will depress fertility for generations.  That is what his grandchildren would profit from.  Her own people, on learning that she is pregnant by the enemy may kill her.  Don’t think it has never happened.  I know a man who saw a woman killed for passing time with an outsider.  The murder was done by a professional witch doctor summoned for the purpose.  It is terribly destructive to a society to permit ordinary people to do violence against women or children.  So even if her own people kill her, he has done the enemy more harm than if he spared them the effort. 

And if they take her back and take her child to heart, depleted as they are in numbers, they take a poisoned gift.  That is why the most intense and ruthless fighters, those who compete for money, are drawn to the war hag.  She calls to something in the murderous male soul. 

Yes, I like them, too.

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