Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Saturday, January 19, 2013

RELATIONSHIP TIP: Women, Try Boycotting Makeup in Dating

Let me start by saying that I believe men can be feminists, and I most certainly consider myself one of them. I advocate for women because I think they are subject to far too many double standards in our culture. One of these standards, of course, has to do with beauty and physical appearance. It is for this reason that I recently starting thinking about makeup.

Actually, the exact reason why I started thinking about makeup has to do with the fact that I was preparing to discuss the issue on a talk show. More specifically, I was thinking about dating and the double standards that exist in dating. I know from my work over the years with both male and female clients that females, in general, worry significantly more about their appearance than their male counterparts. (This, of course, is seen in conjunction with countless studies, including those on eating disorders, which show a much higher incidence among women). Mintz and Kasubeck-West (2005), for example, found that when both men and women want to lose weight, women want to lose more weight than the men and are more dissatisfied with body parts than men. 

The truth is that these anxieties have a major impact on women in their romantic life, particularly when it comes to dating. Dating for women is often made more difficult and uncomfortable because of the pressure many of them feel to  meet a certain standard of attractiveness and thinness. I always tell my clients that one of the best ways to get over certain fears or hang-ups is to face the fears head on, in the most direct way possible. 

Instead of giving those fears and insecurities about attractiveness so much power, I suggest that women consider giving themselves more of a break and challenging some of those societal expectations on a first date. Rather than look in the mirror prior to that date and doubt whether you look good enough or whether you look too fat, what about boycotting the whole makeup routine for a night? After all, if he wants you, he better want you with our without makeup.

Women who usually wear makeup should try boycotting makeup on the occasional date even if just to prove a point. The behavioral boycott would allow women to say "That's enough!" to the running self-critical inner dialogue that often makes women feel like they don't look good enough. It's about imagining meeting a man who thinks you're not a pretty enough, and saying to this metaphoric man, "Good riddance as your search for your imaginary supermodel!" It's about getting a little defiant and remembering that you are a package, and that any man you'd want to be with should want to be with you because you're the overall package - not because you meet some standard of physical beauty or not.

When it comes to dating, most men don't have half the anxiety women do about appearance as they get ready ready for a date. I hear first-hand in my office as a psychotherapist how profound the insecurities can be around a woman's physical appearance, while I rarely hear a man in my office talk about his insecurity that he will be received as unattractive or that his body won't measure up.

Men simply don't think too much about their appearance, though they do care more today than they did in the past. I've actually read some recent studies that suggest - wait for it - that men worry more about their appearance than women, though I have not found this to be true among the men and women I've known personally or have conducted therapy with over the years. What's more, the occasional study that says men worry more about their appearance than women is hard-pressed to refute years of research that suggests the opposite.

As long as women wear makeup in an effort to make themselves more attractive to men, it's only fair that men should have to put the same amount of work in, too. Until then, or until women boycott makeup in dating and in every other part of life, the double standards just might continue.

Reference: Kashubeck-West, S. K., & Mintz, L. B. (2005). Separating the effects of gender and 
weight loss desire on body satisfaction and disordered eating behavior.

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