Thanks to romantic comedies and crappy comedians, we know that men are crude, shallow boors that only care about sex, and women are weepy sensitive hippies that only care about poetry and what's on the inside.
Like everything else in romantic comedies, this is bullshit. Some men are shallow and so are some women.
The stereotype persists because women usually aren't shallow in the same way. When you think of a superficial man, you think of a guy who stares at boobs or butts and has rules about no fat chicks. So you'd assume the equivalent woman would be all about ogling men's packages. So if they don't, then it must all be about personality, right?
We don't usually get as drooly over pecs as this Diet Coke commercial implies.
No, women are shallow in completely different ways, and it involves things like...
5The Color Red (and Other "Power" Indicators)
Chauvinists have been pointing out for YEARS that women are attracted to power. We shouldn't be surprised that science backs up the stereotype somewhat. But what's interesting is that our theoretical hussy here can't go around getting resumes from every man she meets, so she's got to size most of them up at a glance. So what makes a man look powerful?
Other than a radioactive glow?
Obvious things, like wearing red. I mean, that's so logical I hardly need to explain it, but basically what they did there in that study was show pictures of men to 288 women, Photoshopping some of the men's outfits to red. When women saw the guys in red, they rated them higher in terms of power and sexiness, but not in likability, kindness, or social skills, because who cares about that. Tying red to power and success even crosses cultures, having that meaning in places as diverse as China, Japan, Africa, and ancient Rome.
How is that any different from men, you might ask, since we all know that men are also attracted to women in red? Well, in that study, seeing a woman in red caused men to ask the women sexier questions (or plan to ask them -- the researchers made sure to keep the test subjects well away from the women), which implies they find her more attractive, or more receptive, or both. But not more powerful.
"Powerful" isn't the word I would use here.
One popular study that might be confusing here is one that showed that while women say they value earning power and ambition over looks, their actions indicate all those factors are about equally important, with a slight edge to looks (but more on that in a moment). So one set of scientists has to be a pack of liars, right?
"Wh-why would you say that?"
As the red study shows, there's obviously at least one subconscious visual clue that makes a woman think a man is more powerful, and there's surely more (distinguished salt-and-pepper hair perhaps?). So when a woman is evaluating a man on "looks," she's partially evaluating him for other traits like power and wealth (and personality sometimes, we're not all shallow strumpets), even if she doesn't know it.
As an example, think of male strippers.
Just try not to, now.
Male strippers are nowhere near as popular with girls as female strippers are with the dudes. Women will go there for their bachelorette parties and whenever they want to embarrass a friend, but you'll hardly ever find women making regular trips to the sausage show the way many men visit the titty bar.
Annually, more women go to literal sausage shows than metaphorical ones.
And it's not because all women are deep and only want a guy they can talk about feelings with. It's that a lot of women just don't find male strippers sexy, because they're men in a subservient role, which is basically negative power, and makes the woman feel unsexy herself. Cougars with boytoys are the butts of jokes. Old dudes with bikini models get high fives.