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...
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.
A lot of the reason people think ladies don't care as much about looks is based on a big misunderstanding:
Women want a hot guy, but simply do not agree on what "hot" means.
You often see a woman in love with what appears to be a horrible-looking creature and assume they looked past his appearance, when it's very likely she thinks that monstrosity is sexy incarnate.
For example, many of you men might have asked why girls you know are swooning over Edward from Twilight when he looks like a prancing homosexual. Well, many women find an aura of prancing homosexuality extremely hot. Others find musclebound jocks hot. Others like waifish nerds.
And Kristen Bell likes this.
Sure, men also differ in their tastes, but not as broadly as women, who are apparently all over the god damn place. Scientists guess it might have something to do with helping women avoid fighting over men too much. If I like nerds and my friend likes jocks, we get to stay friends. (Until her boyfriend stuffs mine in a locker I guess.)
Another interesting idea from the study is that this might be a reason why women have to worry so much more about body image - because there actually is a "right" set of characteristics that the majority of guys agree on. Conversely, because women are so scattered in what they like physically, there isn't one "right" way for men to look. This is why People Magazine always gets confused and puts people like Vince Vaughn and Ian McShane on its Sexiest Men Alive lists.
There is one exception though...
Men spend a lot of time trying to build muscles - probably exactly because the one physical trait most ladies agree on is that a guy should have some muscles and not be fat.
I wouldn't depend on that alone, though.
But wait, before you hit the steroids, they don't want too many muscles either. This study showed women six body types and ask them to rate them in four personality traits.
First, they probably all got lower ratings because most girls are turned off by guys with giant black dots for heads.
But setting that aside, girls considered the "toned" and "built" men attractive and thought the "brawny" man was getting to be a bit too much.
Bad news for Launchpad McQuack.
If you're a sticklike wimp or a flabby Santa, don't worry about never meeting the girl of your dreams though. The ripped guys were rated worst in the "commitment" category, so the ladies only think they're hot for one-night-stand purposes. When they want to really date a guy, you've got just as good a chance as those sandcastle kickers. Try wearing more red though.
You know what else helps?