1. Men don’t do this. When I see this nonsense going down with women, to calm myself I close my eyes and envision Jamie Dimon and Lee Raymond moseying into a J.P. Morgan Chase board of directors meeting.
“Oh my god,” I imagine Dimon saying. “Those cufflinks are killer!”
To which Raymond might reply: “That suit! You. Must. Give. Me. Your. Tailor’s. Number. Seriously!”
Now, I’m making a bunch of wild guesses here, but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t happen. Because they have other things to focus on. Like ruling the world.
2. When the very first thing you acknowledge about a person is the way she looks, you reduce her to the way she looks. Now, if you’re like my West Coast dynamo pal, your appearance is a powerful asset. If not, it may be a point of consternation.
It’s like saying to a stranger over dinner: “Wow! You have a huge appetite!” Maybe that is received as a compliment, evidence of gusto for life. But perhaps the person has an eating disorder and the sum of food she consumes is a very sensitive subject. I would venture that most women have at least minor hangups about their appearances (which is why you’re deflecting your own insecurities by aiming to boost the confidence of your new friend). So let’s just skip that one little part of her whole person for the time being and focus on other things.
Instead, try: Where do you live? What do you do for work? How ’bout those Mets, huh? Have you tried those new seaweed snacks?
3. It’s bad for the advancement of women. I know that your compliments are made with the best of intentions. You want to put the other person at ease, connect with her. But studies find that the more attention paid to a powerful woman’s looks, the less likely she is to succeed. One journalist studied female U.S. presidential candidates since 1872 and found – not surprisingly – that the women in these races were the focus of appearance-focused media attention four times more than their male competitors.
All that attention on Hillary’s hairdos and Sarah Palin’s good looks came at a price: A recent study found that when the media focuses on a female candidate’s appearance, voters are less likely to support her in the polls. This backs earlier findings by University of South Florida researchers, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. The title of their paper says it all: “Objectifying Sarah Palin: Evidence that objectification causes women to be perceived as less competent and less fully human.”
Now you know.