Do makeup and mathematics add up?
Life used to be so simple. Questions were black or white. Answers were wrong or right. People were deep or trite.
It's all more complicated now.
Take makeup, for example. Once upon a time, we put on mascara
because we liked the way it made our eyelashes look really long. End of
Then we had our consciousness raised, and we realized the true
subversive nature of said lash goop. Turns out, the purpose of mascara,
blush and lipstick was to artificially achieve the appearance of a
fertile female -- wide eyes, flushed cheeks and full mouth -- to
attract the opposite sex with the intention of breeding. Horrifying! To
think that pretty pink and green tube of Maybelline Great Lash was
nothing more than a primitive urge in mod packaging! That threw a
Darwinian monkey wrench into our ever-evolving self-esteem.
Recently, we came upon the scholarly paper "Identity bifurcation in
response to stereotype threat: Women and mathematics" by Emily Pronin,
Claude M. Steele and Lee Ross in a 2004 Journal of Experimental Social
Psychology. (OK, honestly, we were just surfing the Web and thought,
The study suggested that women in the male-dominated field of
mathematics tend to downplay their feminine traits, such as wearing
makeup, to appear more serious about math.
"Wearing makeup is not going to make you do worse at math," said
Pronin, in a phone interview. "But it's inconsistent with the
stereotype of what a good mathematician looks like."
Pronin is a professor in the psychology department at Princeton, in
other words, a bonafide brainiac. She also happens to be cute as a
bug's ear, judging from her faculty photo. But since she probably would
not appreciate that particular description of herself, we will say
instead that she does not, in any way, resemble Sigmund Freud.
Pronin's area of interest is the psychology of bias. And apparently,
makeup can conjure up a few. That's why the math-ambitious in the study
decided to ditch the lipstick.
"Ultimately, these women wanted to avoid the risk of being
negatively judged" in the male-dominated math world, she said. "They
valued their careers and didn't want to put them in peril."
We made up our minds to never make up our faces again. We would shun
lipstick, ban blush and stop brushing that goopy black gunk on our
lashes. To raise our IQ score a few points -- or at least raise others'
perceptions of our intelligence -- we would face the world with bare
naked skin. Of course, we wouldn't actually be any smarter, but we'd
look smarter, and that's all that matters.
Or is it?
This got us thinking more: Do male mathematicians worry about being
too macho in the workplace? Do they downplay their brawn lest it be
viewed as a substitute for brain? And have they ever tried the new
Blushcreme Pearl by MAC on the apples of their cheeks and seen the way
it makes skin look positively luminescent?
Well, we have! And while it may not make us look more intelligent, we feel way smart for having discovered it.