Vanity: Male and Female

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When I walked past a solitary man standing in a very odd spot in the middle of the boxing gym, jumping rope, I realized that he’d chosen his station for a direct line of sight to a thin mirror I hadn’t noticed.

Many guys shadowbox in front of the gym’s other mirrors. And at other gyms I’ve visited, weight lifters station by the mirrors. I’ve always credited the tendency to checking form. That I don’t see women practicing the same behavior? Well, women lift free weights less than men. And I’m almost the only female in the boxing gym.

But the mirror-fixated jump-roper threw me.

So I paid more attention.

What I’ve observed: Men gaze in mirrors far more often than women, when mirrors are present.

My friend Jenna Sauber had the same observation when I mentioned the jump roper on Twitter. In response, David B argued that men may look in mirrors more often that people realize, but that they can’t look in mirrors more than women, as women wear makeup.

Huh? Now, I don’t wear makeup. But when I do, I apply it and go. It’s like deodorant. I don’t need mirrors later in the day once it’s in place. And lest this prove a Leslie oddity, I’ll point out that I don’t often observe women in public bathrooms checking makeup, either. They wash their hands, perhaps ensure their blouses are property tucked and their skirts haven’t gotten stuck in their underwear, and they leave.

Stereotypically, women struggle with vanity. Yet my anecdotal, nonscientific evidence proves otherwise—at least when it comes to how often men look at themselves.

Yet: Why?

Researchers have had mixed results when trying to determine if men are more visual than women (a common notion). Yet perhaps this mirror-gazing tendency supports the provisual hypothesis. Or perhaps it’s something else entirely.

Have you noticed this male mirror attraction?

What do you credit for the cause?