In the sixth episode of Love Is Blind season five, JP and Taylor — a couple that, at the outset, seemed fairly promising — split up after spending several awkward days together on their post-reveal honeymoon. The reason? They just weren’t compatible, a fact that became crystal clear when JP began complaining about his fiancé’s makeup choices.
“It felt like you were fake… You had a caked-on face, fake eyelashes,” he said of their first face-to-face encounter, noting that she got makeup “all over” his jacket. “When I first saw you and you had all that stuff on, I was like, ‘Is this gonna be like, an everyday thing? I’m gonna have to deal with you putting on a totally different face?’” he continued. “That’s not really what I want.”
Sure, JP’s brutal honesty might have been a good thing. Ultimately, it pushed both him and Taylor to part ways rather than drag things out. But JP’s aversion to his fiancé’s makeup is more than an irreconcilable personal preference — his comments reflect damaging cultural attitudes towards femininity, beauty, and deception.
While dating, appearance-based anxiety is a given. Everyone wants to look good in front of a potential partner, a desire fueled in part by fear of rejection. And most daters would agree: two people finding each other physically attractive is a promising indicator of their ultimate compatibility. Love Is Blind is meant to take looks-related bias out of the equation by proving that two people can fall in love — or at least agree to get engaged ridiculously, laughably quickly — without ever seeing each other.
But if JP is any indication, love is not blind, and appearance inevitably plays a role in our romantic choices. In his eyes, Taylor crossed a thin line that many women and femmes are forced to negotiate: Wear too much makeup, and they’re shallow or “fake,” as JP put it. But wear too little makeup (or perhaps eschew cosmetics all together), and they’ve let themselves go. In both cases, there’s a heteronormative implication at play: that attracting a man is the ultimate purpose of feminine beauty.
And then there are the memes. “Take a girl swimming on a first date,” some urge. Others hit back at the notion that men lie by portraying a woman’s makeup as the ultimate deception. These images are traded back and forth on a certain corner of the internet inclined to view makeup as a form of “catfishing” — rhetoric that stems from the notion that anything traditionally feminine is deceptive or dishonest, a misogynistic attitude that dates back to the 18th century. The April 17, 1711, issue of British news magazine The Spectator published a reader letter complaining of “Women who do not let their Husbands see their Faces till they are married.” An editor responded: “I have indeed very long observed this Evil.… It is hard to speak of these false Fair Ones, without saying something uncomplaisant.”
But believe it or not, women aren’t wearing makeup as part of some larger conspiracy to deceive men. Historically, they’ve worn cosmetics to better conform to beauty standards, a fact that these memes (and JP) overlook. “So forget the beauty standards,” one might argue. “You’re beautiful just the way you are!” Embracing your unaltered appearance is great, but it’s hardly that simple, considering the fact that failing to conform to beauty standards can directly affect a woman’s socioeconomic standing. For example, most states do not prohibit discrimination based on hair style and texture. And around the world, there’s an inverse relationship between a woman’s weight and income (the correlation between a man’s weight and income is far less pronounced).
Whether or not it was his intention, JP’s comments regarding Taylor’s makeup do nothing more than shame her for her appearance. It would be one thing if he asked Taylor why she wears makeup in an effort to better understand her mindset (if he asked, he probably would’ve learned a thing or two about the double-standards so many women face when it comes to their appearance). Instead, he used loaded, judgmental language like “fake” and “caked-on,” put-downs that immediately set off alarm bells.