It’s A Girl Thing: Eyeing Her Up

Katie Young
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Wednesday - August 24, 2005

Did you see that?! That girl eyed me up!

I was just walking along, minding my own business when she appeared, about 10 feet away, with her boyfriend. I looked at the both of them and smiled, and she gave me the once over — you know, that top-to-bottom examination — the “eye up.”

I see it happen all the time. I notice because I am an avid people watcher whenever I’m not glued to my computer, pounding out another column.

As far as I can tell, women are truly the only ones guilty of the “eye up.” Men don’t do it to other men, but then again, they do have their own “wandering eye” issues when it comes to attractive females. That, however, is a topic for another day.

Today I’m talking about when a woman sees another woman at a club or at the mall, anyplace really, and proceeds to search her over from head to toe with a quick flicker of her eyes.

I think there are two types of women who feel compelled to “eye up” other women. First, there’s the woman who notices an attractive female and looks her over to not only evaluate the woman’s cute outfit, but to mentally compare herself to the woman. (Come on, you know you do it.)

This is a fairly innocent “eye up” and the one I’m probably most guilty of. But even the most innocent of eye ups can illicit negative responses, such as an incident I witnessed at a bar where a woman who eyed up another woman got swatted on the head as the bold victim yelled, “What’s your problem?! Why do you keep looking me over?!”

Then, of course, there’s the completely malicious eye up. The look between women that means, “Who the heck do you think you are, you floosy?!” A look that, at its core, is full of resentment and irritation.

I see this type of eye up most at social events where people have taken time to dress up for the occasion. The other week I was out at a local club on Saturday night and I noticed a woman on the other side of the room keeping a close eye on her boyfriend, who was standing a few feet away with his group of guy friends.

A girl happened by who knew one of the men in the group and she started innocently talking with the woman’s boyfriend. She was a beautiful girl, and made up for a night on the town, to be sure.

The girlfriend immediately snapped into protective mode. On heightened alert, she sat up really straight in her chair and leaned forward to get a better look. Her eyes shot up and down, up and down, looking at this pretty girl who was having a conversation with her man.

No more than a minute later, the girl walked away to rejoin her group of friends and the girlfriend relaxed her piercing stare.

“It’s what we call the ‘Curse of Comparison’ in psychology,” explains Marian Miller, a clinical psychologist specializing in women’s issues. “It’s a curse of sorts for women in that we are so competitive as far as which woman has the better clothes, the better body … all that physical appearance stuff. Women get their status and power by how they look and that is something that has been reinforced through the media.”

Miller says that men are competitive with each other as well, but on a completely different level.

“Men are ‘eyed up’ for their skill-building, productivity and merit, not for their body,” she says. “Women have been taught in our culture that their power, security and value come from how they look. For men, it’s about what they do and not how they look.”

The “comparing mind” is a setup for failure, adds Miller. “Even if you’re the best at one thing, you won’t be the best at something else. We’ve found that women who eye each other up with malicious energy have really bought into the idea of competition. They want to be ‘top dog.’ It’s horrendous to them to have some girl look hotter than they do.”

It’s obvious to me that while women extol the virtues of “sisterhood” and “sticking together,” we’re much more likely than men to stab each other in the back, resent each other’s successes and talk behind each other’s backs.

Why is that?

I know when I’ve been on the receiving end of a malicious eye up, I’ve been tempted to reach around and swat the woman who was doing it. Even the innocent eye ups can leave you with a funny feeling. I think they make you wonder what it is you look like that another woman finds cause to examine you from head to toe.

Miller, who is also a member of the Hawaii Psychological Association, says she tells her clients to embrace human diversity. “When the Earth was created, there wasn’t just one tree that was beautiful,” she says. “One human is not better than another human because of how they look. And it doesn’t mean you look bad just because someone else is beautiful.”

So, we ladies have to make it a practice to look at people’s physical traits with curiosity, not judgement.

“The more you do that for yourself, the more your brain doesn’t get stuck in this top-dog, bottom-dog competitiveness,” says Miller.

And if you must eye up your fellow female, if you find yourself unable to look away from a beautiful woman wearing a killer top, may I suggest adding a smile to your “eye up” and just asking, “Hey, where did you get that outfit? I love it!”

Before you get swatted in the head.

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