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No amount of plastic surgery can fix what ails incels: Thoughts on that New York magazine cover story

By David Futrelle

New York Magazine has a remarkable cover story out now on incels — more specifically, on the subset of the “involuntarily celibate” who obsess endlessly about getting plastic surgery in order to transform themselves from supposedly hideous unfuckable monsters into handsome Chads with perfectly chiseled faces.

For some incels — as the story’s author, Alice Hines, makes clear —  plastic surgery isn’t just a fantasy. They shell out tens of thousands of dollars to get the procedures they think will fix their lives. Spoiler Alert: It never does.

Hines’ story centers around two central characters — one a surgery-addicted incel calling himself Truth4lie, the other an Indiana plastic surgeon named Dr. Barry Eppley, the go-to-guy for dudes who want to turn themselves into Chads by artificial means.

The story of Truth4lie is not a happy one. As Hines tells it, he began his descent into the incel underworld on the Sluthate forum after several unsuccessful years as a would-be pickup artist. Sluthate, which began as PUAhate, was morphing from a pickup-debunking forum into a forum for incels obssessed with their alleged ugliness,

Truth4lie took “the black pill,” a concentrated dose of noxious misogyny and body-dysmorphic self-hatred; instead of memorizing pickup routines he spent his time sitting in what he described as his dark, dingy, fruit-fly infested apartment railing against the allegedly shallow women he felt were rejecting him for his less-than-perfect appearance. And more and more he started to fantasize about getting the plastic surgery necessary to “correct” his self-diagnosed facial flaws and transform him into a Chad.

Then he took the plunge, flying from his home in the Netherlands to Indiana to visit Dr. Eppley to get a jaw implant and a “rhinoplasty revision” to correct an earlier nose job he’d decided made him look too feminine.

Truth4lie had high hopes that the surgery would change his life utterly. “I need women, lots of women, to make up for my miserable life,” he wrote on the Sluthate forums.

I want to live in hotels in tropical countries and live a playboy life there, only fucking hot blonde European girls. 

Truth4lie did feel transformed by the surgery — for a time, at least. But he kept noticing new “imperfections” that he felt needed fixing, and returned again and again to Eppley’s clinic for “revisions” and new procedures, one of which, Hines notes, resulted in “an open wound that took months to close.”

He continued getting surgeries in the Netherlands, but he was never fully satisfied. The last time Hines talked to him he was in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt triggered by the excessive swelling caused by his latest surgery. But he told Hines he was going to keep going until some plastic surgeon finally got it right. “The prospect of a better surgery result is keeping me alive,” he explained.

He’s not the only incel who has discovered that surgery can’t fix all that ails them. Hines quotes an incel called LegendOfBrickTamland, who found himself getting weirdly angry that people were nicer to him post-surgery. “Getting treated better after surgery feels sickening,” he posted on the forums after getting $30,000 worth of work done.

It’s like, I am the same fucking person, and yet I am somehow better because I spent some money and had a man cut my face up. 

Hines’ article is dotted with “before and after” selfies that incels have posted on what is now Lookism — depicting themselves as they are and, through the magic of photoshop, how they dream they could be after plastic surgery. None of them are ugly; indeed most would score reasonably well on the ten-point scale of looks that incels and other manosphereans are so obsessed with.

It’s certainly possible that plastic surgery could make them look a bit more like their idealized photoshopped doubles — with their male-model cheekbones and stronger chins.

But it hardly seems worth the pain and expense, especially when it’s so abundantly clear that the real problem isn’t with the precise configuration of the bones in their faces but with the poisonous ideas in their heads, ideas reinforced daily by the other commenters on Lookism and other incel sites.

But if Truth4lie’s story is a sad but predictable cautionary tale about the futility of the quest for physical perfection, the Dr. Eppley’s story is in many ways more disturbing. One of the reasons he’s become an idol to incels seeking Chadification is that — unlike some plastic surgeons who turn away wannabe patients who seem to suffer from body-dysmorphic disorder — Eppley apparently takes on all comers, no questions asked.

Indeed, he’s evidently so incurious about the motivations of his patients that — despite his huge incel fanbase — he told Hines that he didn’t even know what incels were until she brought the topic up with him.

And that’s a problem, I think. While I believe people should be allowed to get pretty much whatever plastic surgery they want if they think it will make them feel better about themselves, this approach can become a hugely problematic one when you’re dealing with a community of bitter, self-hating misogynists preaching utterly delusional nonsense not only about their own allegedly imperfect faces and bodies but also about the relations between men and women.

These are people who literally believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that no man who is less than an 8/10 on their supposedly objective scale of attractiveness can ever hope to have sex with any women of what they consider reasonable attractiveness. These are people who think that the mythical Chad literally lives a life of financial independence and endless sex, coming home at night to “a threesome with two supermodels,” as one incel put it in a forum post that Hines quotes.

Given their ridiculous assumptions about the allegedly magic power of “Chadlike” looks, there is no way that any amount of surgery will ever satisfy a hardcore incel — even if they’re not, like Truth4lie, obsessing endlessly about imaginary flaws that no amount of surgery can fix, or, like LegendOfBrickTamland, getting angry that people are treating them better. Because no amount of surgery, no matter how innovative, no matter how skillfully performed, is going to bring you nightly supermodel threesomes. Because no one in the world is having those.

Again, the real solution for incels isn’t implanting silicone to “fix” their chins; it’s extracting them from the incel subculture, and draining out all the poison in their brains.

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Robert
Robert
1 year ago

I like my face more at 58 than I did at 18, and damn glad for that.

Happened across a photo of me in first year of college, and was amazed that I’d ever gotten laid back then. Then I remembered that I had put conscious effort into my personality and behavior, and it made sense in retrospect.

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

>From previous incel coverage on this blog, I’d gotten the impression

… which was intended by WHTM and it’s inhabitats, whose opionion of this group is obviously skewed.

>that incels generally rejected or ignored the prospect of plastic surgery, like everything else classed under self-improvement

No, they don’t; the idea of “looksmaxxing” (by “gymcelling”) is quite common, but plastic surgery is rarely considered because of its costs.

IMO most incels also do not have BDD in any form and their focus on body improvements originates from opinion bluntly expressed as “you’ve got to be 8/10 to score”.

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

> Where were men in the 1990s when famous actresses started turning into lollipops and millions of young women strove to follow suit?

Maybe In the gym, trying to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
1 year ago

@Luzbelitx

Not to mention, if they’re living in hotels in tropical countries, where are all these blonde European girls going to come from? Is he going to be shipping them in himself? Or are they going to be shelling out the money themselves to visit the tropical country simply for the sake of shagging him?

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
1 year ago

Yzek,

In what universe was Schwarzenegger held up as an ideal that all young men should live up to? I was a teenager in the 90s and that was not a thing.

And I’m not qualified to diagnose anyone with BDD, so I won’t try, but believing that you have to be an 8/10 to find a partner is not a healthy and normal attitude. Even when I had an eating disorder, I knew that wasn’t the case.

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
1 year ago

Was Arnie ever a sex symbol, except to men who thought Arnie was what women wanted, in the same way that penis extensions are about other men, as is Vladimir Putin’s hypothetical hotness?

https://shortpacked.com/comic/false-equivalence

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

Yeah, I should have expected that you somehow assume that unrealistic male body images don’t count :>

comment image

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

Oh, and don’t forget that these Hulk-wannabies are a margin; models from commercials always represented a large variety of weight, height…

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

Oh great, they brought up the feminist barbie thing. What are you? from 2003?

Crip Dyke
Crip Dyke
1 year ago

@Lainy:

No, they brought up the fact that people seem to be ignoring that men, too, have unrealistic role models.

There’s a lot to be said about why these things are different, but if yzek’s impression was that we were actually denying that unrealistic role models for boys and men exist, then that retort would be on-topic and appropriate, if a little under informed about how body types are less hegemonic for boys and men than they are for girls and women.

…meanwhile…

Schwarzenegger is an interesting case, because he clearly wasn’t held up as het women’s favorite dreamboat (and thus impact the development of young, straight men), but his look did have a psychologically unhealthy effect on gay men’s gym bunny culture.

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
1 year ago

As the comic I linked to points out, the Barbie model is unhealthy because girls are made to aspire to that on the grounds that it’s what boys want, but the He-Man model is different, because he’s what men assume women want, without asking the women if this is accurate. In other words, He-Man is Chad.

The Barbie model is not entirely inaccurate, as the quote in the OP about wanting to live on a tropical island banging hot blonde European girls demonstrates. It’s part of the whole “Men only want to bang 10s” claptrap; it’s also true that women who try to conform to conventional beauty patterns are likely to get a lot of attention from men, though not necessarily men they should want to impress. This is not a good thing. (The model also contains its own opposite, teaching girls that if they do everything they can to not look like Barbie, they can evade the attention of douchenozzles of this sort. But this bit is rarely emphasized.)

The He-Man model — which is in another form what the incels going in for plastic surgery aspire to — is toxic in a different way, because it doesn’t have even that (unfortunate) element of truth to it. Men go into it unaware that they’re only impressing their fellow men, and are then baffled and angered at why it’s not working. It’s like spraying yourself with too much Axe and then bitching that underwear models aren’t immediately rubbing themselves against you.

Both these models, though, have in common the fact that they’re about the opinion of men.

Note: This post contains gross overgeneralizations. I’m aware of the fact.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
1 year ago

Yzek,

How old are you? You seem to be really struggling to grasp what the male beauty conventions were in the 1990s. If you ask nicely, I might tell you who the major hotties were. As a male attracted teen girl, I would know.

Here’s a hint. One of them was someone that the manosphere moans about a lot to do this day.

Of course, my point was not that there were no beauty standards for men. More that specific subcultures excepted, they weren’t so unrealistic that men were en masse going to dangerous lengths to meet those standards.

John
John
1 year ago

So, we’re all just going to ignore the fact that this post is illustrated with a photo of Hermann Rorschach? Yes?

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

@Crip Dyke

Well that’s ridiculous. I’ve written an 8 page research paper on how beauty standards hurt young men and teenage boys. And I chose that topic because I felt very strongly about it.

Dalillama
Dalillama
1 year ago

@John
What significance do you attach to this that needs attention?

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

@Dalillama

Is your profile picture thing a character or an original art? I see it all the time and it looks so familiar but I can’t place it?

John
John
1 year ago

@Dalillama

None? I just thought it was funny. Kind of a random choice. (Although I suppose he was handsome.)

Catalpa
Catalpa
1 year ago

@Lainy

Dalillama’s avatar is Agatha Heterodyne, from Girl Genius: http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/

Nequam
Nequam
1 year ago

@John: Having never seen a picture of Hermann Rorschach ’til now, I wouldn’t have known to comment on it. Now that I know– well played, David. (And doesn’t Herr Rorschach look kind of like Brad Pitt?)

Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
1 year ago

yzek:

… which was intended by WHTM and it’s inhabitats, whose opionion of this group is obviously skewed.

I freely admit my knowledge of incel culture is heavily based on David’s selection of what I assume are the more shocking parts of said culture, because it’s something I’d rather not research on my own. I mostly hang out here for the humor and community spirit. I was basically just asking for David to comment on this apparent inconsistency.

No, they don’t; the idea of “looksmaxxing” (by “gymcelling”) is quite common, but plastic surgery is rarely considered because of its costs.

I’ll take that as a data point. I have passingly heard of “looksmaxxing” before, and I’d say generally the steep focus on looks seems like a strategy to avoid considering most aspects of self-improvement.

IMO most incels also do not have BDD in any form and their focus on body improvements originates from opinion bluntly expressed as “you’ve got to be 8/10 to score”.

IIRC, some other “inhabitants” of this blog have also sometimes opined that incels aren’t generally nearly as distressed as they claim to be. So their deeply weird beliefs wouldn’t be so much about rationalizing BDD or depression as something else.

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

> If you ask nicely, I might tell you who the major hotties were. As a male attracted teen girl, I would know.

Reverse stance is called “mansplaining”, I guess.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

Hey Yzek

How about you actually listen to women for once. You know the ones who deal with these creeps. And don’t disrespect weirwoodtreehugger like that. She’s earn what she’s got in this community. You haven’t.

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

> I mostly hang out here for the humor and community spirit.

This humor and community spirit is based on mocking and ridiculing people like me. Pleas don’t expect any respect from me beyond common netiquette in return.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

This humor and community spirit is based on mocking and ridiculing people like me.

Well if the horse shoes fits up the ass buddy. Don’t like it you can leave. Or better yet stop saying crap that people can mock you for. And leave Bookworm alone. She’s one of my favorites and I will fight you about her.

Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
1 year ago

yzek:

“People like you”?

Pardon my charitability. From your half reasonable conduct, I didn’t immediately realize you’re like the extremist incels we mock and ridicule on this blog.

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

> you’re like the extremist incels we mock and ridicule on this blog

That’s what every army always claims to do: shooting only at bad guys 🙂

Makroth
Makroth
1 year ago

@yzek

Have you tried… not… being a piece of shit?

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
1 year ago

People like me? So a misogynist?

Or just a guy who thinks that while women’s rights are under serious attack by globally rising authoritarianism, the real human rights violation is when a man doesn’t get laid?

But I repeat myself.

Catalpa
Catalpa
1 year ago

Reverse stance is called “mansplaining”, I guess.

Hoo, you types never actually understand what mansplaining is, do you? Mansplaining is when a dude assumes that he’s more qualified than a woman in an unrelated subject material simply because he’s a dude.

A woman who was a teenage girl explaining what was considered attractive by teenage girls at that time is speaking from her experience, not some unrelated topic.

To put it in terms you might understand, a dude lecturing a female quantum physicist on the Schrodinger’s cat thought experiment is mansplaining. A dude telling women about what sort of things were discussed in his high school locker room would be him talking about his experience, not mansplaining. (Although given what kinds of things tend to get discussed there, talking about it unprompted is probably inappropriate. Still not mansplaining though.)

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
1 year ago

yzek wrote:

This humor and community spirit is based on mocking and ridiculing people like me.

Wait, you’re a sewage fire wrapped in skin?

yzek wrote:

Pleas don’t expect any respect from me beyond common netiquette in return.

If you identify as an incel, I wouldn’t even expect from you.

yzek wrote:

That’s what every army always claims to do: shooting only at bad guys

…and that obviously can’t apply to your side of any disagreement, because reasons.

yzek wrote:

> If you ask nicely, I might tell you who the major hotties were. As a male attracted teen girl, I would know.
[quoting WWTH without direct reference]

Reverse stance is called “mansplaining”, I guess.

Yes, a woman talking to a man about a subject she’s an expert in that he knows noting about is indeed the reverse of mansplaining.

You actually got something right!

…albeit by accident, but hey: you of all people need to take the win whenever your stupidity gets overwhelmed by your incompetence.

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

> Hoo, you types never actually understand what mansplaining is, do you?

Let me remind: @wwth stated by firmly stating that never before unhealthy strive for beauty was such a thing before and dismissed counterexample by stating it was marginal and irrelevant, because “reasons”.

Seems like women talking about men issues to me, but how could I know?

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
1 year ago

If you have evidence that men have been subjected to equally rigid beauty standards and took dangerous measures equivalent to women to meet those standards, pony it up.

Because everything I’ve seen indicates that beauty and diet products are advertised much more to women. Women are far more more likely to engage in disordered eating and get more cosmetic surgery.

In recent years, thanks to the huge budget superhero movie trend onscreen representation of men is starting to get as unrealistic as representation of women. But previously, leading men were handsome, sure, but not buff to a degree that’s impossible to attain without dedicating your life to it. I’m rewatching 90210 right now. The male cast members totally just looked like average guys. Only Luke Perry was hotter than normal.

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

> If you have evidence that men have been subjected to equally rigid beauty standards and took dangerous measures equivalent to women to meet those standards, pony it up.

With steroids already dismissed? And men-targetted commercials: not worthy a mention?

I rest my case, your honor. And we didn’t watch BH 90210 in our locker room.

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

> If you have evidence that men have been subjected to equally rigid beauty standards and took dangerous measures equivalent to women to meet those standards, pony it up.

With steroids already dismissed? And men-targetted commercials: not worthy a mention?

I rest my case, your honor. And we didn’t watch BH 90210 in our locker room.

PS:
comment image

A picture of average guys with a bunch of girl-next-door types.

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
1 year ago

yzek wrote:

Let me remind: @wwth stated by firmly stating that never before unhealthy strive for beauty was such a thing before and dismissed counterexample by stating it was marginal and irrelevant, because “reasons”.

Ignoring the giant grammatical clusterfuck in the middle of that sentence, you seem to be claiming that WWTH “firmly” stated that men were never given an unhealthy example of beauty to strive for, and dismissed your counterexample by stating that it was marginal and irrelevant.

(…and if that’s not what you’re trying to claim, maybe do a little editing before you post so you don’t end up with almost unreadable garbage.)

wwth wrote:

In what universe was Schwarzenegger held up as an ideal that all young men should live up to? I was a teenager in the 90s and that was not a thing.

…and slightly later, she clarified:

wwth wrote:

Of course, my point was not that there were no beauty standards for men. More that specific subcultures excepted, they weren’t so unrealistic that men were en masse going to dangerous lengths to meet those standards.

Perhaps you should try reading for comprehension rather than misreading for strawman-fodder…

PS: as a teenage boy in the ’80s, I can confidently say that Schwarzenegger wasn’t considered the male ideal my peers tried to emulate; the boys in my school were going for Tom Cruise and Judd Nelson…

Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
1 year ago

yzek:

That’s what every army always claims to do: shooting only at bad guys

What is it, then, that makes you like the bad guys, yet doesn’t warrant criticism targeted at said badness?

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
1 year ago

What are the rates of steroid use compared to rates of disordered eating and cosmetic surgery in women. And is steroid abuse commonly about beauty? Or is it about sport performance? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

Someone needs to explain to Yutz that feminism while it does help men and many feminism care about men and boys, that it’s focus is on women.

Button
Button
1 year ago

(The model also contains its own opposite, teaching girls that if they do everything they can to not look like Barbie, they can evade the attention of douchenozzles of this sort. But this bit is rarely emphasized.)

Can confirm that this works pretty well. (But is of course not foolproof).

If you can get employment in an industry where you don’t need to look good for customers, I highly recommend going the uggo route.

Insidious_Sid
Insidious_Sid
1 year ago

Let’s say there are 10 women and 10 men are in a room. A tall, well-put-together woman walks in – well dressed, and looking very good. She’s naturally pretty. Which ten people are looking her up and down, analyzing her and judging every minute detail of her body, her clothes and overall appearance? The women. The women are comparing themselves to her. Is this social conditioning? Is this patriarchy in action? Or is this the human lizard brain in action? Face it ladies, if you knew ZERO WOMEN were going to judge you, the cosmetics industry would be bankrupt in under a week. Female-female competition is why the cosmetics industry makes billions. If men getting heart attacks trying to climb the corporate ladder to have more resources and be more attractive is toxic masculinity, then women scrutinizing each-other and *reinforcing and enforcing beauty standards on other women* would be a perfect example of toxic femininity. You have agency. Own it. Stop spreading that crap over your faces. Or does your lizard brain compel you to keep doing what the herd is doing?

kupo
kupo
1 year ago

@Insidious_Sid
Fuck off and stop pretending like it’s solely women who are responsible for shaming women into wearing makeup. It’s not. And there’s nothing wrong with women “spreading that crap” on their faces if they want, and it’s not because women have “lizard brains” if they choose to do so. Seriously, you’re a misogynistic piece of crap and I hope you step on all the legos.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
1 year ago

Yeah, men pretend like they think that makeup is ridiculous, frivolous and unnecessary. Because they don’t fucking know that the natural look takes more time than the really obvious makeup look and they think that “natural” makeup = naturally conventionally beautiful.

‘Tis a very close cousin of men having contempt for women who diet and worry about their weight but don’t want to be seen with a woman over size 2.

In other words, men say that they don’t care if we look perfect, and we must do it for other women, but if we don’t roll out of bed looking ready for a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, we’re 2/10 would not bang.

Crip Dyke
Crip Dyke
1 year ago

@wwth

would not bang

and thank Freud for that.

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
1 year ago

Face it, ladies, if you knew ZERO WOMEN were going to judge you, the cosmetics industry would be bankrupt in under a week. Female-female competition is why the cosmetics industry makes billions. If men getting heart attacks trying to climb the corporate ladder to have more resources and be more attractive is toxic masculinity, then women scrutinizing each-other and *reinforcing and enforcing beauty standards on other women* would be a perfect example of toxic femininity. You have agency. Own it. Stop spreading that crap over your faces. Or does your lizard brain compel you to keep doing what the herd is doing?

Insidious_Sid, how well you know us. I absolutely wear lipstick because if I didn’t, the other gals would gossip about me. Shudder.

Men, on the other hand, consistently affirm my worth. Like you, Sid.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

Literally i have had men come up to me and say “aw yes a natural beauty. so nice to see someone not wearing all that make up” when I’m in full stage makeup so the crowd can see me better when I’m performing. Men fucking love it when women wear make up, they just don’t know what they look like without it. They come up to women not wearing makeup and act like she’s dying from terminal illness.

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
1 year ago

Toxic femininity: women feel compelled to wear makeup.

Toxic masculinity: climate catastrophe.

Abbyo
Abbyo
1 year ago

@yzek

Very few women find the Arnold/He-Man aesthetic attractive. It’s mostly about men wanting to seem dominant and alpha to other dude-bros.

yzek
yzek
1 year ago

Very few women find the Arnold/He-Man aesthetic attractive.

Most admit to have a thing for “fit” and “athletic” and the same standard is promoted in media. Some people take it to the extreme, just as with plastic surgery. I still stand on the ground that this is not a new thing.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

I do like me some muscles and a nice big… well that’s a bit tmi. You really want to get me going though show me how much you like babies. My fiance lights up ever time he see a baby. Takes all I have in me not to jump him when he does. Or when he picks up my cat and kisses the top of her head. Time to drop them camies solider.

Ghjfgh
Ghjfgh
1 year ago

As a woman, my reasons for wearing makeup have nothing to do with the “lizard brain”. They have to do with career. As a singer/songwriter, I know that there is a lot of industry pressure on females like me to be young/hot/femme. This is cultural, not biological: plenty of guys/girls find me sexy in my preferred no-makeup state, but “hot enough to have sex with” is not the same thing as “marketably pretty”; I could easily see an industry gatekeeper passing on me because I don’t look like Taylor Swift despite personally wanting to do me, or conversely, deciding my image is marketably “sexy” despite having zero actual sexual interest in me. Women outside the entertainment biz face less of this shit but jobs in many fields have it especially if they are at all public-facing. Saying we make ourselves up “for men” or “for women” elides the very real sexist pressures we face to hold ourselves to a higher, more artificial appearance standard than men do.