What is considered pretty?

We all know we shouldn’t judge people based on their looks. Beauty is only skin-deep, as the saying goes. Moreover, someone’s appearance doesn’t tell us anything about how kind they are. Or how dependable. Or anything else about their personality.

But it’s hard to ignore the way a person looks. Something about attractive people makes us want to watch them. We can’t take our eyes off a good-looking actor, actress or model. As such, beauty has power over us. But what is beauty?

There is no simple answer. Researchers have, however, begun probing how beauty affects the behavior of humans and other animals. Through this work, especially, they have discovered some of the features that make an individual attractive to others.

Scientists are also learning that there may be a practical side to our obsession with beauty. A pretty face may belong to a healthier person. Or it may simply be easier for our brains to process.

Sign Up For the Latest from Science News for Students

Weekly updates for inquiring minds of every age, delivered to your inbox

All about averages

Looking at a set of photos, it’s easy to say which faces we find attractive. Different people will usually agree on which faces those are. But few can say precisely why those faces seem so beautiful.

Attractive faces, such as this one, tend to be symmetrical. They also tend to have measurements similar to the population average.leszekglasner/iStockphoto

Researchers have begun turning up some answers, though. Such as symmetry. Faces that we deem attractive tend to be symmetrical, they find. Attractive faces also are average.

In a symmetrical face, the left and right sides look like each other. They’re not perfect mirror images. But our eyes read faces with similar proportions on both sides as symmetrical.

“People’s faces usually only differ subtly in symmetry,” says Anthony Little. He is a psychologist at the University of Stirling in Scotland. Everyone’s face is slightly asymmetrical, but in different ways, he says. In the end, many of these faces seem symmetrical. “So,” he explains, “symmetry looks normal to us. And we then like it.”

This averageness, Little points out, refers to how similar a face looks to most other faces in a population. Average, here, does not mean “so-so.” Rather, average faces are a mathematical average (or mean) of most people’s features. And, in general, people find such faces quite attractive.

“Averageness includes all kinds of factors,” says Little. “Such as the size of the features of your face and their arrangement.”

For example, the distance between the centers of a woman’s eyes affects whether she is considered beautiful. People find her most attractive when that distance is just under half of the width of the face. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Toronto in Canada discovered that ratio. Just as important, they found, is the distance between a woman’s eyes and mouth. It should be just over one-third the height of her face. Both those distances match the population average, or are close to it.

Nature or nurture?

Are we born with a preference for certain kinds of faces? Or is it just something that people learn, without realizing it? To find out, psychologist Judith Langlois and her team at the University of Texas in Austin worked with young children and babies.

Some of their young recruits were just two to three months old. The researchers showed each baby photos of two faces. One face was more attractive than the other. The scientists then recorded how long the infants looked at each face.

Babies spent longer viewing the attractive faces than the unattractive ones. That meant they preferred the pretty faces, says psychologist Stevie Schein. She works with Langlois. These findings suggest that people prefer pretty faces very early in life. However, it’s still possible that we learn that preference. After all, Schein points out, “By the time we test infants, they already have experience with faces.”

That experience can make a difference. Research conducted at the University of Delaware found that babies’ brains are better at processing faces from their own race. So infants quickly come to prefer these faces, Schein says.

Coren Apicella asks a Hadza woman to choose the face she thinks is more attractive.Coren Apicella/University of Pennsylvania

It’s well-known in psychology that familiar things are more attractive, says Coren Apicella. She is a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “Perhaps average faces are more attractive because they seem more familiar.”

Indeed, her research backs this up. Apicella and Little worked with two groups of young adults: British and Hadza. The Hadza are hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, a nation in East Africa. Apicella chose them for her experiment because they had not been exposed to Western culture and standards of beauty.

She showed people from both groups two images and asked which was more attractive. One image was an average of five British faces or five Hadza faces. The other was an average of 20 British faces or 20 Hadza faces. People of both cultures preferred the face that was more average — that is, compiled from 20 faces instead of five. The British participants found both Hadza and British faces beautiful. The Hadza, in contrast, preferred only Hadza faces.

“The Hadza have little experience with European faces and probably do not know what an average European face looks like,” Apicella concludes. “If they don’t know what it looks like, how can they prefer it?”

Her findings show how biology and the environment work together to shape our values. “The preference for averageness itself is biologically based,” Apicella says. But people must first experience other faces to learn what an average face should look like.

A newer study by Kaitlin Ryan and Isabel Gauthier shows how important exposure to faces can be. These researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., found this to be true — even when those faces aren’t human.

The pair asked 297 young adults to view pictures of men, women, Barbie dolls and Transformer (toy) faces. Women are usually better at recognizing faces than are men. But men who had played with Transformer toys as kids were better than women at identifying Transformer faces. That childhood exposure to Transformers stuck with the men, improving their performance, they report in the December 2016 Vision Research.

Story continues below image.

Averaged faces of Hadza and European women and men. The faces in the top row average five faces. Faces in the bottom row average 20 faces. Most people find the more averaged faces — those in the bottom row — more attractive.Coren Apicella/University of Pennsylvania and Tony Little/University of Sterling

Not just people

Research shows that people with more symmetrical faces don’t just look nice. They also tend to be healthier than asymmetrical people. Genes provide the instructions for how a cell is to perform. All people have the same number of genes. But people with more average faces tend to have a greater diversity in the genes they are born with. And that, research has shown, can lead to a stronger immune system and better health.

Male swordtail fish have vertical bars on their sides. Young, inexperienced females prefer males with the same number of bars on both sides, but older females prefer asymmetrical males.Kevin De Queiroz/Smithsonian

Scientists have found similar links between “beauty” and health in other animals too. For example, Molly Morris found that young female swordtail fish prefer symmetrical males. Morris is a behavioral ecologist at Ohio University in Athens. (A behavioral ecologist studies the evolutionary basis of animal behaviors.)

Swordtail fish have dark vertical bars on their sides. Small, young females prefer males with the same number of bars on both sides, Morris says. That love of symmetry matches findings in other species, including zebra finches and lizards, she notes.

But the symmetry rule has some limits — at least in the fish that Morris studies. Larger, older swordtail females prefer asymmetrical males. Morris wondered if this might have to do with how the males had grown. So she and her team tested fish. They fed some males high-quality food and others low-quality food. Certain males grew faster on high-quality food. And those fast-growing males ended up with uneven bars on their sides.

Asymmetry may show that a male has put his energy into rapid growth, Morris says. “In some situations, this can be a good strategy,” she points out. For example, a fish living near lots of predators would be more likely to survive if it grew faster. It would also be better off if it could grow even when food is scarce. So females that live in one of these types of environments should prefer asymmetrical males, Morris explains. Those males would carry the best genes for their environment, and would later pass them on to their young.

Research on birds also shows that female birds prefer good-looking guys. For example, among satin bowerbirds, females prefer males whose feathers reflect more ultraviolet (UV) light. Researchers at Auburn University in Alabama caught male bowerbirds and took blood samples. Males with blood parasites had feathers reflecting less UV light than healthy males. So when females chose males with UV-rich plumage, they weren’t just being shallow. They were using that information to find healthy males to father their young.

Story continues below video.

A peacock displays for females by fanning his tail and doing a shivery dance.
Paul Dinning/YouTube

Adeline Loyau is a behavioral ecologist who has seen similar things in peacocks. She works at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany. Back when she was working for a government research agency in France, she began studying the birds’ eyespots. These are the vivid circles at the ends of their tail feathers. She knew peahens prefer males with more eyespots. They also prefer males that show off their tails more. Her work has now shown that healthier peacocks have more eyespots in their tails. These birds also splay their flashy tails more frequently to the females.

The number of eyespots in a peacock’s tail tells females how healthy he is.Rachel Andrew/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Loyau then gave some males an injection that made their immune systems leap into action. It was as if they were sick. Afterward, she recorded the birds’ behavior. These peacocks displayed their tails less than the healthy guys did. But that was only true if they had fewer eyespots. Males with more eyespots didn’t seem affected by the shot. So a peacock’s beauty tells females he’s healthy, Loyau says.

Females are better off avoiding sick mates, she explains. If they didn’t, they might catch some disease. A female bird, she adds, also looks for good genes in the guy who will father her young. Paying attention to a male’s appearance and behavior can help her gauge which guys have the right stuff.

Easy on the brain

Maybe we’re born with a preference for averageness because it tells us something about other people. For example, it may help us find healthy mates. Or perhaps people like average, pretty faces simply because they’re easier on our brains.

Langlois and her team in Texas studied this question using a technique called EEG. That’s short for electroencephalography (Ee-LEK-troh-en-SEFF-uh-LAAG-rah-fee). EEGs measure electrical activity in the brain using a net of small electrodes placed on the outside of the head.

The scientists recruited college students for their brain study. Each student looked at a series of faces while wearing the electrode net. Human faces fell into one of three groups: highly attractive, unattractive or digitally morphed images that combined many features into an average face. Some chimpanzee faces were put in the mix too. The EEG recorded brain activity as each student viewed the pictures.

These EEG sensors record brain activity. The Langlois lab uses EEG set-ups to learn how our brains process different faces.Petter Kallioinen/Wikimedia

The researchers then searched the EEGs for patterns of electrical activity. Those patterns offered signs of what the brain was doing. The students’ brains processed human faces faster than chimpanzee faces, the EEGs showed. That makes sense, the researchers now say, because people are more familiar with human faces. They look normal to us, so we don’t have to spend much time thinking about them.

The team also found that brains processed very attractive faces faster than unattractive ones. And they processed average faces even faster. That means their subjects’ brains found averaged faces easiest to handle. Subjects also rated the averaged faces as most attractive.

The beauty bias

In sum, looks may go far more than skin deep after all. They also can affect how people interact.

Scientists discovered long ago that people show favor to those with a pretty face. Attractive people are more likely to get jobs. They make more money than their less attractive coworkers. We even tend to think attractive people are smarter and friendlier than less attractive people.

Langlois and Angela Griffin (then at the University of Texas) looked for more signs of this “beauty is good” stereotype. And they found it.

The researchers asked people to rate photos of young women’s faces on a five-point scale. The scientists then chose the six photos with the lowest ratings and six with the highest. They chose another six photos that had ratings closest to the average (or mean) score. This set made up their group of “medium”-attractive faces.

Nearly 300 college students were asked to view photos in a random order from the three image sets for 4 seconds each. After each quick view, the students had to answer a question about the person in that last picture. For example, how likely was she to be popular, friendly, helpful, kind or smart?

Both men and women ranked people with unattractive faces as less intelligent, less sociable and less likely to help others. Medium attractive people got similar rankings to highly attractive people for everything except sociability.

Griffin and Langlois then repeated the experiment with children aged seven to nine. They got the same results.

Maybe the stereotype isn’t exactly “beauty is good,” the researchers suggest. Maybe it’s more like “ugly is bad.” They suspect this may be because unattractive faces look less like a “normal” or average face.

It can be hard to stop ourselves from stereotyping others. “Appearance is the first thing we judge people on,” says Little. Still, he says, “Being aware that these biases exist is an important step.” For example, he points out, attractive people aren’t actually smarter. “As we get to know people, physical appearance gets less important,” he says.

Schein agrees. “Knowing that the bias exists, acknowledging that we all carry it with us, and taking steps to consciously decrease your own bias are important,” she says. That can keep us from discriminating against people who are unattractive — or simply uneven.

TRENDING

(Photo Credits: Estherhonig.com)

“Make me beautiful”. Seems like a strange request, right? Afterall, what is beautiful? That’s exactly what Esther Honig wanted to find out. Honig set out with a task for photo editors from around the world in order to investigate what different cultures consider to be attractive.

This Kansas based journalist called out a community of Photoshop pros with one very special request — to make her beautiful. From there, over 20 photo editors around the globe edited Honig’s original and un-modified image to exhibit what they considered attractive and the results were all totally different.

Extremely curious to see how people in different countries would alter her image, Honig had over 40 artists from 25 countries participate — and Morocco’s version of her image was one of the most eye-opening examples. The editor’s choice to dress her in a Hijab introduced her to a new element to the idea of beauty and religious customs that hadn’t really been considered. While some artists didn’t make major changes to her photo, the most shocking result came from right here in the USA. The image she received from the U.S. portrayed a blonde haired beauty…making her pretty much unrecognizable!

So, GL wants to know: After seeing Honig’s before and after shots on the web — if given the opportunity to edit, how would you change Esther’s appearance?

Let us know in your comments below and be sure to check out all the other edited photos HERE!

1.

haylee –

“Beautiful is a woman who has a distinctive personality; one who can laugh at anything, including themselves, and one who is especially kind and caring to others. She is a woman, who above all else, knows the value of having fun, and not taking life too seriously. She is a woman that you can trust and count on to brighten your day. She is a woman who can inexplicably make you feel really good just by being around her, and yet brings such great sadness when she is gone.

She is a woman who I will never really get to know.”

— Your friend forever

2.

“Her smile makes her pretty.
Her body makes her sexy.
Only her mind makes her beautiful.”

— YEYE

3.

“Indescribably pleasing, but not necessarily sexually attractive. Unconventional beauty is something that you can’t fully understand, but you still think that person is wonderful. Being hot does not make a person beautiful.”

— Pretty Emily

4.

“It’s not about the clothing, the hair, the make-up. It’s about the way her smile radiates warmth, or how she dances when she’s excited, no matter who’s watching.”

— you are beautiful

5.

“Someone that catches your breath and your heart; it makes you overjoyed just to be on the same planet as that beautiful thing.”

— miranda A.

6.

“A woman who makes you smile.”

— cmdnkeeper

7.

“Something that the human race has forgotton. Beautiful is often used synonymusly with hot or sexy. This is not the case. No body fat and unhumanly large breast does no make a girl beatiful. Beauty is a pure, non-sexual thing. It comes from the right combination of personality, confidence, and (of course) physical attraction. ”

— Queen_Frostine

8.

“Someone with an exceedingly gorgeous external appearance, with a heart of gold, sweet as can be forgiving nature, whos eyes sparkle, and whos smile lights up a room, something that leaves you in awe and wonder reminding you of pure and utter perfection.”

— R3PP0H

9.

“A beautiful woman has a glow that issues forth and attracts people.”

— Dweetle

10.

“Beauty is something that few understand and fewer possess. You can do more than see it, it is felt within you. It is the expression of your soul in the light. When you see something you find truly beautiful it is like the feeling of being in love; inexplicable, strong, and pure.”

— noodletron

11.

“One who is absolutely stunning, radiant, attractive and eye catching. Usually a woman who turns heads like swivel chairs.”

— Make it rain

12.

“Beauty is intelligence.”

— …….wowowoow…….

13.

“Someone that isn’t like the others. When everyone is going right, they’re the only person that’s going left.”

— BlueberryXcookie

14.

“A girl with the sweetest smile and gorgeous eyes.”

— AnoniFofo

15.

“Everything about her is mesmerizing. Her smile and laugh can stop you dead in your tracks, and her eyes seem to light up the world when they smile. Everything about her redefines perfect. She has to ability to make anyone forget how to breathe. She may cause stomach sickness, headaches, inability to think, weakness of joints/bones- making it hard to stand up straight near her.”

— dayummm 🙂

16.

“Beautiful has nothing to do with appearance, only the heart.”

— soul meets body.

17.

“A beautiful woman: when you look at her face and think of her soul. When you look at her eyes and feel her love for you. When you feel her attractiveness because of her genuineness and other virtues.”

— iHEARTShiaLaBeouf

18.

“Every woman is beautiful.”

— Karen Stickney

19.

“Pleasant to the eye, and senses, often we are in awe of a beautiful specimen or landscape because it feels a little out of reach and hard to possess.”

— Amanda

20.

“A beautiful woman, her love just fits with you. She shares your deepest personal views and understands you. When you talk to her, you feel like she’s miles ahead of you, but yet at the same time she makes you feel perfect and beautiful as well. Because of who she is inside, it rubs off on who she is outside. She simply glows. Every slight imperfection becomes a perfection, and just completes her.”

— ThisIsTruth.

21.

“A beautiful woman is a woman who can be herself. A woman who smiles all the time and never cares about what others think. A woman who is dying inside but is strong enough to let go of the pain and create a happy atmosphere for everyone. A woman who is not exactly sexually attractive but her face and personality can make your heart melt. A woman who is talented, smart and so different from every other girl.”

— ASMARTMANWHOKNOWSWHATSREAL

Lauren M Jacobson

This report was done for a Womens and Gender Studies course. We were to explain our thoughts and opinions, as well as report findings, on a question relating to women or gender that has no “real” answer.

In various American dictionaries beauty is defined differently, but they all generally agree that it means something along the lines of being attractive, appealing, alluring, and charming. In a broad sense, it can be any or all things or even thoughts, concepts or ideas that appeal to the senses. A particular dictionary even goes as far as to give the definition of beauty as a very attractive or seductive looking woman.

Am I beautiful? This is one question that most likely everyone will ask themselves at some point in their life. But can we ever really give ourselves a true answer? If so, what and who defines what beauty is? There are answers to these questions, though the answers may not be very validated by facts, but more by opinions. There is also the question of when did people start becoming so dependent on the idea of their own physical beauty. To most, beauty is defined by a stereotype of what has been learned by our society. Therefore, the definition of what defines beauty is different in most societies. I’ve taken a closer look at the stereotypical “beautiful woman” from different countries around the world to really understand how beauty is viewed in different societies. .
Only 2 percent of 3,200 women surveyed from 10 countries — including the United States — would consider describing themselves as beautiful, according to a new Harvard University study, “The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report.” Women see themselves as cute, average or natural looking, but almost never beautiful.
A society very different from our own is the Islamic society. Islam is a religion that pervades all areas of life for a Muslim, whether this is national in politics, social in the community or private in the home. The teachings in the Qur’an express God’s will for all humankind, revealed from the Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of God. Beauty is considered to be a divine quality and is shown through such things as Islamic art and architecture. “Beauty itself, therefore, is believed to emerge from spirituality and to guide the inner qualities of peace, harmony and equilibrium in artistic manifestations of the Islamic religion”. Criteria for female beauty can be seen to derive directly from Islamic understandings of femininity, revealed by Allah in the Qur’an. Women are expected to be silent, immobile and obedient. Her gaze must also be lowered, and not show her beauty to anyone except her husband.
Clothing wise, women must cover their entire bodies, except for the face and hands. Head-to-toe garments worn by women include the Burqua, Chador, and Hijab. Her clothing must be very loose fitting with no tightness at all. They should also never be transparent by any means. Even more astoundingly they should never be so glamorous that they attract the opposite sex.
A particular incident that I have read about shocked me. I could not believe that the issue of beauty and the amount of the female body being covered or lack there of could turn into such a battle. During the staging of the 2002 Miss World beauty pageant in Nigeria, violence broke out and exposed the difference of the understanding of beauty in the West with that of Muslims under Islam. Gamal Nkrumah, a reporter, wrote in The Al-Ahram Weekly, “Beauty is only skin deep, but in Nigeria, it has assumed such profoundness that in the preparations to stage an international beauty queen pageant an estimated 250 lives were lost because of sectarian violence”. Women of these countries, where the Islamic religion is practiced, are starting to come out more with their emotions towards the concept of ideal beauty. They are starting to realize that everyone’s idea of beauty can be different, and some feel that they should not have to be covered from head-to-toe to be beautiful. Another pageant example is from the 2003 Miss Earth Contest, where Vida Samadzai was the first Afghan entrant in an international beauty competition in the past thirty years. The downside though is that Fazel Ahmad Manawi, the deputy head of Afghanistan’s Supreme Court, warned her that she could face prosecution if she returned to her native country. Her crime? Wearing a red bikini. Opposite of that, judges at the contest, awarded her a newly created ‘beauty for a cause’ award. She was awarded this because they thought she was symbolizing a newfound confidence, courage and spirit of today’s women and “representing the victory of women’s rights and various social, personal and religious struggles.
Another country that has very non-Western influenced view of beauty is Africa. The beauty of African women has been described as raw, wild, sensual, sexual, and exotic. There is a saying in Ghana that “the thicker and heavier, the richer and more attractive a woman is. As well as being more marriageable and fertile she is.” Like Ghana, may other African countries have the same concept of beauty for women. A heavier set body with apparent curves is the ideal, and cherished by men of that these countries. An example is from the Calabari people in southeastern Nigeria, where fat has traditionally held a cherished place. Before their weddings, brides are sent to fattening farms, where their caretakers feed them huge amounts of food and massage them into rounder shapes. After weeks inside the fattening farms, the big brides are finally let out and paraded in the village square.
For many years people of African descent have struggled with the ideals of black beauty as reflected by a Western gaze. Historically, to many European observers, black characteristics were not seen as beautiful. Their hair was seen as too kinky and too short; black lips, thighs and behinds were too large; and, of course black skin was too black. Black looks were contrasted to a white ideal, and a Western fascination and distaste for black features found expression in many ways, for example in an 18th century exhibition in Europe of a Southern African “Hottentot Venus”. Her body shape and proportions were perceived as freakish and worthy of circus display because of her larger backside and bosom.
In a world dominated by Western values, it’s no wonder that blacks, along with other non-Western cultures find themselves beginning to internalize white standards of beauty and to want a European aesthetic. The battle for black beauty has been a long one, and through the ages black people have both responded to white expectations and struggled to define their own standards of beauty. Because of this struggle, black women have begun to have a preoccupation with manipulating their appearance to be more of an American aesthetic. This has fueled lucrative businesses and influenced social movements in the black communities, whether they be in Africa itself, or within African Americans.
Beauty in the United States is not like that of any other country. There is a lot of pressure from American society to be beautiful. It seems like who we are depends on how beautiful we are. Here we are so exposed to the mass media and images of other women. The image of what is thought of as beautiful is being pushed upon us by promotion and advertising. For example we as women are bombarded with many more images of flawless women -from TV commercials to billboards to magazine ads. This is the root of the stereotypical “beautiful” woman has stemmed from. The question though is, is flawless beautiful? And what defines flawless? The number one component seems to be weight. America has become obsessed with a thin, lean body being the ideal image. Hannah Khoury, who grew up in Sierra Leone and now lives in Atlanta, is dismayed by society’s obsession with thinness. “What Americans see as beautiful would not pass in Africa. Here, you have to be real thin, and in Africa, they would not get a second look. Women like that look sickly,” Khoury said.
Because of the mass advertising here in America we see” beautiful” people everywhere. When we open a magazine, we never see an overweight woman on the first page. Instead we see a woman who is 23% skinnier than the average American woman. Advertisers show stunning models living the perfect life to try and entice us into buying their product. They give the illusion that if we buy their product, we will become beautiful and have the desired life. Advertisements don’t try to get us to buy a product so that we will be better people; they sell products because we can be beautiful if we own them. For example, while flipping through the pages of Cosmopolitan there is an advertisement promoting a foundation make-up. This is demonstrated by a face, which has no acne, lengthy eyelashes, thin, perfectly colored lips, and finely plucked eyebrows. We question, “Is this the face we are supposed to strive for?” “Is this what is considered beautiful?” As individuals, we seem to buy into this concept. We strive to fit the description of beauty that society has set for us. We buy the right clothes and cosmetic products. Many of us work out obsessively, and others even develop eating disorders. We are trying to mold ourselves into the outlines for physical attraction society has set for us. For some unknown reason there is something in all of us that feels the need to be beautiful.
Many problems have been raised with today’s youth in America because of this need to feel beautiful. The eating disorder rates have increased severely and cosmetic plastic surgery is becoming more and more popular. Adults and especially young adults are being pressured by the media to have that ideal body type that is being advertised, but at the same time most of our society does not have the body structure to appear that thin. Women are striving for this body image because it is portrayed as the more socially acceptable and beautiful image. Does beauty lead to or create happiness? Maybe…but more than likely is does not.

If I were asked to define beauty, I would say that it is impossible to do, since beauty is different in the eyes of each individual. Although this is true, beauty for women and men does have what I will call parameters that people are encouraged, if not expected, to follow if they want to fit in with how society and culture defines beauty. The feminine beauty ideal is a socially constructed opinion that one of a woman’s most important assets is attractiveness and is something all women should strive to achieve and maintain. In other words, women should try to obtain these ideals in order to be considered beautiful by society’s standards.

Should women wear makeup to work?

You voted: Back

Beauty standards are different around the world. For the purpose of this conversation, let us focus on the construction of beauty standards in the United States. Suntanned skin, a narrower facial shape, high cheekbones, longer eyelashes and fuller lips are just a few of the qualities that are considered attractive in modern, Western society for women. Whether women are conscious of it or not, most are striving to attain the beauty ideals that society perpetuates and encourages.

Many young girls start wearing makeup during their middle school years. The progression of their makeup routines will most often change over the years depending on what goes in and out of style and how their own skills develop. Sometimes, as women’s makeup skills develop they will start wearing even more makeup. Consequently, the endless path of women’s makeup-wearing years commences to an unforeseen end.

Makeup is supposedly for accentuating beauty, but in reality it seems to me that makeup is used more to mask the person behind the makeup. Concealers and foundations certainly contribute to this argument since they are used to essentially camouflage women’s natural faces and skin by creating what looks to be a more even complexion. Wearing makeup on a daily basis can cause a woman’s natural face to be nearly unrecognizable to herself when looking at her own reflection after stripping off her makeup at the end of the day. Therefore, many women feel incomplete when not wearing makeup. Makeup accentuates less and seems to be more of a form of deception.

Some women, particularly older women, believe that women should absolutely wear makeup. These older women are often appalled and can’t grasp the idea of how women go out into public “without their faces on.” I think it is sad that we live in a society in which women feel embarrassed when they are not wearing makeup, yet at the same time I understand it.

There has been a movement of some female celebrities posting photos of themselves without makeup. Alicia Keys declared a couple of years ago that she would no longer be wearing makeup, starting a #NoMakeup movement to make her case. Keys’ reasoning for this was due to her own feelings as she would leave the house without makeup. Her insecurity is what she characterizes as the superficial but honest thoughts she was thinking. She felt that these were unhealthy thoughts, and in response she chose to stop wearing makeup.

While I think what Keys has done is incredibly admirable, it is not completely realistic for those of us who are not celebrities. Women who do not wear makeup can be perceived as lazy or unprofessional, and there is research demonstrating that attractive people tend to earn more in the workplace.

Even more interesting is a study done by the University of Chicago and the University of California at Irvine that suggests that the majority of the salary differences between women of varying attractiveness had to do with grooming, such as not wearing makeup or styling hair. It seems as though so many people say it is a good thing to not wear makeup, that it is a good thing to be your natural self. However, even research has shown that not wearing makeup as a woman can have negative effects in the workplace.

Other celebrities have also posted pictures of themselves without makeup and so many are barely recognizable. Quite frankly, some of the side-by-side photos of celebrities with and without makeup are scary because they are so drastically different. The socially constructed feminine beauty ideal has an effect on how women are perceived in the workplace and in society as a whole. To rid society of the feminine beauty ideal is not realistic. Although I don’t have the answer to the issue of combating the feminine beauty ideal, it is clear that it is not fair for women to suffer consequences in their careers and daily lives because they do not wear makeup.

Knowledge is power, beauty is a weapon and kindness is preservation. It may be sad to say, but for women, to be beautiful is to be powerful. Whether you like it or not, it is true that part of women’s power has to do with their appearance. Don’t get me wrong — intelligence is beautiful, too, but our society also values physical beauty. Beauty is a difficult subject matter because what is considered beautiful is defined differently by everyone. One thing that is for sure though is that beauty can be wielded as a weapon of advantage.

Recently a male colleague mentioned that he’d like to know what women mean when they break down male attractiveness by different markers: handsome, beautiful, cute, sexy, fine, good-looking, etc. I happily accepted the challenge to explain this, but later that day, talking with some lady friends in a group chat, I mentioned that I didn’t really get what there was to “get.” Isn’t it obvious? Aren’t these the same terms men use to talk about women?

I tried to Google it — how women define male attractiveness — and I started to understand why my colleague would want to know. The wiki on physical attractiveness says that “Women, on average, tend to be more attracted to men who have a relatively narrow waist, a V-shaped torso, and broad shoulders.” I brake for upside-down triangles as eagerly as the next gal, but I’m more than just hungry loins, okay? Where was the breakdown of finer distinctions about male attractiveness overall, especially up top in the face? (And down below, in the dick or butt region?)

I found a study about male and female perceptions of physical attractiveness, but it’s actually talking about female attractiveness only — how men and women together feel about whether women’s boobs are good. (Verdict: They’re good.) Another result was about the 11 features men can’t resist in women (high voice, smile, boobs). Finally, there were some results about what makes men attractive to women. But instead of a list of boobs, it was stuff about men being confident and passionate.

So yeah — surprisingly little info out there about the nuances of male physical attractiveness. It’s a shame! You deserve the little ego boost to learn that a lot of male hotness isn’t conventional in, say, the Zac Efron mold. Or that the “Chrises” — yes, even Pratt — look boring. (Fight me.)

It’s not that there isn’t plenty of evidence that women do find men attractive. Enough studies finally exist nowadays to reveal that high-status, older, slightly bearded, somewhat muscular beef slabs like George Clooney are indeed hot. Google the “hottest guys in the world,” though, and it’s a list that includes Blake Shelton and too-thick-wedding-band-wearer Adam Levine, two men who, to me, could not be further apart on the hot spectrum.

So where’s the specific criteria? I guess we just haven’t had the time to devote enough clickbait to counting the highly specific ways we find men attractive. So let me count them.

Handsome: The Classic Look

A handsome man is a man with a face that could be chiseled on a statue representing Timeless Handsome Man Across All Handsomeness of All-Time Handsomeness. This is a judgment of balance and proportion. This means his eyes are spaced apart correctly, he has a forehead (not a threehead or a fivehead) and he has a prominent chin. Cary Grant is handsome. George Clooney is handsome. Idris Elba. Jon Hamm. Johnny Depp. Ryan Gosling.

They have what you’d call “classic” good looks: They exist in every era due to basic facial symmetry, and when you think of being with them, you feel strongly that you would be dressed in evening wear first with the appropriate clutch.

Beautiful: The Dreamy, Inaccessible Look

Handsome men are often beautiful, but beautiful men are not always handsome. Beautiful men have an almost feminine prettiness to their appeal. It evokes, whether real or imagined, a kind of introverted (often unearned) depth, a longing, a dreamy quality. Johnny Depp is both beautiful and handsome, particularly when he was younger and less of an asshole. Zayn Malik and Harry Styles are perfect examples of both, too — they have the same symmetry (or “golden ratio”) of the handsome men, so they could also be considered handsome, but they have a youthful prettiness that also constitutes an overarching beauty. They all also have fairly luscious lips. Compare this to Ryan Gosling, who does not. It’s not that they can’t inspire lust, it’s that they more inspire awe and admiration, a remoteness that is pretty to look at but somewhat inaccessible.

Cute: The Happy, Accessible Look

Stuffed animals, or “stuffies” as children call them, are cute. They are soft and adorable, and as far as I can tell, they would never hit on you. Though cute can be used by any woman as a casual way of saying a man is generally attractive, a cute man is a nonthreateningly attractive man who doesn’t quite look overtly masculine in an aggressively sexual or potent way. He smiles a lot and is accessible, and it’s hard to imagine him making a move. Although I realize someone somewhere has had sex with him, Justin Bieber is the epitome of cute. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is cute. They just don’t have that throw-you-down or lift-you-up-onto-the-nearest-surface-to-fuck vibe that you get in handsome or beautiful men. Cute men never seem to age, which is great for cuteness but terrible for adult hotness.

Good-Looking: The Unremarkable Look

This is a catch-all term, like “attractive” or “hot” or sometimes “cute,” used to simply say a man is a looker in the looks department. But more specifically, it’s a way of describing a perfectly attractive man for whom you have no other specific markers. Good-looking men are all around us all the time and they are perfectly good-looking, but they may not inspire much more than this simple observation. In my view, all of the Chrises are good-looking but otherwise unremarkable.

Sexy: The Unconventional but Masculine Look

Daniel Craig is sexy. I use Daniel Craig as an example because he has a brute masculinity that is extremely commanding without looking conventionally handsome, cute, beautiful or good looking. Sex appeal in men can exist nearly apart from their looks, but let’s not kid ourselves: While sexy men can be unusual-looking, it’s not as if they can be wholly unredeemable if you took away the sexy vibe. Daniel Craig is still a fit, attractive man even if he never smoldered, but it’s the smoldering that makes him sexy. See also: Clive Owen.

Sexy-Ugly: The Buscemi Look

Finally, sexy-ugly, a designation never used for women, is a critical distinction to be made about men. First appearing in an indie flick from director Jennifer Westfeldt in 2001’s Kissing Jessica Stein (with a minor appearance from Jon Hamm, her then-boyfriend), the term is meant to explain a man who is not conventionally good-looking but still pulls off sexy. In the film, Harvey Keitel is used as the standard-bearer, and from talking to many women over the years, Steve Buscemi makes the cut as well. While the term never fully caught on and perhaps signifies an unnecessary crassness, I’ve yet to find a better term to convey this sort of appeal.

In conclusion, I’ve never understood why men always invoke being “more visual” as a major way we’re different sexually, as if women can only determine hotness by Braille. We’re told over and over again that we simply don’t put a premium on it because it simply doesn’t matter as much.

Not true. If we’re less inclined to demand hotness as stringently as men seem to in women, and will gladly accept other traits in its place, that’s not evidence of poor eyesight, it’s evidence of a deeply ingrained system that has made women far more dependent on men historically for money and protection. When you need to eat and not die, you’re probably not going to sweat whether a guy’s jawline is up to snuff so much.

Women spend their lives destined to be cute when they want to be beautiful, sexy when they want to be pretty, hot when they’d rather be gorgeous, and so on. That hasn’t changed in the slightest. What has changed is that if nothing else, greater economic independence for women has granted us the same shallowness men have long held a monopoly on admitting. That’s a good thing for us. For you? I guess it depends on where you fall on this list.

Tracy Moore

Tracy Moore is a staff writer at MEL. She covers all the soft sciences like psychology, sex, relationships and parenting, but since this is a men’s magazine, occasionally the hard ones. Formerly at Jezebel.

Read: The financial benefits of being beautiful

The problem starts with brain chemistry. “When you see an attractive person, the left ventral tegmental area of the brain becomes active and will pump out dopamine,” says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist who studies attraction at the Kinsey Institute. “Dopamine is a stimulant to the brain, so some people might react with surprise or awkwardness.” That feeling is the weak-kneed giddiness that very attractive people can inspire, which can leave you fumbling for words and feeling off balance, even though a dopamine rush is a fundamentally pleasurable experience.

Based on Fisher’s research, which used fMRI scans to observe the brain lighting up in response to stimuli, the left ventral tegmental area (commonly referred to as the left VTA) is responsible for pleasurable reactions to beauty. Meanwhile, the right VTA provides the dopamine that fuels romantic love; the two responses are similar but neurologically distinct, which means that what people feel when they see a random pretty face isn’t necessarily a desire for romance or even sex. “The same thing probably happens when you look at a good painting,” says Fisher. “It can pump out the dopamine and perhaps make you slightly giddy.”

The left VTA appraises and appreciates what you see, but lighting up that part of the brain doesn’t necessarily make you want to interact with the person whose appearance gives you pleasure, which is why most people don’t try to ask out every hot person they see. The stress I felt wasn’t the same as a fear of rejection; my hot surgeon wasn’t even my type. Instead, I panicked because of a key difference between gazing at a painting and a hottie: A painting doesn’t judge you back.

That’s where a second, potentially more nefarious brain chemical comes in: cortisol. That’s the stress hormone that gets blamed for everything from weight gain to road rage, and Fisher thinks a cortisol spike is probably what I experienced when surprised by my extraordinarily attractive doctor. “Some people may see someone beautiful and feel very inadequate. Then cortisol would go up,” she says. A spike in the hormone can trigger a fight-or-flight response, which could be why my brain hurtled toward intense irritation and embarrassment at beautiful strangers in situations where I was at a disadvantage: when I was sick, in the middle of moving, or watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta inside my own apartment.

Read: The charisma effect

“It’s the context of who you are, how you feel about yourself, if you enjoy surprises—lots of things,” Fisher says. It doesn’t help that American culture tends to code physical beauty as an indicator of overall superiority, which can make the sense of inadequacy in these interactions particularly stressful.

While people’s brains certainly enjoy beauty, our appreciation is often not that straightforward, because our perceptions are also influenced by everything else about a particular interaction. Indeed, researchers have found that the adrenaline rush created by fear can make other people seem more attractive in the immediate aftermath. And if you’re already feeling good, Fisher says, suddenly encountering an attractive person can make you feel even better by triggering a dip in cortisol levels. In hindsight, that happens to me even more frequently than the panic I had with my surgeon, but humans tend to have better recall for negative memories than positive ones.

Redefining Notions of Beauty in Today’s Society

Social constructs highly influence Asian men and women within the interpersonal relations in the patriarchal system.

Women are subject to what society defines as beautiful: small waists, long legs, narrow hips, long shining hair, white flawless skin and slim body. As for men, they are judged by muscle, tone, shape, hairy or hairless chests and any other masculine characteristics that determine beauty today. So, it is noticeable that the body size of men and women portrayed in mass media has steadily been declining in size. This, in effect, represents the new beauty trend in society.

That being said, body image of men and women is inevitably referred to as thin-ideal media. The term ‘thin-ideal media’ highlights the idea that being thin is good and desirable, even if it damages one’s health. For these reasons, eating disorders are often related to ideal body stereotype internalisation. Researchers later found that anorexic and bulimia are a result of that drive to be thin, which arises from being dissatisfied with one’s looks.

On the other hand, the ideal concept of beauty in today’s society has been counter-attacked by those who are against the thin-ideal concept of beauty – the ones who find beauty in curves. However the criticism has gone way too far to eating disorders and obesity.

According to health researchers Schwartz and Brownell the link between weight and body image is complex. They argue that body image might be affected by obesity through psychological distress, thus giving an impact on the quality of life.

Binge eating is apparently common among people with eating disorders and people who are obese. People with anorexia and bulimia have binge eating disorder then purge by vomiting using laxatives or other means. Study reveals that binge eating that is not followed by purging may affect to weight gain.

Obesity, from a psychological point of view, is seen as one of the most stigmatising phenomena. Bias against obese individuals, according to Puhl and Heuer in a 2009 report stated that it is socially acceptable yet pervasive influence on our culture intimately related to injurious results including mental health and physical complications, such as poor cardiovascular health and overall health-related disease.

For these reasons, being obsessed with thin-ideal concept of beauty or with beauty in curves can be profound, as both are at significant health risks, and cuts life expectancy. Through this, beauty standards have a chance at being redefined.

_______
This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine July 2018 issue “Health in a Era of Urbanisation”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.

The Outlook

Beauty Standards: Today’s Society

  • Email

Details Category: Volume 90 (Fall 2017 – Spring 2018) Published: 14 February 2018 Written by EMILY CONDRON | STAFF WRITER

Beauty standards in the 21st century have been filled with negative stereotypes for both men and women. Being harmful for all, these standards lead to one being filled with depression, negative self-image, and even anxiety due to not being able to love themselves fully.

After not fulfilling the stereotypes of what society believes someone should be, these boys and girls live their lives in a silent pain.Many view themselves as “too fat” or “too ugly” to live through everyday life. Young men and women are led to believe that they do not fit the unrealistic beauty standards presented to them.

Due to this, boys and girls isolate themselves, causing their childhoods to be filled with bad memories and no social skills for later in life. Even though society wants to believe that these instances only occur during the adolescent years of one’s life, these issues are also present in the older years too. How crazy is it that even at 18 to 25 years old people judge each other based on weight, how much makeup someone wears, or what brand clothes someone has on?

Katlin Onorato, a sophomore social work student, explained that “ has been exposed to such rude and childish behavior, but it has only made her realize that loves self more.” Though Kate has turned her experience into a positive one, she is in the small percentage capable of doing this. There are those at Monmouth who haven’t been as lucky. For example, Shannon McGorty, a sophomore health studies student, stated that “even now there are many who judge me for not being the size of a toothpick and for not dressing in a tube top and mini skirt to go out to parties.”

Being a part of the younger generations in the 21st century has made living through with these pressures even more difficult. Fear has even been implanted into the minds of those who suffer from these harsh beauty standards.

In personal experiences, there have been friends who texted me and have said “I do not want to go to school. I am scared of what they will call me today.” Who should fear even leaving their house because the general public is unable to understand that everyone is different in shape, size, and in personality and style?

If someone is content being thirty pounds overweight and wearing sweatpants every day, why single them out? Why cause someone misery for your enjoyment?

When talking to Dr. Frank Fury, adjunct professor of English, his comments on the beauty standards were quite interesting. Fury explained his opinion, “I think beauty standards are damaging in that they promote the idea that there is one universal ideal of beauty, which historically has aligned with the physical traits of Caucasians. It sends the message that if you are someone of color or someone who happens not to share these ‘ideal’ traits in some form or other, then that must mean that you are not attractive.”

“Clearly this can have far-reaching psychological and emotional effects not just on young girls but all of us,” he said.

To correlate to the damage that he talks about in his quote, Fury says to “Read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison,” and this will lead anyone to the exact type of destructive mental and emotional behavior behind his quote.

In Colbi Callait’s song Try, it lays out how humans should treat one another and the difficult struggles of younger adults, mainly girls, but boys can relate as well.

As Matthew Jones, a junior computer science student, stated, “People need to learn that being nice and caring towards one another is so much easier and healthier than all this negativity.”

PHOTO TAKEN by Nicole Riddle

In 1990, I was just a little kid, but my ideas of physical beauty were already beginning to take shape. I knew my mother, an Hispanic woman who then was about 40, was the most beautiful woman alive; my father, a short 50-year-old Jewish guy, was the most handsome man. But they were stark exceptions; I mainly idealized younger, blonde and perky-nosed celebrities like Michelle Pfeiffer, who graced the cover People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People In The World” issue that year.

Twenty-seven years later, People’s curious tradition of ranking celebrity beauty continues, but as new research from JAMA Dermatology shows, the mag’s criteria for its annual feature appears to have changed over time. 2017’s edition of “The World’s Most Beautiful” is an improvement on 1990’s issue in that it is more diverse, allotting more coverage to people of color and to folks over 35 years old.

Here’s a comparative breakdown:

  • In 1990, the percentage of white people featured: 76 percent. In 2017, this number was at 60 percent.
  • In 1990, people between the ages of 45 and 54 represented four percent of the list; in 2017, this age group accounted for 19.3 percent.
  • In 1990, 88 percent the skin tones featured were predominantly of the lightest shades, falling between type I and type II on the Fitzpatrick scale (a numerological system doctors use to determine how susceptible skin is to UV rays; type 1 is the fairest and most likely to burn); types IV through VI (moderate brown to darkest brown) accounted for a wimpy 12 percent. In 2017, these darker shades made up 29.6 percent.

The differences between 1990 and today were not ones that the paper’s co-author, Dr. Neelam Vashi, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine was anticipating. In fact, when she and her team embarked on the research, they were working with the hypothesis that beauty standards had not much changed.

In 1990, people between the ages of 45 and 54 represented four percent of the list. In 2017, this age group accounted for 19.3 percent.

“I thought it would be static — that diversity and aging would not be embraced much more now than then,” says Vashi. “Perhaps because I run a cosmetic center, I just thought that things would have been relatively the same.”

Vashi added that her team elected People magazine to run their hypothesis because of its mass appeal.

“Reportedly People has the largest audience of any American magazine and its annual ‘Most Beautiful’ spread has been published for almost three decades,” says Vashi.” People did not return our request for comment.

The ‘Exposure Effect’ and Why Diversity in Beauty Matters

One major reason we may be seeing more nonwhite or “other” races (the study’s word, not ours) on People’s lists is because of the “exposure effect,” Dr. Frank Niles, a social scientist, explains.

Get the better newsletter.

“The exposure effect is a basic psychological idea: The more we are exposed to something, the more attracted to it we may become,” says Dr. Niles. “As a society, we have become more aware of the need and the value of diversity, and I think it is safe to say there are more people of color in positions of cultural visibility across a wider range of platforms.”

To be clear, it’s not like people of color (POC) haven’t been here and beautiful for the past bajillion years; it’s that only recently is Hollywood recognizing POC in a significant way, and transmitting that recognition to the public. In 1990, American women with brown skin such as my mother (still a loyal People subscriber!) had very little representation. And I can see now how that must not have been easy for her. I remember when I was a teenager, she’d study my hands, marvel at my fair skin and tell me I looked like Winona Ryder.

Gabriela Garcia, an editor with ModernBrownGirl.com, poignantly recalls the feeling of looking nothing like the celebrities she grew up idolizing in the ‘90s.

“When I was a teenager, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy were the women I emulated,” said Garcia, now 39-years-old. “They were tall, lithe and had long flowing hair. I looked nothing like them. I was short, brown and hairy, with an overabundance of curves.”

Garcia points to Jennifer Lopez as a notable catalyst (Lopez, by the way, was named People Magazine’s ‘most beautiful woman’ in 2011).

Women like J-Lo and Kim Kardashian have really helped promote body confidence for women who are not tall, blonde and white.

“The rise of Jennifer Lopez was really important for young Latinas in the U.S,” says Garcia. “For the first time, a brown girl with curves was popular and mainstream. She didn’t shy away from her Latina-ness. I think she paved the way for other types of beauty. It wasn’t until the media started to show women of different colors, sizes, and cultures that I began to realize that I was beautiful. And as silly as it sounds, women like J-Lo and Kim Kardashian have really helped promote body confidence for women who are not tall, blonde, and white.”

Alas, We’ve Got Work To Do

If we’re to look at People’s “Most Beautiful” lists as a mirror of what the mainstream media accepts and promotes as beautiful, then it’s clear we’ve made some progress. But as Dr. Catherine Kerrison, a professor of history, and of gender and women’s studies at Villanova University notes, “This isn’t cause for celebration.” Why not? Well, let’s have a look at those numbers again.

In 2017, People magazine featured 135 people in its “most beautiful” issue. That’s 85 more than were included in 1990. That alone signifies that this is in part a numbers game. In other words, of course more types of people are included, there’s more than double the amount of people being shown. But that’s not what really concerns Dr. Kerrison. She’s thinking about this number right here: In 1990, men made up nearly half (48 percent) of People’s list; in 2017 they made up 11.9 percent. So, out of 135 people, only 16 were dudes.

This is concerning because it suggests that women, no matter how talented, successful, influential, powerful, and so on, it’s her beauty that stands out.

“There are clearly many more women operating in visible and awesome ways in public life today than there were 30 years ago,” says Kerrison. “Yet in spite of women’s advances, beauty is being constituted primarily as female. As any woman in the public eye knows, it’s crucial to her acceptance, her success that she present herself in ways that are acceptable to this standard. I can’t say I am surprised, but the bottom line is: Women will be evaluated by standards of beauty and though those standards are expanding they are still critical to our success.”

Glorifying the success of women by emphasizing their appearance only adds to the insane pressures women may be feeling.

Arguably, the message being sent is that yes, ladies, there are more ways to be beautiful, but you’ve still got be beautiful.

Dr. Anna Yusim, a psychiatrist and the author of “Fulfilled: How the Science of Spirituality Can Help You Live a Happier, More Meaningful Life”, points out that one reason women could be highlighted more than men is because the word “beautiful” has an effeminate association, whereas men typically lean toward the word “handsome.” But, still glorifying the success of women by emphasizing their appearance only adds to the insane pressures women may be feeling, notes Yusim.

Two Powerhouse Women Share Their Secrets to Success

Oct. 31, 201702:38

And so, it’s important to remember that these constructs of beauty, whether you meet them or not, whether you even care about them or not: they aren’t set in stone. Conventions of beauty change, just look at old Renaissance paintings that depict generous bellies and undulating curves as the quintessence of elegance.

What’s more, with the advent of social media, we are able to set our own bars, start our own trends and flaunt our own ideas of and experiments in beauty. And even if today we are enthralled by caterpillar-thick brows and middle-parted hairdos, we tend not to forget where beauty really lies: on the inside. It’s corny, but it’s true, and that beauty doesn’t come and go, it grows.

Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Body & Beauty Standards

With images of ideal beauty bombarding us daily, it is easy to forget that standards of beauty are arbitrary and they vary greatly both from one culture to another and over time.

Such variations in ideals of beauty often reflect the roles women and men are expected to fulfill in a given society. For instance, in contexts where women are valued mainly for their fertility—their ability to bear and nurture children—often full-bodied women with broad hips and ample breasts are considered the most beautiful. In societies such as Fiji, large bodies are a symbol of one’s status and power. It is not surprising, therefore, that individuals who would be classified as obese in the US are considered the most attractive and desirable members of this culture.

But as social conditions and gender roles change, so do ideas about beauty. Consider some recent changes in the US. In the 1960s and 70s, beauty ideals for women shifted from the mature curvaceous body of stars such as Marilyn Monroe to the stick-thin, flat-chested figure epitomized by supermodels such as Twiggy or Kate Moss. The compelling fact here is that just as women started to make dramatic gains in the areas of education, employment and politics, the ideal female body began to look like a malnourished preadolescent girl, weak, emaciated and non-threatening. Women may have been gaining in freedom and power, but they were increasingly encouraged to discipline their bodies through diet and exercise to conform to ideals that were almost impossible to achieve.

Ask yourself…

Why is the American body ideal for women so thin today? And why is the body ideal for men so large and muscular?

Does this tell us anything about the roles we expect men and women to fulfill?

Can you think of any “plus-size” celebrities today? How are they portrayed?

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *