Fat Shaming Week has been all over the news lately. It was started by a male-rights website that is crowing with delight at all the coverage in news media over the twitter fights between the fat-shamers and….well, everyone else.
Out of curiosity, I looked up some studies. Some interesting notes on male/female attraction:
- In countries with high socioeconomic status, female body dissatisfaction and desire for thinness are commonplace. In cultures with low socioeconomic status, heavier bodies were preferred.
- In personal ads, women are likely to offer their weight and ask for height info from men. Men are more likely to offer height and seek weight. Researchers interpreted this to reflect the influence of the “male taller norm” in mate selection, as well as a societal bias toward thinness in women.
- Men place greater value on physical attractiveness than do women.
- Men tend to believe they look better (thinner) than they really do. Women tend to think they look worse (fatter) than they really do.
- Even after cosmetic surgery, a person’s underlying personality can override any cosmetic changes in how others rate their attractiveness.
- Our way of looking at bodies today expresses a “cosmetic gaze”; a gaze already informed by the techniques, expectations and strategies of body modification and a way of looking at bodies as awaiting an improvement.
- Weight and skin color stereotypes, when combined, have interesting effects. Thin white men are perceived to be more intelligent, more successful, and more competent than their thin black counterparts. However, these results reverse when the men are overweight: overweight black men are seen as more intelligent and more competent than overweight white men. They are also seen as more successful and hardworking and more masculine.
- Women with normal weight and low waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) are viewed as more attractive by both women and men. Scientists found that these same traits positively correlate with women’s reproductive endocrinological status and long-term health risk (aka normal weight women are healthier). This supports the mate selection theories that what we perceive as beautiful are usually reliable signals of a woman’s reproductive potential (same goes for men and “masculine” characteristics such as being tall, broad shouldered, square jawed, etc.)
- Men and women both have distorted perceptions of others’ ideal body shapes. Women believe men and other women prefer thinner body types than they actually do. Men believe women and other men see large physiques as ideal and desirable.
- A British study found that both sexes preferred underweight women, with unhealthy body mass.
- A study on adolescents in eight different countries found that males were more satisfied with their bodies than females. Males generally had a lower BMI than females, except for males in China and Malaysia.
- Men and women prefer physical attractiveness in potential partners more than high status. For men, dating attractiveness (as perceived by women) correlated with a kind and charismatic appearance.
- Couples tend to date and marry someone of comparable attractiveness, those who have about as much to offer overall as they do. The better looking a man or woman, the more loving, kind, rich, and socially powerful a partner he or she is likely to attract. However, the more similar the couples were in physical appeal, the more delighted they seemed to be with one another, as reflected in intimate teaching. (Other studies have shown that partners who are genetically similar to each other tend to have happier marriages).
One last thought:
“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.” – Naomi Wolf