Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Off-the-cuff response to a recent "scientific" study

A local news station did a segment on a study conducted recently on what men and women perceive as "attractive" in the opposite sex. To their credit, they included a wide range of ages for both sexes - I think it was from mid-twenties to late sixties.

Ignoring the heteronormativity of the study for a moment (did they ensure that those surveyed were actually attracted to the opposite sex, or did they just assume it?), there were several things problematic with it.

First, it found that men were attracted to women who are young and "beautiful." As the news anchor said, "duh." But wait a minute - what do they mean by "beautiful"? Are we going by the scientists' standard, or the standard of society at large or what?

This fuzzy terminology is made more problematic because the study claims that men have a narrower perception of attractiveness than women, who were all over the place (cuz who knows what women want, amirite?). But depending on how you're defining "beautiful," you could include a very large or very small portion of the population.

Could it be that hetero men are afforded a wider definition of "beautiful" than women because of their priveleged position in society? A narrow definition of "beautiful" is one more way to control women - you must adhere to this unreasonable standard to be accepted in society, and since few to no women can meet that standard, society is justified in giving them the shaft, etc etc. This is a pretty basic idea in feminism.

Conversely - could it be that, because women are assumed to be "non-visually" stimulated, society has focused less on what women find visually attractive and therefore women have been given more freedom to develop their tastes without societal pressure? Think about it - there's really only one type of woman that's portrayed as "attractive" in mass media: thin, white, young, large-breasted, etc. If that's the only option that men are given, then of course that's what they're going to find attractive; to be attracted to (or admit being attracted to, at least) anything else is to be labeled a deviant, a weirdo, a freak, what have you.

The study concluded that men (the poor dears) would have a harder time finding a "mate" (their word) because there would be higher competition for fewer women.

And yet it seems that hetero and bisexual men across America have no problem falling deeply, passionately, head-over-heels in love with all types of women - large, small, black, white, brown, able-bodied, disabled, you name it. Isn't that something to be considered?

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