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Sometimes the Science is Irrelevant : Dissecting the so-called “perfect woman” article

by on 2017/09/11

Every so often, an article comes along that purports to be based in quantitative research, where we in RtH don’t particularly care whether the research is represented well or not.  A good example is the recent Daily Mail piece on “the perfect woman“, which collates quantitative measures of various aspects of the female body in an attempt to find what features are “the most attractive”.

At this point, I would normally attempt to find the research quoted, describe it to you and then review the journalist’s attempts to convey the same information. I’m not going to do that here, for a host of reasons.

Firstly, the article is a grab bag of various research papers/press statements, none of which are linked to or cited appropriately.  There is no discussion of how features are determined to be “attractive”. After all, attractiveness is a property that varies greatly between cultures, and most studies use participants falling into the WEIRD category (White Educated Industrialised Rich Democratic). Also, the article relies on explanations harking back to cave-people, which should immediately raise alarm bells, as these “just-so” explanations using early humans often have little to no basis in established fact.

Finally, even if the science contained is sound, the article’s ultimate aim is negative. The use of this research to objectify women, deconstructing them into their component body parts and identifying “the best”, goes against decades of efforts to prevent body dysmorphic and eating disorders in women and girls. The Mail article does try to offer balanced body statements, such as suggesting that underweight body types are “less attractive”, but I find it difficult to believe such statements would be helpful to women struggling with body image issues.

<sarcasm> I look forward to the accompanying article deconstructing male attractiveness <\sarcasm>

From → Health, Psychology

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