By Guest Blogger Maddie Wadington
If you’ve been reading Time Magazine, The Guardian, Glamour, or just about any popular magazine or newspaper of late, you’ve seen reports of a new study that compares men and women’s perceptions of beauty. The researchers asked both men and women to judge which photo of a model, wearing various amounts of makeup, was the most attractive to them, which photo would be the most attractive to other men, and which photo would be the most attractive to other women. Both men and women believed that the models wearing more makeup would be judged as more attractive by men. Interestingly, that wasn’t the case. Results showed that more women than men preferred the model wearing more makeup.
So what’s going on here? The researchers conclude that women are holding themselves to a standard of beauty that does not exist. Well, yes, that sounds right. But in spite of their findings, these researchers assume this standard of beauty is created and maintained solely by men, reflecting their version of attractiveness. This doesn’t make sense to me. We’re bombarded 24-7 with photoshopped beauty ideals, so doesn’t media play an overwhelmingly large role, not only in the creation of this “make believe” version of beauty but also in maintaining this standard in girls’ and women’s everyday lives?
Sure, maybe there are more men making decisions about what images are created and sold, but are they doing this because of what they individually like or because they know what sells to women—what makes women anxious enough to say, “I want what she’s having?” Isn’t the bottom line all about marketing and money and grabbing women’s attention (and as we’ve seen from the likes of Veet’s recent ad campaign, anything goes). Isn’t the corporate bottom line and not individual male desire responsible for perpetuating these unrealistic beauty standards?
It is also interesting to note that the Time Magazine article that I read about this study was titled: “Science Shows Men Like Women With Less Makeup.” But I have to wonder, why is the emphasis placed on how men prefer women? What about considering how women view other women? From my experience, girls and women compare their own beauty to that of other girls and women (just like girls and women do in the media). Could the results of this study–women preferring the model with more makeup—simply be due to the pressures they feel to look like the models they see in magazines?
When we think about how males and females perceive beauty, it’s important to consider more than just the physical attractiveness between men and women. In our society, there are so many more factors affecting what we think of as attractive: like media, marketing, and the ways they impact our views of each other. This isn’t just about gender or even about biology. Only when we consider the larger forces at play here can we affect how these unrealistic beauty standards affect our relationships and how we feel about ourselves. Only then can our voices can be heard.