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Outline – Survival of the Prettiest, Nancy Etcoff

 

Chapter 3:  “Pretty Pleases”

 

I.          Fair Sex?

 

A.     More women than men diet and women outnumber in eating disorders nine to    one.  Eighty nine percent of patients for “aesthetic procedures” done by

      members of the ASPRS in 1996 were women.  For two reasons:

1.      Men value the looks of their sexual and romantic partners more than

      women do- or at least they say and think they do and have said so and   

      thought so for a long time.

 

2.      And men spend more time staring at women, than women do at men. 

      (pornography has never been able to engage the imaginations of most

       women the way it does most men.) Because it engages fantasies of 

        men:  quick sex, anonymous sex, visual thrills.

 

II.         Young Love

A.     Physical beauty is like athletic skills:  it peaks young.  Extreme beauty is rare,  

      and almost always found, if at all, in people before they reach age thirty-five.

B.     Women try more desperately to hold onto youth because it is men who often

       seek young partners.

C.     Usually it is once men get into their thirties that they begin to fetishize

       younger women.  If men marry a second time, their wives are on average five 

       years younger

                   than them. 

                        1.  Men may desire this for longings for his own youth, the desire to play a

            father figure, the need to dominate and control, but the mating statistics suggest that marrying younger women may simply reflect men’s desire to mate with a maximally fertile woman, or at least one who looks that way.

D.      The media presents us with male mating preferences unconstrained by reality.  

       (Nick Nolte at 53 with Julia Roberts at 27 in I love Trouble.)

 

III.  Marrying Up

 

A.     The best looking girls in high school are more than ten times as likely to get

       married as the least good-looking.  Better looking girls tend to marry men

       with more education and income than they have.  While a man’s looks in high  

       school or his looks at an age do not predict whether he will marry or the

       financial status of his future mate.

B.     There is little evidence that women with greater intelligence have any

       advantage on the marriage market.  On the contrary, in one recent study of

       more than ten thousand men and women in Wisconsin, women who had

       never married turned out to be significantly more intelligent than the women

       who had married.

C.     Good looks are a woman’s most fungible asset, exchangeable for social   

      position, money even love.  And aside from attracting the attention of men,

      what is most interesting is that it is also exchanged for interest from women

      and even children.

1.      Because beauty is convertible into other assets that people covet, for

example, wealthy, connections, surplus suitors, and so on.

 

IV.  Beauty Envy

 

A.     Earlier, I said that there are two reasons that women care so much about 

      beauty, the first is men, the second is women.  Women’s glances can be as

      scrutinizing as the male gaze, only more critical.  Root:  female competition

      for males.

B.     Why so much self-denigration and envy?  Because every woman somehow

       finds herself, without her consent, entered into a beauty contest with every

       other woman.

 

V.  The Biology of Beauty

 

A.     Why such emphasis on looks?  Sex.  The biological purpose of sex is

       reproduction, not fun or friendship or the communing of souls.  And our

       ancestor’s bodies solved the adaptive problem of how to signal their

       suitability as potential mates.  These biological signals are different from the

       gestures of courtship and flirtation, these are easy reads of healthy, fertile

       bodies.

B.     Human sexual displays are specifically designed to inflame our desires, and

      therein lies the secret of their unnerving power.  Even if as writer Jayce Joyner

      says “If the sixties was all about sex without babies, the nineties is all about

      babies without sex.”  Sex is more often a source of pleasure now than making

      a baby.  Even so, we would still not be having sex or wanting sex with the

      vast majority of people we see and meet in a lifetime.  But our minds are 

      products of a world that was tribal, not global, where birth was not controlled,

      where the average number of years of life was forty, not seventy, and where

      infants and children often died before reaching maturity.  A biological system

      that automatically scanned everyone for sneaky feelings for strangers and

      sexual reactions to faces and bodies we may wish we could evaluate more

      neutrally.

 

VI.  Fertility Goddess

 

A.     Why does man care about a woman’s nulliparous status?  (never before

                   having had a baby.) 

1.      According to Donald Symons two reasons:  one is interest in female

      fertility- he wants to be the father of all her babies.  two- relation

      between fertility and first birth.  The best way to find a fertile woman

     was to grab her young and before she started making babies. 

 

VII.  The Importance of Being Resourceful

 

A.     Male looks are important in establishing dominance hierarchies among me. 

      Males form ranks quickly, even as boys.  I.e.:  in boys’ campus, within in an

      hour rank-order develops.  The top-ranked boy is not necessarily the biggest,

      but often the best-looking, most athletic boy who shows the most mature

      physique. 

B.   Later in life, handsome men are still the leaders of the pack. 

C.   But it isn’t enough for strong men to battle each other for the hearts (and

      bodies) of women:  they need to appeal to the women directly.  One way they

      do this is through displays of their status and resources.

 

VIII.  Category Crisis

A.     If women had the same access to resources that men have, would the two

      sexes be more similar in their mating preferences and priorities?

1.      Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs found, “So men represent fifty

                              percent of the world’s population, they perform nearly two-thirds of all 

      working hours, receive only one-tenth of the world income and own

      less than one percent of world property.” 

2.      But the evidence so far is that women with high incomes or with

financial security want men with even greater assets. 

3.      In the same study though that showed women medical students want

mates who make the same or higher income, sixty percent of the male medical students said that they preferred a mate who made less money than they did and forty perfect preferred a spouse whose occupational status was lower than theirs.

 

Explanations for this strange phenomenon:  Helen Fisher, anthropologist, demonstrates that divorce rates soar when women achieve economic independence. 

 

Gary Becker, economist, applies the logic of “gain from trades” to explain the female migration.  If Japan makes better TVs and US makes better airplanes, a trade will be advantageous to both.  (two high money makers) The woman who hunts and gathers may feel less of a need for a fellow hunter for whom she must still gather for. 

 

IV.  Money

 

A.     Good-looking men are more likely to get hired, at a higher salary, and to be

       promoted faster than unattractive men.

 

B.     For women, the relation between appearance and success at work is less

straightforward.  Good-looking women, like good-looking men, are more l

 likely to be hired and to receive higher salaries.  But this is not always true. 

A few studies show that good-looking women actually fare worse than plainer

women, because there beauty can “backfire.” 

1.      In one study, good-looking women were less likely to be made a partner in a law firm, in another they were less likely to be made a partner in a law firm, in another they were less likely to be hired for managerial positions.  Two explanations: good-looking people get “sex-typed”, men-look masculine.  women-look feminine, therefore submissive and overly sexual countering the tough and decisive workplace, man’s qualities.

C.     In sum, the economics of being female are never particularly advantageous.  A good-looking woman with high career aspirations may be penalized for her looks because she is assumed to be “too feminine” to do a high-powered job efficiently.  She may be sexually harassed by men, and envied and left out by other women.  But it is homely women who are truly disadvantaged economically- they are less likely to get hired or to earn competitive salaries at work.  they are less likely not to marry, and less likely if they do marry to marry a man with resources.  These facts alone drive high consumption of

beauty products.  It may not always pay to look great but it pays to look

average.

 

VIII.  Happiness

 

A.     Psychologists Ed Diener and David Myers have studied what makes people

happy.  Conclusion:  “Beauty in fact does not bring much extra in the way of

happiness.” 

1.      Biggest effect:  satisfaction with one’s romantic life.  Here the good-

looking are happier.  But somehow this does not lead to greater overall

satisfaction.

B.     Why doesn’t beauty, that brings so many advantages, bring more happiness?  They believe that happiness has more to do with personal qualities such as optimism, a sense of personal control, self-esteem, ability to tolerate frustration, and feelings of comfort with and affection for people than with looks or money.  They note that it is human nature to keep adjusting expectations according to circumstances- the more we get, the more we want since we are always comparing ourselves with people who have more.

C.  So, people, the key to happiness is being able to occasionally override the

            more-is-better attitude and appreciate and feel gratitude for what you have. 

D.     Studies of twins suggest that happiness may be partly under the control of the

genes.

 

The Downside of Beauty:  people assume that the beautiful may make less faithful partners and may be more likely to seek a divorce.  Beautiful women may be seen as less likely to make good mothers, and beautiful men may get questioned about their sexual orientation, no matter what their preference.  Beauty is not a sure road to happiness.

 

 

Chapter 4:  “Cover Me”

 

I.                    Skin and hair are the most universally desirable human features.

A.      Skin is the body’s most aesthetic organ.

B.       Hair is alluring, but only when found on the head.

C.      Skin and hair stir visual, tactile, and olfactory sensations and memories.

II.                 “Naked”

A.      Why are we covered with skin and not fur?

B.       There are several advantages to having skin.

C.      What is the function of skin?

III.               “Groomed”

A.      Grooming has served as a means of staying healthy and of social bonding.

B.       Touch is a powerful concept and has had dramatic effects on people.

C.      The industry of grooming is a multi-million dollar one…and growing.

D.      What are the origins of grooming?

IV.              “Rubbed, Poured, Sprinkled, Sprayed”

A.      Archaeologists have found conclusive evidence that face painting (makeup) was an ancient practice.

B.       Cosmetics have been around a long time and are not the result of modern cultural pressures.

V.                 “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow”

A.      Compared to the face, we pay relatively little attention to the rest of our body…but we love to remove hair.

B.       Why is that?

C.      And what about the wonderful world of waxing?

D.      Women are not the only ones who remove hair, but men do it for different reasons.

VI.              “The Decorated Body”

A.      Tattooing is an ancient body art, originating in Nubia.

B.       Cicatrization is a form of scarring the body, another type of tattoo.

C.      Piercing is also an ancient practice, done for a variety of reasons.

VII.            “Face Paint”

A.      This is a body art practiced by both sexes, but it is mostly a “woman thing.”

B.       The Greeks and Romans used paint to give the illusion of clear, smooth skin.

C.      The Chinese and Japanese cultures value smooth, pale skin.

D.      Why do people paint their faces white and their cheeks and lips red?

VIII.         “Why Marilyn Became a Blonde and Elvis Dyed His Hair Black”

A.      Fair, blushing skin is a sign of youth and health.

B.       Boys’ features tend to darken at the onset of puberty.

C.      Marilyn and Elvis exaggerated their respective femininity and masculinity.

D.      Health, age, and sexual interest is easier to detect on a fair-skinned person.

IX.              “Skin Tight”

A.      A young person’s skin looks fresher and newer because it is.

B.       Health and habits, such as smoking and tanning, play a role in the quality of a person’s skin.

C.      Why is this so?

D.      Cosmetic surgery is a growing industry, particularly in the U.S., and specifically in California.

E.       The newest trend seems to be “age dropping,” where people are having cosmetic procedures performed even before the signs of aging have a chance to set in.

X.                 Blemishes

  1. more women are more likely to seek doctors help for acne
  2. men usually have more of a problem with acne

1. excess oil is produced by androgens (male hormone)

2.      men produce 10x the amount of androgens as women produce them

XI.              acne in young women

A.     maybe signs of abnormal amount of androgens

B.     might have ovulatory dysfunction

XII.            people with problems of acne tend to also have excess hair on the face and other       parts of the body

XIII.         in menopause acne shows that the estrogen level is low and does not fight the effect of androgens

 

XIV.         Plastic Surgery

  1. women seek plastic surgery in attempt to preserve or regain their youth
  2. face-lifts make people look younger and happier

1.      women faces are more animated than men’s

2.      muscles are attached directly to the skin which show a range of feelings

3.      because of both a and b women’s faces grow to look unhappy and grouchy

 

XV.           Beauty is being light skinned

  1. the first settlers from the European world were white and dominant over the Indians, who had darker skin

1.      the first Miss America in 1921 was white

2.      Miss America had been white until in 1984 it went to Vanessa Williams, who is light skinned with light eyes

3.      Twenty years after Barbie came out, Mattel finally introduced “Black Barbie and “Hispanic Barbie” (this also happens to the same year that Playboy Playmate of the year went to an African American woman)

4.      In 1996 African Americans spent 3x more per capita than other consumer groups on cosmetics, toiletries, and grooming

  1. in 1991 the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York reviewed 27 magazines and 157 fashion catalogues

1.      96% to be white

2.      findings are that magazines just won’t sell as well if darker skinned people are on the cover, especially in Brazil

3.      African Americans spent over 173 million on magazines in 1992, advertisers believe that putting an African American woman on the cover will decrease sales

  1. in 1994 reviewing 205 models out of various magazines

1.      10 were African American

2.      6 were “Asian and other”

  1. Newsweek predicts that non-Hispanic will drop from 74% to 53% in the year 2050 and this number will continue to decline

 

 

XVI.         A head of hair is to attract mates

  1. color, shine, texture, perfume, and movement are extremely important
  2. hair is second to flawless skin when attracting mates
  3. when women play with their hair  by flinging and flipping it, she is signaling sexual interest
  4. many cultures after marriage insist that women cover their hair fearing it might be too sexually alluring
  5. big hair in past history has always been popular

1.      John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever  and James Brown known for the hair

2.      The Beatles wore their hair long

3.      Men in New Guinea build large wigs when courting women

4.      Past history European males in the 18th century wore big wigs

  1. hair grows fastest on females between the ages of 16 and 24

1.   if a person were to never cut their hair, it would grow to be 2 or 3 feet long

3.      hair reflects history

4.      long hair is considered beautiful

 

XVII.      Balding

  1. stress can be one cause to hair loss
  2. is influenced by health and diet

1.      during low grazing periods, animals have less hair

2.      anorexics loss hair from starvation

  1. hair is controlled by androgens, hormones

1.      no mater how high the level of androgens, men can still go bald according to genetic predisposition

2.      there is no cure for balding

3.      Rogaine only helps 25% of the customers

  1. many men begin to bald shave their head, like Michael Jordon
  2. women lose hair too

1.      women generally do not bald

2.       thinning of hair usually happens during menopause

 

XVIII.    Blondes have more fun

  1. in the US 40% of women add blonde to their hair

1.      blonde is a rare color

2.      found mostly in children, referring to youth

  1. Blonde hits Hollywood

1.      in 1930’s many movies were made about blondes: Blonde Venus, Blonde Crazy, Blonde Fever, Platinum Blonde, Blonde Trouble

2.      in 1953 the most famous movie appeared Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

  1. V.S. Ramanchandran noticed that blonde hair usually accompanies fair skin
  2. Other believe that it is the hair itself
  3. Many heroines tend to be blonde such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Goldlilocks
  4. according to biology blondes and shyness may have a relation
  5. African American women get criticized for wearing their naturally dark hair blond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary – Survival of the Prettiest, Nancy Etcoff

Chapter 3: “Pretty Pleases”

 

“Why may I not speak of your Beauty, since without that I

could never have loved you.”

 

-John Keats to Fanny Browne, July 8, 1819.

 

“To work hard, as I’ve worked, to accomplish anything, and

then have some yo-yo come up and say, “Take off those dark

glasses and let’s have a look at those blue eyes” is really

discouraging.

 

    Beauty is a double-edged sword at times.  It is a

contradiction in the finest terms.  Beauty can gain a

supermodel the world, status, wealth, fame, and can also

turn into someone’s very own demise by highlighting the part

of themselves that they have not worked to present to the

world, but simply downplaying their other attributes.  But

throughout the natural world, beauty is the impetus of

sexual reproduction.

    The natural and biological world primed us for

reproduction our teen years when a girl’s skin lightens,

her lips swell from surges of estrogen, her body acquires

extra fat that it will need to support reproduction, and

sequesters it into hips and breasts, and her once tubular

torso resembles an hourglass.  For the boy his voice

deepens, skin darkens, muscle mass increases, and faces

acquire a dominant jaws and brow ridges.

    For most of human history, people mated in their teen

years, and conceived of their first baby by age twenty,

being a teen was all about courting and choosing.  And in

many part of the world it still is.  When anthropologist

Susanne Frayswer surveyed 454 traditional cultures, she

found that the highest frequency of brides was in the 12-15

yr. of age category, and the largest age category for

grooms was 18. 

    Girls at this age are preternaturally beautiful.  Kate

Moss discovered at 14, Christy Turlington 13.  On the knife

edge between innocence and experience, faces at this age

have the maturity for young beauty and the cusp of being a

woman. 

    But the preoccupation does not end with adolescence, we

continue to be evaluated as mate material for the rest of

our lives.  This is evidenced in our obsessions with beauty,

for both males and females, the beauty industry, the media,

and the studies done in the science of psychology and

sociology on beauty and its role in society.

    It is remarkably so that women are more concerned with

beauty than men and this has been shown in numerous studies

and for two reasons:  the first of which is that men value

the looks of their sexual and romantic partners more than

women do, and men spend more time looking at women than

women do at men.  But the second reason, we will look at

later in the context of this chapter.

    Physical beauty peaks young.  Similar to athletic

skill, if found at all, it will be at a peak before age

thirty-five.  And it is women who try more desperately to

hold onto this beauty of youth, in response to men who seek

younger partners.  Men usually begin to fetishize and seek

younger women once they get into their thirties.  This may

be due to longings for lost youth, desire to play father

figure, the need to dominate and control, or mate with a

maximally fertile woman.

    It has been shown that the best-looking girls in high

school are more than ten times as likely to get married as

the least good-looking.  Better-looking girls tend to marry

men with more education and income than they have.  Wile a

man’s looks in high school or his looks at an age do not

predict whether he will marry or the financial status of his

future mate.

    The question of intelligence:  little evidence that

women with greater intelligence have any advantage o the

marriage market.  To the contrary, in one recent study women

who had never married turned out to be significantly more

intelligent than the women who had married.

    Why so much emphasis on looks?  Sex.  The biological

purpose of sex is reproduction, and our ancestor’s bodies

evolved to the adaptive problem of how to signal fertility

cues.  These biological signals are easy reads of fertile,

healthy bodies, which we read as beauty.

    Women want to marry up.  Men might even want to marry

down.  In the same study that showed that women medical

students want mates who make the same or higher income, also

showed that sixty percent of the male medical students said

that they preferred a mate who made less money than they did

and forty percent preferred a spouse whose occupational

status was lower than theirs.  Two explanations can be given

for this:  one from an anthropologist, one from an

economist.  The anthropologist Helen Fisher demonstrates

that divorce rates soar when women achieve economic

independence.  And Gary Becker, economist, applies the logic

of “gain from trades.”  The woman who hunts and gathers may

feel less of a need for a fellow hunter for whom she must

still gather for.

    Money.  To sum it up, good-looking men are at no

disadvantages when it comes to getting a job and making

money in relation to their looks.  For women, it can cut

both ways.  Women are more likely to be hired and receive

higher-paying jobs if they are good-looking, but on the same

note their beauty can “backfire” when their beauty is

associated with their femininity and traits of being

“submissive, overly sexual, and basically averse to the

qualities that a job is demanding of.

    In sum, the economics of being a female are never

particularly advantageous.  Happiness has more to do with personal qualities such as optimism, a sense of personal control, self-esteem, ability to tolerate frustration, and feelings of comfort with and affection for people than with looks or money.  The key to happiness is being able to occasionally override the more-is-beter attitude and appreciate and feel gratitude for what you have.  Studies of twins suggest that happiness may be partly under the control of the genes.  In sum, beauty is not a sure road to happiness.  

 

 

 

Chapter 4: “Cover Me”

 

            “Clothes are a social statement; makeup is closer to our secret hopes and fears.”

                                                                                                  Kennedy Fraser (Etcoff, 90)

 

 

            I think Fraser was right on in her assessment of culture’s desire to put on some sort of mask when the world is looking.  We are constantly trying to smooth over, cover up, and create the illusion of things that simply aren’t there.  But what are we trying to hide?  What is there to cover up?  People with flawless skin and glorious, flowing hair have nothing to conceal, it seems.  According to zoologist Desmond Morris, clear skin and soft, healthy hair are the two most universally desired features. (Etcoff, 91)

            Skin is the only organ that exists on the outside of the body and is visible for all to see and touch.  It is thickest on the soles of the feet and thinnest on the eyelids, it weighs six pounds and measures twenty square feet in the average person. (Etcoff, 91)  When we feel emotion, it shows through our skin: blushing, shuddering, sweating, and quivering.  The skin’s surface is comprised of keratin, and hair is comprised of protein and is considered a special form of skin.

            Hair is alluring when healthy but it seems to have the opposite effect when it is not.  Also, it is only considered attractive when on the head.  We are disgusted when we find a hair in the center of a mole or floating in a glass of water.  Freud believed that we fetishize hair not only because of its visual and tactile elements, but also because of the way it smells.  Skin and hair conjure up emotions, stir memories, and create sensations;  they are arousing and primal in their appeal.

Naked

            Humans are the only species among the monkeys and apes to be not covered with hair.  Why do we show bare skin rather than fur?  Interestingly enough, we are not entirely hairless: we have 5 million of them on our adult bodies and just as many hair follicles as apes, only our hairs are thinner. (Etcoff, 92)  Instead of fur, humans have learned to compensate through the use of clothing to cover their bodies from the elements and other forms of danger.  And instead of panting and sweating through our pads and fluffing our fur like animals do, humans sweat; that is how we “keep cool.”  Having less hair than our mammalian ancestors is beneficial for several reasons: it makes us a less desirable home for fleas, lice, mites, and other parasites.  Our “nakedness” also holds erotic advantages in that, without hair, our skin is more sensitive and responsive to the touch.  All the places on the human body with the least amount of hair – lips, palms, soles of feet, nipples, parts of the genitals – are also the richest in nerve endings. 

            So when did this conversion from having fur to not having it occur?  Most anthropologists believe it took place when our ancestors got up on two feet and started running long distances.  This is because humans survive on stamina, and not speed alone.  Because a human couldn’t outrun a cheetah, he had to outdo it in other ways, namely through staying cooler and having a higher level of endurance than the animal.  Having human skin was the means by which he was able to do this. 

            Something I found particularly interesting was the relationship between the environment in which people live and their body types.  The more skin a person has relative to their body size, the faster they cool off.  People living in hot, dry environments tend to be slim with long limbs, while Eskimos tend to have chunkier, “squattier,” shorter-limbed body types because they live in colder climates.  This also explains why we like to curl up in a ball when we are cold and stretch out flat when we are hot. 

Groomed

            Grooming has served for millions of years as mutual doctoring and a form of social bonding.  It has even been proven that giving premature human infants “touch therapy” has profound effects on their growth and development.  Psychologist Tiffany Field explained that “…early touch and the manipulation of the skin by stroking, bathing, and so on may have important biological consequences for humans as well as animals.” (Etcoff, 95) 

            Grooming is obviously a part of our daily lives, we have regular rituals that revolve around it, and the fact that we have a whole industry of professionals (hairdressers, manicurists, etc.) to help us do it proves what an important part of our culture it is.  In 1992, when the makers of Barbie released their newest version of the doll, “Totally Hair Barbie,” it soon became the best-selling Barbie product the company had ever released, and it still remains at the top to this day…we are conditioned to groom.  In the U.S., we spend more than two times the amount of money on personal care products and services than we do on reading material.  Today, worldwide, cosmetics and toiletries are a $45 billion industry!  I think at this point it is important to ask this question: “Is this the exploitation of the insecure by media advertising?  Or is this due to something else?”  It is unlikely that this is simply a media-caused phenomenon because this practice of extensive grooming dates back to at least 40,000 years ago.

Rubbed, Poured, Sprinkled, Sprayed

            In the Southern region of Africa, archaeologists found sticks of red ochre, made by grinding and mixing iron oxides with animal fat and vegetable oil, then heated, and this substance was used to paint the face and body.  They have found similar things in the tombs of the Egyptians, and this certainly suggests that the cosmetic business is hardly a modern invention or a response to current cultural pressures.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

            The world today seems to be obsessed with the face and taking care of it and so on, but we pay comparatively little attention to the rest of our bodies, except when it comes to hair…we love to remove it!  Why is this?  Well, first of all, it accentuates the physical differences between men and women, thus heightening a woman’s appeal to a man and vice-versa.  Do you see any Playboy models with big bushy armpits or a rainforest growing down below? No, it is kept tidy and clean, and when a man looks at one of those pictures, there is no way he could mistake it for what he sees in the mirror, and therein lies some of the appeal.  Waxing has always been done, but it seems that especially as of late, it has become more popular than ever.  It used to just be done to clean up bikini lines, but now you’ve got women asking for the trimmed triangle, a “mohawk,” or even letters of the alphabet or shapes. 

            Historical practices show no differences; it has always been trendy to remove hair.  In the 14th and 15th centuries, women covered their hairs and ears with scarves and veils, plucking away the hair around the hairline that stuck out.  Then they would always go a little beyond that just to make sure the line would not show, and high foreheads became very popular. 

But women are not the only ones who do this: it is common for male bodybuilders to apply “competition color” and body oil, then shave their chests and backs to define the muscles and because it “interferes with the display of their goods.”  However, you don’t often catch them shaving other areas because they would end up resembling women too much, and their masculinity is definitely not something they want questioned.

The Decorated Body

            In 1990, 3% of Americans reported having tattoos, the majority of them being men. (Etcoff, 98-99)  But in this day and age, with clothes being shed and nudity having less and less shock value, people are resorting to other means to express and decorate and beautify themselves.  Tattooing is believed to have originated in Nubia in the 4th century, and it comes from the Tahitian word “to strike.” (Etcoff, 99)  It used to be done with such instruments as shells, boar’s tusks, or sharp spears. 

            There is another form of marking the skin called “cicatrization,” in which the skin is raised into patterns using a knife or other sharp instrument.  This is typically seen on dark skin in cultures where tattooing might not show up as well. 

            Another obviously popular practice is piercing…it is everywhere.  It used to be done with shells, bones, feathers, and metal objects to the ears, lips, and noses.  Nowadays, you’ve got people getting all sorts of things pierced, and it seems to have become less visual and more tactile.  Why do people do this?  It is partly self-adornment and decoration, but it is also used to distinguish people from one another by rank, status, gender, age, and accomplishment.  It is a common mark of puberty, marriage, first successful hunt, initiation, and it is a visible display that the person can withstand the physical challenge that is involved with acquiring a tattoo.

Face Paint

            Such body arts as tattooing have typically been a male-oriented domain, but face paint is the area that belongs to women.  They use it to conceal, blush, and bleach, and this is not a new practice.  The Greeks, the Romans, and later Queen Elizabeth used to paint blue veins on their foreheads and breasts to imply skim translucency.  All cultures have been shown to put various powders and pastes on their faces to lighten it and give it the illusion of appearing smoother.  The Chinese and Japanese vultures are known for creating smooth, white faces and red lips and cheeks, and still value pale skin even to this day. 

            But why do we want to do this to ourselves?  …paint our faces white and our lips and cheeks red?  Well, red, the color of blood, tends to be found in these areas as well as in the nipples and genitals, and it indicates circulating blood, a sign of vitality and arousal.  When we are sexually excited or emotionally charged, we blush or swell and become red.  This is why stop sign and fire engines are red:  we are attracted to that color.  And in terms of the white pale skin, this only accentuates the redness and alsomimics youthful, flawless skin, a sign of health.  I found it interesting that in the U.S. today, 1,484 tubes of lipstick are sold per minute. (Etcoff, 102)  Designer Betsey Johnson was quoted as saying: “If I were dying, I would be in the hospital wearing lipstick.” (Etcoff, 102)

Why Marilyn Became A Blonde and Elvis Dyed His Hair Black

            As pointed out in the last section, fair, blushing skin is a sign of youth and health, of a woman, and specifically of a woman who has never had children and is currently fertile – all qualities that men find desirable.  And at puberty, boys’ skin and hair tends to darken.  In each of Marilyn’s and Elvis’ case, they simply exaggerated their sexual appeal and heightened these signs.  Elvis magnified his masculinity, while Marilyn capitalized on her femininity.  Something mentioned that I found interesting was that women’s skin tends to lighten during ovulation and darken when pregnant or on the pill. 

            So it was not really the fact that Marilyn was a blonde that made her appealing, but it is the qualities that supposedly go along with being a blonde that did it.  Health and age and sexual interest are all things that are much easier to read on a fair-skinned person rather than someone with darker features, and because these things are important to men, they seem attracted to fair-skinned women because they can predict these more easily.

Skin Tight

            Why does a young person’s skin always look so fresh and young?  Well, it is…new skin cells are constantly being pushed to the surface of the skin within two weeks, and the skin is literally in perpetual bloom.  As you get older, this process slows down, the oil glands become less active, the collagen breaks down, and the skin is dryer and less supple.  Fair-skinned Caucasians tend to show visible signs of aging first, usually ten to twenty years before African American women.

            Also, habits play a big role in the condition of one’s skin.  Smoking and tanning, both very fashionable these days, are two of the worst things you can do to your skin.  They announce to the world:  “Look, I can do these dangerous things to my body but I am so healthy I can do them and still be beautiful.”  But this soon catches up with us, if you’ve ever seen a long-time smoker or someone who has been in the sun their whole life, you can see that’s not true.  The nicotine in cigarettes constricts blood vessels and slow down the blood flow underneath the skin.  And in terms of your skin, according to dermatologists,  burning or even having a nice tan is a clear sign of skin damage.  

            And on a related note, half of the world’s cosmetic surgeon’s practice in the U.S., and one-third of them in California.  The American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons performed  600,000 procedures in 1996, mostly on Caucasian women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.  The newest trend seems to be this thing called “age dropping,” when people start getting procedures done before or right along with signs of aging.  The idea behind this is to “prevent aging,” not to visibly show signs of it at all.  Pretty soon, we’re not going to be able to tell mothers and daughters and grandmothers apart!

Spotless

            Acne is something dread by everyone.  However, women are much more concerned about the problem than men.  Many more women are more likely to consult a dermatologist and use concealing products to deal with their acne.  Interesting enough, males tend to break out more often than females.  This is because the excess oil produced by the androgens, which is the male hormone.  Women produce only a little amount of this hormone in their hormones whereas men produce up to ten times the amount their testes.  In young adult women acne may be a sign of “abnormal increase in or sensitivity to circulating male hormones.”  One study found that ninety percent of females that sought help for their pimples had a higher amount testosterone than average, and “more than half of them had ovulatory dysfunction.  Also, people that have acne problems tended to develop excess amounts of hair on the face and other parts of the body.  During menopause, acne sometimes displays that the “estrogen level it too low to counter the effect of androgens.”

Blank Allure 

            Cosmetic surgery is huge especially in women, because it attempts to preserve youth.  Women get this surgery so that they may have a “more naïve, open-eyed look and away from any sign of worry or anger.”  Face-lifts make people look happier and younger.  “Women’s faces tend to be more animated than men’s, and their skin is more delicate, so that these expressions can take on an unwelcome permanence.”  This is why women tend to have cosmetic surgery done to them.  Muscles in the face are attached directly to the skin, which lets a person display a range of feelings.

Beauty and Skin Color

            In 1991, the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York City found that out of 27 different national magazines and 157 fashion catalogues that 96% were white.  In 1994 another study was done and their findings revealed that out of 205 white models, but only 10 African-American models and only 6 “Asian and other” models after viewing the magazines Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Essence, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Mirabella, Vogue, and Ladies’ Home Journal.  In the United States, whites exemplify “the first wave of immigrants, the northern and Western Europeans.”  These Europeans dominated the Indians and were the first to be considered the elite.  American beauty reflects this.  “In 1921, the first Miss America was Margaret Gorman, a fifteen-year-old blue eyed, blond high-schooler.  It wasn’t until 1984 that the crown went to an African- American woman, Vanessa Williams, albeit one who had light skin and hazel eyes.”  Twenty years went by, before a “Black Barbie” and “Hispanic Barbie” came out.  This was also the same year that the first African-American woman became a Playboy Playmate of the year.  This also goes for the country of Brazil.  The Portuguese people dominated and were considered the elite, and beauty there also reflects the light skin of the Portuguese ancestors.  Magazines will not sell as well if dark skinned models are on the cover.  Models need to be white for sales.  However, most of the people today in the world are brown and thousand of years ago people also had brown skin.  Things will change though.  By the year 2050, Newsweek predicts that non-Hispanic Americans will drop from 74% to 53% and will continue to do so. 

Hair

            The main reason for the hair on people’s heads is for attracting mates.  “When a woman starts playing with her hair, flinging and flipping it, she is signaling sexual interest.  Hair had the whole sensory package working for it: it has color, shine, texture, perfume, and movement.”  Hair is second, to clear and beautiful skin when attracting a mate.  Many cultures after marriage insist that the female cover her hair, fearing that it may be too sexually provocative.  Also, in the case of men losing their hair or balding, the “men were weaker and less attractive.”

Hair Raising

            According to history, big hair, as been a trend.  Also, big celebrities such a John Trovolta in Saturday Night Fever don’t his dad “Don’t touch the hair.”  James Brown wears his hair big, the Beatles wore their hair long, and many other celebrities are known for their hair.  History shows that hair can and has become a work of art.

 

Let Your Hair Down

            Hair grows fastest in young adults especially in girls between the ages of 16 and 24.  If a person were never to cut their hair, it would grow to be two or three feet long!  Hair reflects “a lot about attitudes, affiliations, self-esteem, taste, gender, age, and so.”  Long hair as a certain beauty because it reveals a certain history about a person.  Many things can be traced in hair and this way drug testing companies test the hair.

Fleeting Fleece

            Health and stress is a major influence on hair loss.  Anorexics lose hair to due “lack of copper, zinc, iron, vitamins A and E, and other nutrients.”  Women lose some hair when they hit menopause.  Usually hair loss is generally associated with men.  There is still no cure for baldness.  However, many men such as Michael Jordon, shave their head to hide their balding head.

Blonde Crazy

            In the “United States up to 40% of women add blond to their hair.”  Some suggest, such as V.S. Ramanchandran, believes that “blond hair just happens to accompany light skin and since, men favor light skin, they favor blond women.”  On the other hand, some believe that it is just something about the color of the hair.  In “Disney’s Cinderella, the good Cinderella is blond and blue-eyed, unlike her evil stepsisters and wicked stepmother, who are dark or red-haired.”  According to biology shyness and blond hair may have something in common, and therefore, this may be a reason men also prefer blondes.

Good Hair. Bad Hair

            African American women are very often mocked for dying their hair blond.  Women such as Naomi Campbell and Tina Turner have been accused of trying to be Caucasian.  For many African American women, the style of hair that a person chooses is based on their economic class.  The upper middle class wears their hair in dreadlocks, twists, and Afros.  “This suggests that, with increased power, women will be more likely to wear natural hair, and that at least some proportion of hair straightening is for purposes of conformity and hopes of rising in the middle class.”     

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Critical Review Questions – Nancy Etcoff:Survival of the Prettiest, Ch. 3/4

 

1.                  Interesting/Informative:

-     I found it especially important that the bottom line comes to beauty is not a sure road to happiness.

-     In the U.S., 1,484 tubes of lipstick are sold per minute! (Etcoff, 102)

-         A woman’s skin tends to lighten during ovulation and darken when she is pregnant or on the Pill. (Etcoff, 105)

-         Menopause is ultimately a reproductive strategy, as it helps ensure that her current investments will have a mother who is alive and capable of caring for them. (Etcoff, 73)

-         I found to be the most interesting point made by this article was the ratio of

Caucasian models to African American models and other races.  It really bothers me that advertisers are reluctant to put other models besides Caucasian models on the cover of magazines, fearing that it will decrease sales.  According to the article, by the year 2050, the ratio of people’s race will almost 50-50 (53% non-Hispanic Americans).  Light skinned people will not always be the majority of the elite or even the majority of this nation forever. 

 

 

 

2.                  Disagreement/Weak Case Made by Author:

-         I find it hard to believe that beauty is actually so disadvantageous to the working woman and would speculate as to the accuracy of the “well-known study” out of Columbia University Business School where two scientists found that good looks helped a woman to be hired for a clerical job, but worked against her in being hired for a managerial-level job.  The two scientists summed up their conclusions with the quote, “This finding sadly implies that women should strive to appear as unattractive and as masculine as possible if they are to succeed in advancing their careers by moving into powerful organizational positions.  Surely giving up one’s womanhood should not be a prerequisite for organizational success.”  This study is also what led Buss to say “The economics of being a female are never particularly advantageous.” (p. 84)

-         Good-looking people are happier romantically. (Etcoff, 85)

-         Children with pale skin and blue eyes are more likely to be shy and inhibited than children with darker skin and hair. (Etcoff, 127)

 

3.                  Still Have Questions About/Needs Further Explanation:

-         I would like the author to explain further the role of happiness and beauty and how he said that the beautiful can become isolated by their beauty, that they can be dealt setbacks in life, and it can be adverse to being happy.

-         It has even been proven that giving premature human infants “touch therapy” has profound effects on their growth and development.  Psychologist Tiffany Field explained that “…early touch and the manipulation of the skin by stroking, bathing, and so on may have important biological consequences for humans as well as animals.” (Etcoff, 95)

-         The makers of Rogaine did a study of over 600 men under the age of 50 who were admitted to hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for a nonfatal heart attack.  They discovered certain forms of baldness are associated with increased risk for heart attack, and that it may be due to some sort of hormonal pattern, but they did not go into the details of this or explain why they believe this. (Etcoff, 125)

Critical Review Questions – Nancy Etcoff:Survival of the Prettiest, Ch. 3/4

 

4.                  Interesting/Informative:

-     I found it especially important that the bottom line comes to beauty is not a sure road to happiness.

-     In the U.S., 1,484 tubes of lipstick are sold per minute! (Etcoff, 102)

-         A woman’s skin tends to lighten during ovulation and darken when she is pregnant or on the Pill. (Etcoff, 105)

-         Menopause is ultimately a reproductive strategy, as it helps ensure that her current investments will have a mother who is alive and capable of caring for them. (Etcoff, 73)

-         I found to be the most interesting point made by this article was the ratio of

Caucasian models to African American models and other races.  It really bothers me that advertisers are reluctant to put other models besides Caucasian models on the cover of magazines, fearing that it will decrease sales.  According to the article, by the year 2050, the ratio of people’s race will almost 50-50 (53% non-Hispanic Americans).  Light skinned people will not always be the majority of the elite or even the majority of this nation forever. 

 

 

 

5.                  Disagreement/Weak Case Made by Author:

-         I find it hard to believe that beauty is actually so disadvantageous to the working woman and would speculate as to the accuracy of the “well-known study” out of Columbia University Business School where two scientists found that good looks helped a woman to be hired for a clerical job, but worked against her in being hired for a managerial-level job.  The two scientists summed up their conclusions with the quote, “This finding sadly implies that women should strive to appear as unattractive and as masculine as possible if they are to succeed in advancing their careers by moving into powerful organizational positions.  Surely giving up one’s womanhood should not be a prerequisite for organizational success.”  This study is also what led Buss to say “The economics of being a female are never particularly advantageous.” (p. 84)

-         Good-looking people are happier romantically. (Etcoff, 85)

-         Children with pale skin and blue eyes are more likely to be shy and inhibited than children with darker skin and hair. (Etcoff, 127)

 

6.                  Still Have Questions About/Needs Further Explanation:

-         I would like the author to explain further the role of happiness and beauty and how he said that the beautiful can become isolated by their beauty, that they can be dealt setbacks in life, and it can be adverse to being happy.

-         It has even been proven that giving premature human infants “touch therapy” has profound effects on their growth and development.  Psychologist Tiffany Field explained that “…early touch and the manipulation of the skin by stroking, bathing, and so on may have important biological consequences for humans as well as animals.” (Etcoff, 95)

-         The makers of Rogaine did a study of over 600 men under the age of 50 who were admitted to hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for a nonfatal heart attack.  They discovered certain forms of baldness are associated with increased risk for heart attack, and that it may be due to some sort of hormonal pattern, but they did not go into the details of this or explain why they believe this. (Etcoff, 125)