Perception, a British scholarly journal, has conducted a new study suggesting that heterosexual men are more attracted to curvier women than to thin women.
The study asked a gaggle of male students from St Andrews University to look at photos of women’s faces and rate them by health and attractiveness. These young, virile men found women with more facial adiposity, or with curvier, rounder faces, were more healthy and more attractive. Then, Telegraph.co.uk and The Daily Mail then took this study to prove that all men find curvier women more attractive than thinner women.
Better bust out the champagne now! But wait–
This neglects certain facts. First, the polling sample was a group of men from St Andrews University, the alma mater of Prince William. Race data about the student body is unavailable, but the UK now sees growing inequality in retention and graduation rates between white and nonwhite university students, and St Andrews boasts a 98% graduation rate. The university’s secret society, the Kate Kennedy Club, advertises itself as “Penises only.” It is irresponsible for British news sources to extrapolate these findings to all men.
Second, the study really was about health, and the variable of facial adiposity to predict body composition.
“We often remark on how healthy or unhealthy someone looks, but it can be very difficult to say precisely how we know this,” said lead researcher Vinet Coetzee.
“Scientists have been trying to answer this question for decades, and have made many breakthroughs in our understanding of health and attractiveness, but until now they have tended to overlook the influence of weight.”
Lastly, it is not empowering for a group of college-age men to tell women what is or is not attractive. It is not helpful for men to point at women and say “This one is healthy, that one is not.” It does not aid in the cause of eating disorders; if anything, it has a deleterious effect. This press coverage is telling young women who have accepted the standard of a very thin body image and translated that into dangerous, unhealthy problems of control, that they must now conform to a new standard of beauty. Out of the pot and into the fire.
And I think that as a feminist, the worst thing I could do is to point to this study and say to all thin women, naturally underweight women, dangerously underweight women, or women with eating disorders, “Now, I am the ideal and you are not.” This is not progress.