Saturday, December 03, 2011

" It’s not our cultural programming that sets our standards for beauty; it is our instinct."

I am reading a book by Michael and Mary Eades called The 6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle: The Simple Plan to Flatten Your Belly Fast! The book gives good information on how to reduce your stomach, hence the title. But what caught my eye was the cultural implications of belly fat from an excerpt of the book:

In 1991, feminist Naomi Wolf opined, “Beauty is a currency system like the gold standard. Like any economy, it is determined by politics, and in the modern age in the West it is the last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact.” In other words, Ms. Wolf views our opinion of beauty as being based not on any innate or inborn sense of what is attractive, but as a product of our cultural indoctrination. We think a pretty face is pretty or a flat belly is attractive for no other reason than that’s the way we’ve been programmed to think by the society in which we live. The covers of Playboy, Playgirl, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan, she claims, set our standards for attractiveness, not the reverse. According to Wolf and others of her opinion, there is no universal standard for human beauty. Were we not programmed by advertisers and the entertainment industry, we would find a fat man or woman just as attractive and desirable as a thin one.

We disagree.

Years of serious scientific study, across numerous disciplines, prove otherwise. Our attraction to a pretty face and a flat belly is in our genes and is an atavistic throwback to a time when such features represented health and the ability to reproduce—important requirements in the selection of a mate. As Harvard Professor Deirdre Barrett puts it, these deep-seated universal standards of beauty “reflect our evolutionary need to estimate the health of others from their physical characteristics.”

What do you think? Is belly fat a reflection of health? What about women who are very thin and have trouble getting pregnant because of low body fat?



Blogger br549 said...

I have never been able to directly put my finger on what it is about a woman that I find attractive. It's more than one thing, but I'm not a "big boobs" guy. Not a "bee sting" guy either, though. I have read many articles and seen a few TV shows dedicated to attempted explanations of what it is that initially draws a man to a woman, and a woman to a man. If it has "been a while" I suppose I am not so picky. To be straight up, in our modern society, it is not only the male who is out on the prowl for some excitement, something different, if only for one night. Right or wrong. Ladies night out, for instance. The whole idea is to get hit on. Women need to know, it seems, that such a thing can be done in secret even more than men. Some of the latest things I've read state that about 45 to 50% of married American women, and 50 to 55% of married American men have been with someone who is not their spouse. I have a lot of divorced friends who got that way because of that.

At the end of the day, I know that if you can't sit down and talk to one another and enjoy each other, everything else eventually fizzles out altogether.

9:59 AM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger Joshua Macy said...

I don't know whether attraction to flat bellies is instinctual, but if it is it that wouldn't imply that flat bellies actually do reflect health, only that bearers of the gene (Prefer mating with flat-bellied) out-reproduced those lacking the gene. If so, that implies there was probably some reproductive advantage at some point (possibly even before our ancestors were human), but exactly what made it enough of an advantage to dominate in the gene pool is pretty much pure speculation. You could easily imagine alternative explanations, such as it prevented wasting effort on trying to mate with already pregnant females.

10:18 AM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger vanderleun said...

Both Wolf and the Eades are incorrect here although both have a bit of the puzzle. If you look at the various archetypes of 'beauty' or, to take it another way, what is 'valued' in the female form and face as seen in the record of sculpture and art you see that fat can rule thin and vice versa in a culture.

In a very basic way it seems to represent how "rich" a culture is. Up to a certain point of wealth it would seem that the fatter models of femininity dominate -- i.e. the Venus of Mons, classic Greek sculpture, etc. -- since these forms indicate a certain affluence as significed by the well-fed or over-fed. That would probably come about during the expansion of empire or dominance of the particular tribe over the environment or neighboring tribes or nations.

Once that's achieved you have the female form moving into the more decadent stage of thinness or anorexic appearance. The late Napoleonic era from france or aristocratic epochs from the height and decline of the British empire are good places to look for such signifiers.

Then we come to the present era of this culture where different ethnic groups have different beauty markers set up but where the dominant one is still the "boy with breasts" of the super-model set. We're clearly on the long slow decline and the fact that we've got a lot of obese women around doesn't really get us off that hook.

10:43 AM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger vanderleun said...

America: So rich that our elites are anorexic and our poor people are fat.

10:44 AM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger tweell said...

Obviously there's some cultural 'slack'. The Renaissance artists definitely liked more chubby women than is considered perfect today. Even with those models, though, the belly fat is not a large amount. Also, that type is still considered very attractive, I submit Christina Hendricks as evidence.
Clothes models are not beautiful in my opinion, skin and bones with pretty clothes draped on them are not attractive.
Belly fat is an indication of health. It's not the only one, but is obvious at a glance. I'd add in the waist/hip ratio, but otherwise agree with the authors.

11:13 AM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger br549 said...

Of course, the advent of beer goggles changes many things.

I did not think individuals would actually get into the science of it all. Not many men under 300 pounds are interested in a woman over 200 pounds. I was just talking from the male chauvinist pig point of view about getting laid. Now -a - days, it is getting laid without getting shot.
Too many secrets.

12:29 PM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger TerriW said...

As a woman who has had two children, my first thought is that a flat belly means a woman who hasn't been pregnant before!

12:57 PM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Wolf and the feminists preach that all human behavior is taught/learned including such things as throwing a ball. This flies in the face of of science a many sex differences are largely impervious to learning and found in many cultures, including the ability to throw a ball.

There's been lots of studies on what qualities affect the perception of beauty. While we have an abundance of skinny women currently, studies show that overall men prefer the healthier "athletic" look. Personally, I prefer the rubenesque look vanderleun mentions to the walking skeleton. Most of the guys I know have the same preference.

Plus, if we didn't think the women in Playboy, Cosmo, etc were pretty, we wouldn't buy the magazines and would never be "taught" those women were pretty. So many feminists have a great talent for denying reality.

1:31 PM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

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1:51 PM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger Doom said...

A flat belly is definitely sexy. I don't know that I buy that it is evolution, I don't accept what passes for evolutionary theory.

The problem with women who have too little body fat to bear children is merely another false excess of modernism (for the most part). Much like make-up, through which women change their appearance. Women who over-exercise and/or under-eat change their appearance to cheat the system. They don't really count, and I would guess they are the vast minority, statistical outliers.

Skinny and pretty works. But only truly for women. Why? Pretty in a man, for one thing, is a form of self-love or self-reflecting sexuality for women who go for it. Most women don't judge a man for partnership primarily upon his looks. Lots of muscle? Yeah, women like that, but even that has limits of getting and maintaining that takes too much time. With women choosing men, from what I have seen, money, health, vigor, power, and attitude (and those types of things) are what lure women. As I look around for the right woman (not just 'a woman' as I have three or four of those if that is all I wanted) I am sorting things out, and that is what I believe at this point. All give or take, mostly, generally...

1:55 PM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger Sandeep said...

There is a lot of truth in this, but I don't buy into the standards of beauty adopted by the fashion industry, which goes for thinner and relatively flat chested models. I have heard many reasons for this, though am not in a position to say which one contributes most :

(i) A lot of women in fashion industry, and women typically overestimate the male preference for thinness.

(ii) Gays in the fashion industry who like women without womanly features.

(iii) Since there is no objective standard for fashion, sales are considerably affected by what fashion reviewers write, and these reviewers either (i) are typically women who overestimate the male preference for thinness, or (ii) being in the media come from a section of the society with contrived tastes.

I think women that most men prefer have way healthier and happier looks, not the starving fashion model looks. The playboy girls look far healthier to me than the average fashion model, though I am somewhat puzzled by the stats that playboy puts up. I have heard though that they under-report the stats for business reasons.

One thing that irks me particularly is how the liberal-dominated fashion industry sets certain beauty standards in the modelling arena, for which some other liberals blame heterosexual males alone.

And oh, I think flat belly is healthy. Not being size zero, though.

P. S. : Here is another argument - if victoria's secret models were chosen purely by male taste, they would keep changing.

6:35 PM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger Sandeep said...

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6:40 PM, December 03, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

the fashion industry is run by homosexuals who don't particularly like women, so they pick stick skinny ones and put them in ludicrous outfits and make them walk funny on a runway and pose them in fashion ads in magazines and billboards.

this has the effect of terrorizing the general female population into thinking these sticks are the ideal, which makes women crazy to try to look and dress like the images presented to them as ideal.

my personal taste is in the figure, face and behaviour of my present wife. similar to my first wife, but without the disfunctional aspect.

my second wife was the thin large breasted device that flamed out as she hit 40. she gave me two wonderful boys though....then she tried to take them away...and now she's in the process of pushing them back to me again.

life's a dark ride at times.

the single most beautiful woman i've ever seen was an old girlfriend who looked like anne margeret. i dated her again briefly five years ago and she had matured physically perfectly.

incedently, he was still pissed that i dumped her all those years ago, and so returned the favour.

8:13 AM, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Eric said...

the fashion industry is run by homosexuals who don't particularly like women, so they pick stick skinny ones and put them in ludicrous outfits and make them walk funny on a runway and pose them in fashion ads in magazines and billboards.

While it is always problematic to generalize, from what I have seen, it is a little more complicated than that. Gay men who gravitate towards the fashion industry tend to be effeminate themselves, and during their school years had all female friends. They like women (but not sexually), and the women they tend to promote are women who most remind them of themselves. The ideal is not so much ugly women as it is androgynous women.

Whether androgynous woman are attractive and by what standard, whether they should be considered attractive, or who should set these standards are of course highly debatable topics.

I don't think we should forget that female homosexuals (lesbians) who DO like women tend to have a distinct preference for female fatness. (Hence the slogan "Fat is a feminist issue!")

The ancient preference for voluptuousness is not only reflected in the Greek and Roman statues and later art, but if we go back to prehistory, it becomes even more extreme (the Willendorf Venus being a perfect example).

Nothing androgynous about that!

10:09 AM, December 04, 2011  
Blogger SGT Ted said...

Naaomi wolf was applying a po-mo political deconstruction of biology for leftwing social engineering purposes. The left will posit that heterosexuality is an artificial construct and then tell you that homosexuality is biological and immutable. Which is the usual sort of lefty bullshit.

11:34 AM, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Sandeep said...

@Eric : You seem to confuse "voluptuous" with "having fat". "Voluptuous" refers to a certain breast-waist-hip proportion, which neither the stick-thin fashion models nor rather-belly-fatty women have.

Willendorf Venus is from pre-history, like 22,000 BC. We don't have enough information to conclude that it must have been any sort of standard for female beauty. As the wiki page says, some "scholars" believe that the large breasts and buttocks may indicate that it might have been a fertility symbol. But ultimately all these are guesses, which have been loudly proclaimed as certainties by feminists in service their agenda. Naming it "Venus" was probably just a clever trick to facilitate the subconscious propagation of this notion.

On the other hand, the Roman "Venus de Milo" doesn't have much belly fat - now, that is the kind of beauty men like.

11:36 AM, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

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12:32 PM, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Kevin said...

A flat belly isn't just a signifier of fertility in itself. It is a signifieer of YOUTH. Youth is then correlated with potential fertility.

The attributes that men especially find attractive in potential mates are indicators of youth first and foremost. This isn't chauvenist or pedo or whatever other negative way one would like to spin it. It just is what it is. Women's fertility ends many years before men's. And in pre-civilization days, I would imagine that period would actually be far briefer than today, since childbirth is so inherently dangerous.

An 18 year old male attracted to grandmas ain't gonna have the number of descendants that someone attracted to 18 year old women is going to have. They've been weeded out.

10:39 PM, December 04, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

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2:44 AM, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Old Guy said...

"Beauty is a social construct" sells books because a lot of fat unattractive women need to delude themselves.

What is attractive is youth, health, fitness, and good genes, meaning closely adhering to the species norm. If you want to see what that looks like, look at a picture of Britney Spears when she was 19. I guarantee you most guys will find her more attractive than Naiomi Wolf at 40.

Christina Hendricks is just the latest way for fat women to rationalize away the fact that they are unattractive. Christina is not fat. If you took 100 randomly selected American women her age, height, and cup size, and weighed them, I'd bet only a few weighed the same or less than she does. Add to that a pretty face, expert makeup, expensively tinted and cut hair, and buying clothes where a top, belt, and jeans set you back a kilobuck, and yea, she looks great.

9:37 AM, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Mary E. Glynn said...

Most of the women I know who had trouble getting pregnant were due to obesity issues.

Flat stomach means active lifestyle, not eating less, just moving more. Plus, not so sure if you get the muscle tone back after a c-section.

1:34 PM, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Mary E. Glynn said...

Fatter people can be a turnoff because it's harder to have sex with them (less room for intimacy with the fat barriers).

Plus, if you like to move a lot in daily activities, fatter people cannot keep up generally.

1:35 PM, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Jehu said...

Guys like women with pretty faces, nice skin, and hourglassy figures (and sometimes to a lesser extent, pear-ish figures). How big of an hourglass can be culturally influenced quite a bit, but the hourglass is almost always there, and women with hourglass figures that aren't the presently fashionable variety still rarely lack for interested men.

5:11 PM, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

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7:37 PM, December 05, 2011  
Blogger redrajesh said...

I think if you take it to the level of what an individual finds attractive, it is probably genes, but if you take a whole group, probably you can bring it down to cultural programming.

For instance, some people might prefer women who are skinny, some who are pleasingly plump and some like me who want women rock hard(bodybuilders). But if you take an overall view of the population, most people would want a woman who is skinny and young and that is what you find being the most paid people on TV. In India, in the northern part of the country, by and large preference is given to fairness and skinniness while in the southern part, people prefer women with curves. A lot of actresses who want to move from north to south are told to gain weight to ensure better prospects for them. So taking a whole group, it probably seems like cultural conditioning though it might be instinct at the individual level

3:35 AM, December 06, 2011  
Blogger george said...

Funny how the concept of male beauty never changes. It is always the tall, well muscled man who is considered best looking. There is some variation around the fringes such as how much body hair is desirable or how square the chin should be but the ideal now is exactly as you see in the Greek statues.

I think this is because women like their slaves to be fit. No one wants to be spilled from their litter.

10:55 AM, December 06, 2011  
Blogger LordSomber said...

In the past a woman dressed to accentuate her assets and to play down her flaws.

Today more people probably are fat but what exacerbates this perception is that people don't know how to dress anymore.

2:19 PM, December 06, 2011  
Blogger LPF said...

George wins!

7:01 PM, December 06, 2011  
Blogger br549 said...

Always dress a fact in tights, never an ulster - Mark Twain

10:48 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

I don't think that any amount of "cultural indoctrination" could make me prefer, say, Rosie O'Donnell or, for that matter, Naomi Wolf to the women whom I have found attractive, who have included Florence Griffith Joyner, Jaclyn Smith, and Michelle Yeoh (so it's not limited to one race, either).

11:26 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

Different cultures have different standards of beauty -- the associated question is how standards of beauty and acceptable behavior are used to limit the opportunities for women. Think of women driving in Saudi Arabia -- or the time it took for women to have the right to vote in the US.

5:34 PM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Daanish said...

eating disorder is an under reported phenomenon in fashion industry.

socialogically economics definitely play a role in physical health.

11:53 PM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Job said...

Peter G. Miller: "Think of women driving in Saudi Arabia -- or the time it took for women to have the right to vote in the US."

On the scale of human history, the time it took for women to have the right to vote in the US is about the same as the time it took for men to vote in the US.

10:59 PM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Different cultures, different standards, no accounting for taste, yadda yadda... There are variations, sure, and preferences, but beauty is largely objective and measurable, and no amount of arguing to the contrary will change the facts.

A cloud of perceptions will generally orbit the truth. Keep in mind Keats' deceptively simple-sounding observation, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know." Accounting for culture is absurdly easy in almost every case. One culture has its wealthy (and healthy) avoiding the sun because that's where the short-lived poor do their work; another sees a tan as evidence of a life of leisure outside of factories or offices.

Come on, boys. This isn't difficult. Selecting for youth and health - which is most of what human pulchritude boils down to - is partly adjustable, and everyone has their preferences (which also call back to the meaning of the preferences, note bene), but the underlying truths are consistent. Outside of fetishism, my maxim "Curves good; rolls bad" describes most men's preferences.

11:37 AM, December 09, 2011  
Blogger br549 said...

Physical beauty is a prejudice that will never go away. And as Shakespeare said, it is in the eye of the beholder. And the genes.

Someone above mentioned Jaclyn Smith. Incredibly, that woman has become ever more beautiful as she has aged. Of course, if she has the personality of most of the lefty crowd, it would not matter how beautiful she is. Catherine Zeta Jones would stop me dead in my tracks were I to see her on the sidewalk.

4:54 AM, December 10, 2011  

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