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Sex Roles

, Volume 64, Issue 9–10, pp 723–731 | Cite as

Shape and Significance of Feminine Beauty: An Evolutionary Perspective

  • Devendra Singh
  • Dorian Singh
Original Article

Abstract

Evolutionary and feminist perspectives on female beauty are compatible in some respects, such as the oppressive and destructive outcomes for women as a consequence of the importance attached to female beauty. The perspectives tend to differ on the issue of the origins of (some) beauty standards. Evolutionary scientists have proposed that beauty is a reliable cue for women’s health and fertility. However, as the factors regulating health and reproductive capabilities cannot be directly observed, sexual selection has fashioned psychological adaptations to attend to bodily features that are correlated with health and fertility. It is proposed that people resonate to such bodily features and find them attractive. One such bodily feature in women is gynoid body distribution (i.e., female-normative body shape in which fat distribution is concentrated around hips and thighs). Gynoid body fat distribution is measured by the ratio of waist and hips circumferences (WHR). In this paper we summarize empirical evidence showing that WHR is an independent predictor for risks for major diseases, optimal hormonal profile, and reproductive capabilities. Next, we present findings from studies that demonstrate systematic variations in the size of WHR produce systematic changes in judgment of female attractiveness within diverse societies throughout the world. Such widespread appeal of low WHR suggests that people have evolved mental mechanisms to judge body features indicative of good health as attractive, meaning that some standards of beauty are not arbitrary or constructed. We conclude that a better understanding and appreciation of the beauty-health linkage can be empowering to women.

Keywords

Female beauty Media Evolutionary psychology Body weight Waist-to-hip ratio 

Notes

Acknowledgment

Dr. Devendra Singh sadly passed away during the finalization of this manuscript. Dr. Singh would be pleased to know that this, his final journal article, has been published.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TexasAustinUSA
  2. 2.Department of Social PolicyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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