The perception of beauty

“People of mixed races are perceived as more attractive compared to others, says a new study. Michael Lewis of Cardiff University’s School of Psychology collected a random sample of 1,205 black, white and mixed-race faces. Each face was then rated for their perceived attractiveness to others. And mixed-race faces, on an average, were perceived as being more attractive.” [via]

So clearly details about the above study were making the rounds last week. From Grazia to The Sunday Times, a day didn’t go past without the study being cited in one way or another. I can see why it was popular – everyone that I’ve spoken to has an opinion on it. Personally it’s made me feel these emotions in this order:

Anger. I was mad. Seriously, British public – I’m supposed to be happy that tan people are acceptable now? Fuck you.

And then:

Unease. Saying that a particular race has a significant advantage over others is far too close to eugenics for my liking. Thinking about it made my brain shift uncomfortably in it’s seat and tug nervously at it’s collar.

And then:

A feeling that can only be summed up by the phrase “waiiiiit a minute!” Because the study isn’t saying that mixed-race people are The Best. It’s not even suggesting it. What the study is saying is that the British perceive us as more attractive. There’s a big difference between the two. Dr. Michael Lewis is merely reporting what these individuals thought of a set of photos.

And then:

Happy. Because it’s bloody fantastic that people are realising you can be both dark-skinned and beautiful. It certainly makes a change from being regarded as “exotic” (*cringe*) or just ignored outright. This is a good thing, and I can’t understand anyone who thinks otherwise. Because if more brown people are appearing on the telly, in magazines, books etc, that means more role models for young brown people. And I won’t see my mixed-race six-year old sister sad again because she doesn’t have “golden hair” (true story).

And finally:

Sad. What if you’re on the ‘wrong side’ of beige? It’s taken decades for the British public to find someone like me attractive, and I’m a caramelish shade. Seems like it’ll be another few decades before anyone darker will be seen as “mainstream beautiful”. And that’s really depressing.

Mildly offensive flickr photo from journeyscoffee’s photostream


10 thoughts on “The perception of beauty

  1. Mof Gimmers says:

    I went through a similar range of emotions when I read it. Firstly, I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to get from such information. I mean, the news is this: “Hey! People who aren’t white are pretty fit aren’t they?”

    Well… durrr.

    What next? A study called “Some men fancy women! Some men fancy men! SOME FANCY BOTH!”


    • Alexandra Sheppard says:

      You’d think that it would be obvious, wouldn’t you? But I’ve met so many people who find themselves incredibly surprised at being attracted to someone who isn’t white. And there’s nothing more romantic than being told someone wants to know “what it’s like to sleep with a mixed-race girl”.

      (Happened to a friend)

  2. Sesp says:

    I once had a lecturer who told us of a study that suggested that, the purer the race of someone, the more attractive we find them (regardless of which race that is). He continued that this was why British people are often not ranked as attractive, because we are a whole mixture of everything.
    I wish I could find my notes now to check whether there was an actual study, or if he was just making it up and was, in fact, an enormous prick.

    I don’t really understand the usefulness of this study, I’ll be honest. “You’re attractive, you’re not” – thanks, ‘science’.

  3. Mof Gimmers says:

    Coming from a family with a high percentage of mixed racery (well, in as much that you can see it on their faces as opposed to, y’know, the fact we’re all mixed race in some way), I can’t imagine how thrilled they’ll all be to learn that science has deemed them ‘Not Ugly Anymore’.

    I might make all my cousins a card with a picture of a butterfly emerging on it or something.

    • Alexandra Sheppard says:

      Or a picture of Halle Berry! Or other generic mixed-race beauty, like every other magazine/newspaper article on the topic.

  4. CheShA says:

    I think you’re being a little short sighted to read this study purely in terms of skin tone; one can be “mixed race” without being remotely “beige” (though I can obviously understand how your perspective has coloured (*groan*) your judgement)

    Seems to me that if you take a relatively closed genepool and mix it with ‘foreign’ genes from another pool, then the resulting fresh combination of genes, relatively distinct from either closed pool, would be seen as most desirable. It’s a no-brainer that genes (and thus “attractiveness”) would show a general trend to prefer diversity.

    • Alexandra Sheppard says:

      To be honest it didn’t cross my mind that they could’ve used photos of mixed-race people that weren’t beige. I bet they did, but still, it’s an interesting point.

      And yes, your sciencey speak makes perfect sense. But do you honestly think that, if this study was taken 25 years ago, the photos of anyone with darker skin would’ve come out on top? I really don’t think so. But maybe I’m a massive cynic :-)

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