December 10, 2008

Is An Hourglass Figure The Ideal? Only If You're Weak And Stupid

sexy pirate.JPG

I may have my own sexual preferences, and they may or may not involve rum and the high seas, but I know a political agenda masquerading as a journal publication when I see one.


I.  Bigger Is Better, According To Science

and according to this bit of sophistry:

Until now, scientists (and apparently Western society) thought a curvy figure trumped other body shapes. The idea was based on results from medical studies that suggested a curvy waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 or lower (meaning the waist is significantly narrower than the hips) is associated with higher fertility and lower rates of chronic disease.

See the "Until now"?  Elizabeth Cashdan, Professor and Chair at the University of Utah, does not agree with this, nor with the medical studies that do.  "Until now" means we are about to learn why all that is wrong.

An imperfect body might be just what the doctor ordered for women and key to their economic success, an anthropologist now says.

While pop culture seems to worship the hourglass figure for females, with a tiny waist, big boobs and curvy hips, this may not be optimal...

Now, she doesn't actually go back and find problems with the old medical studies.   No, she's reasoned it out.


II. Biochemistry Will Explain All

Before I explain what she's discovered, let me walk you through her logic.  Women with "imperfect" bodies will be healthier and more successful because that thing which makes them "imperfect" also causes economic success and better health.  If that doesn't seem improbable to you, wait till you hear her explanation: androgens.

Androgens, a class of hormones that includes testosterone, increase waist-to-hip ratios in women by increasing visceral fat, which is carried around the waist. But on the upside, increased androgen levels are also associated with increased strength, stamina and competitiveness.

So masculinized women are stronger and smarter than feminized women.  Or: paint will stain your fingers; paint can also make a beautiful painting.  So if you see stained fingers, expect to see awesome art.

The biochemistry isn't even accurate.  "Androgen" is more than just testosterone.  Testosterone can increase or decrease visceral fat, depending on what you start with, whether you are taking the testosterone exogenously; or whether increased fat leads to insulin resistance and overproduction of testosterone as a consequence; etc.  Are bodybuilders loading up on androgens so they can increase visceral fat?  Do women with larger waists have higher levels of androgens?  Etc.

The science only needs to be partially accurate, so long as she generates the conclusion she wants: 

Cortisol, a hormone that helps the body deal with stressful situations, also increases fat carried around the waist.

Saying cortisol helps the body deal with stressful situations is like saying getting shot in the face helps you deal with the pain of being shot.

III.   The Bell Curve

It's important to understand that she's not trying to promote a theory that androgens are good-- if she was, she'd measure them directly, or use a better proxy (muscle mass, bone density, etc)- she's trying to come up with a justification for why an "imperfect body" is better than an hourglass.

In addition, past research has revealed that men prefer a ratio of 0.7 or lower when looking for a mate. The preference makes perfect sense, according to evolutionary psychologists, because the low ratio is a reliable signal of a healthy, fertile woman.  Along those lines, Playboy centerfolds tend to have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.68, Cashdan found.
So if all this is true, what lead her to think that larger waist size was a health and economic advantage, not simply unrelated, or even a disadvantage?  You're going to want to lie down; within any scientific article that isn't scientific lurks a social agenda, and here it is:

Until now, scientists (and apparently Western society) thought a curvy figure trumped other body shapes... However, women around the world tend to have larger waist-to-hip ratios (more cylindrical than hourglass-shaped) than is considered optimal by these medical and social standards.

That's it.  Don't bother looking for more, there isn't any: most women don't have hourglass figures, ergo it's not optimal.

Here's what's wrong with America, right here:

Specifically, Cashdan compiled data from 33 non-Western populations and four European populations, finding the average waist-to-hip ratio for women was above 0.8. So if 0.7 is the magic number both in terms of health and male mate choice, Cashdan wondered why most women exhibit a significantly higher ratio.

She can't understand why the ideal isn't the same as the average.  So she wants to create reasons why the average is the ideal. 

"Waist-to-hip ratio may indeed be a useful signal to men, then, but whether men prefer a [waist-to-hip ratio] associated with lower or higher androgen/estrogen ratios (or value them equally) should depend on the degree to which they want their mates to be strong, tough, economically successful and politically competitive," Cashdan writes.
Got that? If he prefers the hourglass figure, it means he wants weak and submissive women.  If he prefers the larger type, he wants someone strong who votes.

She's replacing old stereotypes with new ones. "All blondes are dumb" may be a heuristic we use, but we have the common sense not to admit it because it's a debasement, like currency: you artificially lower its value so you can get more from it.  What makes Cashdan's stereotype particularly dangerous is it is a debasement pretending to be a positive.  Here's the reverse of Cashdan's argument: "See? being dumb is good, because then you don't have to worry about all that science!  A man will handle all that!"

These are just empty words, asserted as fact.  Unfortunately, asserted by one with authority.

IV. "You're Paranoid Again."

You say: who cares about this study?  First, that this sophistry is an an academic journal is bad enough-- it takes on the the status of "knowledge"-- and people can even use it as support for more sophistry.  Deny this isn't possible:

It has been shown that androgens can increase strength and economic advantage in women (Cashdan 2008.)
And then dare to try and publish against it.

Worse, the article made it all the way to the popular press-- or was that the point?-- even Newsweek crowed with glee, "Hourglass Figures: We Take It All Back"-- which means it becomes part of the knowledge base of people.  Even if they're skeptical, they have to contend with it.

Do you think this is about making women feel better, or bashing male stereotypes?  It's about taking one's own opinions about society and using "science" to affirm them. You'll be seeing a lot of this in the era of Keynesian Psychiatry.  Debasements pretending to be positives.  Explanations using "evolution," or worse, "evolutionary psychology."  And, of course, the insistence that someone pay for it.





Comments

And get this: Current Anthr... (Below threshold)

December 10, 2008 11:21 AM | Posted by Arsene Lupin: | Reply

And get this: Current Anthropology, where the study was published, is one of the top journals in anthropology. Could there be something rotten in the kingdom of Denmark?

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Nice. One thing mentioned i... (Below threshold)

December 10, 2008 11:52 AM | Posted by Fargo: | Reply

Nice. One thing mentioned in passing that I've never seen before is the title "evolutionary psychologist". While I can guess what that is, I'm really not sure how one would train to do that.

Anyway, this did remind me of a "funny" story. During an election cycle, I'm bad with years so learn to accept vagueness, I was hired for various computer tech tasks by the Karen Minnis campaign, here in Oregon. Republican representative.

I sit down, start fiddling with the computer to see what I can see, when a poster catches my eye. It had two columns, Us and Them. In the Us column were all these normal to attractive women, presumably all Republicans. The Them column was filled with less attractive women, and specifically with the worst pictures you could find of them.

There wasn't a single other piece of internal propaganda around. No mission statements, not even a cat poster of "hang in there". I wanted to die, preferably by my brain cells suddenly proving to be fissionable material at critical mass.

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I've not ever heard of an e... (Below threshold)

December 10, 2008 2:22 PM | Posted by demodenise: | Reply

I've not ever heard of an evolutionary psychologist before, either. Wonder if it's anything like a sanitation engineer?

It's been somewhat of an unstated either/or for women: smart, successful, strong, political (or whatever the trait of the day is) OR attractive. And she's just reinforcing that.

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Finally! I've been searchin... (Below threshold)

December 10, 2008 6:33 PM | Posted by Mormiriel: | Reply

Finally! I've been searching all day for something remotely related (like how to dress my hourglass figure, because I'm a style moron) and I found this article in several places. It made me (a professional level college student, who is rabidly competitive) just about ignite.
I panicked and was actually starting to doubt my "fitness" until your article snapped me back to scientific sense. Maybe I'll have some sense when all this cortisol from finals week goes away. ;-)

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Go go gadget stereotype rei... (Below threshold)

December 10, 2008 8:52 PM | Posted by Lexi: | Reply

Go go gadget stereotype reinforcement!

Will someone tell these women that they can't be both smart and beautiful? http://www.fanpop.com/spots/being-a-man/soapbox/67 Jeesh.

Increased androgens decrease fertility (hello polycystic ovaries!). Let that be known that it has been shown!

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I know I'm stepping in the ... (Below threshold)

December 10, 2008 9:51 PM | Posted, in reply to Lexi's comment, by demodenise: | Reply

I know I'm stepping in the hole here, but I am completely in love with the fact that this "smart, sexy women" article is underneath the "being a man" section of the website.

And the subhead? "What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of the women! - Conan the Barbarian."

metacommunication: what are we saying about what we are saying?

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Oh Oh! I have another one! ... (Below threshold)

December 10, 2008 10:01 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Oh Oh! I have another one! If being blond and blue eyed is so attractive because you are more likely to have blond blue eyed babies with other blond blue eyed babies (recessive genes), why isn`t being redheaded and green eyed just as attractive? Why are gingers culturally below? My theory is that anything can be beautiful as long as it means success in the culture. But there can only be so many ideas per generation. So each generation has it is opinion of what's pretty. It can also only change slightly during generations (after all the new is inspired and raised by the old.)

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I find it strange that you ... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2008 12:01 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I find it strange that you people are not familiar with - indeed have never heard of - evolutionary psychology. And why would the training in that field be different than in any other academic field? Evolutionary psychologists are not typically employed as therapists, if that's what you mean.

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I didn't even catch that . ... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2008 3:22 AM | Posted, in reply to demodenise's comment, by Lexi: | Reply

I didn't even catch that . . . awesome, in a lulzy way. You can be smart and beautiful, and strong . . . as long as your not stronger than the menz folk. Yar!

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You may want to check out t... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2008 5:26 AM | Posted, in reply to demodenise's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You may want to check out these books: The Moral Animal (by Robert Wright), The Origins of Virtue (by Matt Ridley), The Red Queen (by Richard Dawkins).

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What a stupid question, the... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2008 6:46 AM | Posted by Alexandrovich: | Reply

What a stupid question, the 'optimal' waist size.
Muscular waists are optimal physiologically, waists are for movement. Width is arbitrary. Desirability is arbitrary.
Casing point:
Humans watching television... How can this activity possibly be optimal from an evolutionary standpoint? It's not.
Fact:
In a carefully controlled environment, man will always do-
as he damn well pleases.

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Prof. Cashdan: Ugl... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2008 9:48 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Prof. Cashdan:

Ugly woman will never be sexy. Who defines ugly? My penis does and there's no way of getting around it!

-Me

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Evolutionary psychology ... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2008 10:51 AM | Posted by Alone: | Reply

Evolutionary psychology is used all the time, you just don't notice because it isn't often directly labeled (as in this article.) But scroll down to the end of any of the "popular science" news stories ("monkeys can feel envy!") etc and you'll see the inevitable speculation.

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Along with the great analys... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2008 11:47 AM | Posted by MedsVsTherapy: | Reply

Along with the great analysis that the story is basically nonsense valiantly sorted into some kind of order, I want to note a major confounder:

AGE.

the waist-hip ratio changes as women get older.

Contrast this with the likely "evolutionarily" most likely time that the males are looking for their mate, and the age of that mate.

It is entirely possible that, IF (written in caps because it is a big "if") the waist-hip ratio matters, it only matters enough to get the woman hitched and/or impregnated. Which typically (outside of our brief and anomolous modern U.S. trend of birthing a first baby at the age of 40) happens from ages: 15 to 23.

However, that doe snot fit the political polemic. The convenient slight-of-hand was to use the anthropomorphic data for ALL women, regardless of age. Clever.

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I'll bet anything Elizabeth... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2008 1:51 PM | Posted by Lee: | Reply

I'll bet anything Elizabeth Cashdan is overweight.

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That is so obvious I can... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2008 2:20 PM | Posted, in reply to MedsVsTherapy's comment, by Alone: | Reply

That is so obvious I can't believe I missed it, excellent catch. And how easy would it be to find "evidence" supporting her claims? Use older, more established women and pit them against some college girls; or even use post-menopausal women to help the androgen data. Etc.

People, what's dangerous about all this is not her speculations; in fact, speculations are step one towards knowledge; but that these speculations are given the stamp of "science," and then taken up by the popular press and given the stamp of "accepted knowledge."

MedsvTherapy catches that age is clearly a huge confounding variable, but beyond crazy blogs like mine, there is no forum to bring it up in. Her "science" goes completely unchallenged. She wins, by "appeal to authority."

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I have an hourglass figure ... (Below threshold)

December 12, 2008 12:47 AM | Posted by motoko: | Reply

I have an hourglass figure (with an 11" differential between my waist and chest/hips) - which I lost when I was undiagnosed with polycystic ovaries (PCOS) and had rocketing androgen levels and was vastly unhealthy. Even back in my healthy state, though, I still have higher than normal androgen levels. Basically, this sort of social darwinist reasearch can go get stuffed. According to Cashdan, my "weaker" proportions are supposed to indicate higher estrogen and fertility (wrong and wrong, sorry boys) and less strength and stamina, both of which I have in abundance now that I am back to my curvy self. I excel at endurance sports (swimming, biking, hiking) in particular, so there.

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The only answer is for wome... (Below threshold)

December 12, 2008 4:08 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The only answer is for women to stop caring whether or not the world perceives them as attractive.

Men do not fret over how they look. This is a form of control.

Let us set aside feminist ideas about a patriarchal conspiracy for just a moment and focus exclusively on what is the likely result of this thing. Logically, it is likely that anyone who spends a great deal of time concerned about appearances must admit they feel far less control and peace with themselves so long as they are preoccupied with how others perceive them physically (which is, often, entirely out of their control). You have very little ability to control how your face looks, how tall you are, how narrow your waist is. You have very little ability to control what a man thinks when he sees you. Furthermore, it is only possible to be ideally attractive for a very short amount of time (what, ages 16-late 20s? Max?)

It is therefore a very stupid and self defeating idea to play this bullshit game. Find a source of confidence and happiness and self worth for the things you DO in this life... forget how well you please men (or not).

In a way, it was better when women were more often mothers and home makers, because this is often a very effective way to feel an unbreakable sense of worth and confidence (being a caretaker for your children). I think the increase in image obsession of women is probably parallel to the smashing down of family/motherhood roles.


I"m glad I'm a nurse. I feel so much worth knowing that every day I interact with people to help them... if it was not for nursing I would probably still be a self loathing eating disordered nutcase preoccupied with my physical imperfections.

BTW, I"m not stupid enough to preface this post bragging about what a perfect hourglass I am like certain other women. In a way, bragging online about how hot you are is a sure sign that you're not.

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Lots of good points here--n... (Below threshold)

December 12, 2008 9:29 AM | Posted by Kelly: | Reply

Lots of good points here--no one should define their self-worth totally, or even mostly, by their attractiveness to the opposite sex. Like you said, there's only so much you can do to change your looks, and many of the things you *can* do aren't healthy. Screw up your ankles with high heels so guys will enjoy the shape of your butt...have surgery to mess with your digestive system so that you're an "acceptable" weight...

In a way, it was better when women were more often mothers and home makers, because this is often a very effective way to feel an unbreakable sense of worth and confidence (being a caretaker for your children). I think the increase in image obsession of women is probably parallel to the smashing down of family/motherhood roles.

That I'm going to disagree with, because if a woman's main role is as a homemaker, she's totally dependent on a man finding her attractive to *get* and *maintain* that role. So she has to focus even *more* heavily on her appearance. Because what happens to the woman whose only skills are homemaking, when she's 40 and her husband decides to ditch her for a 20-year-old? What does she do? How does she support herself and her kids?

As far as I'm concerned, the best thing about feminism is the idea that women should get to determine for themselves what kind of lives they want to have. You want to be a stay-at-home mom and you find that fulfilling? Great! You don't want kids at all, and you find fulfillment in a challenging job? Cool, good for you. Get married and have kids, get married and don't have kids, have kids without getting married---hey, it's your life.

I think the issue as far as unrealistic expectations of attractiveness has more to do with the media than with the change in family structure. All the time, we see images of women whose job it is to conform to a certain ideal of physical beauty. They spend time and money that most of us don't have to maintain that look. And even *after* they do all that, they don't appear in a magazine without being heavily Photoshopped. We get the message that we're supposed to look like Angelina Jolie, when Angelina herself doesn't really look like that.

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Anonymous said: "In a way, ... (Below threshold)

December 12, 2008 9:46 AM | Posted by MedsVsTherapy: | Reply

Anonymous said: "In a way, it was better when women were more often mothers and home makers, because this is often a very effective way to feel an unbreakable sense of worth and confidence (being a caretaker for your children). I think the increase in image obsession of women is probably parallel to the smashing down of family/motherhood roles."

Hey- if she is gonna be anonymous, can I just claim her post? this was awesome.

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<a href="http://www.hbes.co... (Below threshold)

December 12, 2008 9:54 AM | Posted, in reply to Lee's comment, by MedsVsTherapy: | Reply

http://www.hbes.com/hbes/photos.04/

this crowd looks like the same crowd at every conference I have ever gone to. Maybe it really is all the same people. Maybe they just live at these conference hotels. And emerge as the conference starts, with their witty comments, funny hairdo's, almost-rumpled clothes, and poorly tied ties.

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Why would an auto mechanic ... (Below threshold)

December 12, 2008 10:57 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Fargo: | Reply

Why would an auto mechanic know what an MCSE is? Same difference, though I'd wager good money that MCSEs outnumber evolutionary psychologists by a good deal, and that despite that I wouldn't be shocked if, say, a marketing director in a company that employed several wouldn't know what that was.

My point about training is that, assuming from the name that it would entail the behavioral study of long dead people, or proto-people, it would be even more subjective than regular behavioral analysis, and that observer bias would tend to be rampant, since like only six people would be around, in your field, to contradict assumptions.

Now that Alone has mentioned this field also entails people that do some level of animal behavioral study, or maybe just primates, at least it seems possible to study for that, though I'm still prone to calling it things like "professional anthropomorphizers". That's mostly because I enjoy being just kind of a jerk though.

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This is a fancy way of sayi... (Below threshold)

December 12, 2008 5:25 PM | Posted by La BellaDonna: | Reply

This is a fancy way of saying "Pretty/sexy women are stupid", with a subset of "...and the men who want them are stupid, too". This is specifically aimed at making those who do NOT have a .7/.68 waist/hip ratio feel better about themselves.

I'd like to take a minute here and point out that IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO HAVE AN HOURGLASS FIGURE TO HAVE A .7 WAIST/HIP RATIO. IT IS ONLY NECESSARY TO HAVE A .7 WAIST/HIP RATIO TO HAVE A .7 WAIST/HIP RATIO. And what is that, if it's not an hourglass? That's a PEAR-shape, folks. Many more women have that than the cylinder-shape; it is in fact thought to be the most common female shape, and many is the Pear who hates, hates, hates her figure. The Pear and the Hourglass are, however, not intrinsically stupider nor weaker than their V-shaped or Ruler-shaped compatriots. Mormiriel, go over to http://www.dressaday.com/dressaday.html and go through the archives; there's a lot of information on dressing different figure types. If Erin's search function is down, google on "La BellaDonna" and "Hourglass"; I've done numerous guest posts on dressing different body types. If you really need personal help, you can email me; I can give you the Short Speech, which is: Everything must be fitted. The Hourglass is the most limited body type, despite what fashion magazines say about "an hourglass can wear anything!" She can't. If her clothes are not fitted to her body, she looks like a big ol' bag of laundry. Anything oversized or man-tailored will look vile on you; you will look dumpy, and not know why. A-line dresses are an abomination on you. Look for blouses with darts or princess seams; there are websites that offer specially-drafted blouses if you are a really bosomy hourglass. Look for jackets with princess seams or darts. Be wary of any jacket touted as man-tailored; look for a dressmaker jacket instead. IGNORE Chanel-style boxy jackets without bust darts; you cannot wear them. For ideas on dress shapes that will look their best on you, google Dior's dresses from 1947-1953; the New Look shape is the Hourglass's friend, and any repro that mimics it is good.

N.B.: Thin women, average women, and fat women can be Hourglasses or Pears. Audrey Hepburn, though very slim, was an Hourglass. Marilyn Monroe, who was variable, was an Hourglss. Anna Nicole Smith, and many if not most plus-sized commercial models, are Hourglasses.

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I'd also recommend Nancy Et... (Below threshold)

December 12, 2008 5:36 PM | Posted by La BellaDonna: | Reply

I'd also recommend Nancy Etcoff's "Survival of the Prettiest" for some better research than the hash that was served up by Cashdan.

http://human-nature.com/nibbs/02/sotp.html offers a pretty balanced review of the book, and does mention evolutionary psychology along the way.

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Well, two comments. Assumi... (Below threshold)

December 13, 2008 10:50 AM | Posted by Camille: | Reply

Well, two comments. Assuming you're accurately representing this article: yes, it's terribly unscientific.

However, I think the woman is trying to say something that's worthwhile. She's responding to studies that are claiming "hourglass figures are the IDEAL figures" instead of saying "the vast majority of men find hourglass figures most desirable" or "hourglass figures are closely associated with high fertility rates".The people who published an article that stated that the hourglass figure was ideal were making a normative judgment: that the "ideal figure" should be judged on the grounds of fertility and attractiveness.The question she asked was a very good one: "why should women's attractiveness or fertility determine the quality of her looks?" but the methods that she used to ask this question (and to suggest an answer) were not admirable.

-Camille

PS. Agreed, women should stop worrying about their appearance. It's kind of hard though, since if you are a woman and not attractive there are pretty nasty consequences.

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Well, two comments. Assumi... (Below threshold)

December 13, 2008 11:06 AM | Posted by Camille: | Reply

Well, two comments. Assuming you're accurately representing this article: yes, it's terribly unscientific.

However, I think the woman is trying to say something that's worthwhile. She's responding to studies that are claiming "hourglass figures are the IDEAL figures" instead of saying "the vast majority of men find hourglass figures most desirable" or "hourglass figures are closely associated with high fertility rates".The people who published an article that stated that the hourglass figure was ideal were making a normative judgment: that the "ideal figure" should be judged on the grounds of fertility and attractiveness.The question she asked was a very good one: "why should women's attractiveness or fertility determine the quality of her looks?" but the methods that she used to ask this question (and to suggest an answer) were not admirable.

-Camille

PS. Agreed, women should stop worrying about their appearance. It's kind of hard though, since if you are a woman and not attractive there are pretty nasty consequences.

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Well, two comments. Assumi... (Below threshold)

December 13, 2008 11:08 AM | Posted by Camille: | Reply

Well, two comments. Assuming you're accurately representing this article: yes, it's terribly unscientific.

However, I think the woman is trying to say something that's worthwhile. She's responding to studies that are claiming "hourglass figures are the IDEAL figures" instead of saying "the vast majority of men find hourglass figures most desirable" or "hourglass figures are closely associated with high fertility rates".The people who published an article that stated that the hourglass figure was ideal were making a normative judgment: that the "ideal figure" should be judged on the grounds of fertility and attractiveness.The question she asked was a very good one: "why should women's attractiveness or fertility determine the quality of her looks?" but the methods that she used to ask this question (and to suggest an answer) were not admirable.

-Camille

PS. Agreed, women should stop worrying about their appearance. It's kind of hard though, since if you are a woman and not attractive there are pretty nasty consequences.

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Why on earth should women s... (Below threshold)

December 14, 2008 12:12 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Why on earth should women stop worrying about their appearance? Men think about their appearance, too. Not generally to the same extent, but why must women be just like men? And for either gender, why is it a sin (or "self-defeating") to try to be appealing to other people? And why must a woman's trying to look nice be about "pleasing men"? Can't a woman look nice in order to please herself? Just because a woman, or a man, cares about, or even worries about, her appearance does not mean it is the only source of confidence or self-worth in her life. Give me a break.

Fargo, my understanding of evolutionary psychology (which I would not expect a random person to have heard of, but a visitor to this website is a different matter) is that it is the study not of primates or long-dead proto-people (not primarily, at least), but of contemporary people, and of how their behavior is the product of evolutionary adaptations. Is it "subjective"? I suspect so, but when would any field containing the word "psychology" be considered a hard science?

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All these academic types cr... (Below threshold)

December 14, 2008 2:29 PM | Posted by RA: | Reply

All these academic types crack me up. The best research they could possibly do is go to a bunch of different Walmarts and actually look at reality. Fat, ugly, stupid people everywhere have partners, get married, have kids, have affairs, and so on. There is no true advantage to whatever kind of figure someone has. If so, then why are there still so many fat uglies in the world?

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"I'll bet anything Elizabet... (Below threshold)

December 14, 2008 5:54 PM | Posted by Psychologist: | Reply

"I'll bet anything Elizabeth Cashdan is overweight."

Some of the the most militant psychologists I've known when it comes to this issue are trim and fanatically dietary-conscious--I would say even on the thin side with much more time spent in cardio activity at the gym than the average person.

Also, I'd take your bet on Cashdan, but it wouldn't be fair. I know for a fact that she is not overweight.

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You can always write a lett... (Below threshold)

December 15, 2008 10:22 AM | Posted, in reply to Alone's comment, by marcia: | Reply

You can always write a letter to the editor or op ed piece for publication in that journal (assuming they're willing to concede they helped legitimize publishing opinion as scientifically valid theory).

I agree with the poster who speculated the author is overweight.

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I agree with the poster who... (Below threshold)

December 15, 2008 10:35 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I agree with the poster who speculated the author is overweight.

Also, I'd take your bet on Cashdan, but it wouldn't be fair. I know for a fact that she is not overweight.

I wish I'd read the previous comment in this thread before I wrote that. :)

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A propos: <a href="http://s... (Below threshold)

December 15, 2008 2:43 PM | Posted by Per Jørgensen: | Reply

A propos: http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2008/1212/2

Boy, if only the girls I went to high school with would have read that study.

Oh, but wait ... Headline: "Revenge of the Nerds." Lede: "Brainiacs, rejoice! The most sophisticated study on the subject so far suggests that, when it comes to choosing a mate, females value intelligence and creativity independent of a guy's looks."

Actual conclusion, three paragraphs down: "intelligence and creativity made small but significant contributions to a guy's desirability as a short-term or long-term partner." In other words, they made a little bit of a difference once you factored out physical attractiveness, the same way my appendix is very important as long as you factor out my other organs. Shouldn't you at least try to write your article such that it supports your hyperventilating headline?

It's not just Newsweek, doc.

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Hey, good for her. Telling ... (Below threshold)

December 17, 2008 12:36 PM | Posted by Joseph Bergevin: | Reply

Hey, good for her. Telling people what they should appreciate in lieu of what they actually do appreciate. It won't discernably change anything, but maybe it will make all those cylinders feel slightly better.

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So apparently as a blonde-h... (Below threshold)

December 25, 2008 11:11 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

So apparently as a blonde-haired blue-eyed female with a waist to hip ratio of 0.65 I should be so intimidated by everything and everyone that I shouldn't even know how to use the internet.

That's also why I have rock solid 14 inch biceps and the remains of a sunburn on my back from chopping wood, yeah?

I still don't understand why anyone bothers to publish "studies" like these.

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The hormones are in the mea... (Below threshold)

January 10, 2009 2:34 PM | Posted by Uncle B: | Reply

The hormones are in the meat! The kids mature far to vigorously and far too soon! See the female Chinese athletes? some are as old as 17, and still, no boobies, no periods! America was once like this! A government hidden statistic for sure! Our children are force fed hormones to ready them for dumbed down factory jobs and psychotic consumerism, only to fine society has moved on, the jobs ar gone off-shore, and they are ready to have families and join the rat race that doesn't exist anymore! The (GRD) great republican depression will force social paradigm shifts that will necessarily remedy this situation, but not without much pain to the American psyche, and the one in four girls between 12 and 16 with STDs (an American stat) will no longer be a matter of great pride to American studs, but a matter of irresponsible shame! Hollywood can no longer dictate morality to us, we must educate our females. The Chinese do, and they will eat us alive if we don't. Respect for the females of the species is next in order for civilizations to successfully survive! The days of the "Surgically altered, baboon minded, Barbie Doll Sex object wife" are gone with McMansions and SUV's A new day is born, with environmentally conscious, well educated women, demanding Universal Health Care, sustainable housing, and nurturing fathers for their off-spring, and they will accept no less!

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Scratch the surface, and yo... (Below threshold)

January 10, 2009 4:38 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Scratch the surface, and you'll discover that evolutionary psychology is a hoax.

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Wow. Is that peer reviewed ... (Below threshold)

January 10, 2009 9:32 PM | Posted by Anonymous II: | Reply

Wow. Is that peer reviewed at all?

I'm gonna go make a wild guess: this woman is a closet BBW lesbian/feminist who hates men (see article) because the one's she like don't seem to respond well.


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There's nothing wrong with ... (Below threshold)

March 2, 2009 12:04 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

There's nothing wrong with an hour glass, a rectangle, or any other type of figure; it takes all kinds.

Some guys would be happy as hell to date a more fertile woman as opposed to a woman who can bench press more than they can. It might just be me, but the second I read this article's title I was turned off. What's the point of trying to make a point if you're only isolating those that are reading it?

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Who let the Alex Jones nutj... (Below threshold)

March 2, 2009 11:52 PM | Posted, in reply to Uncle B's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Who let the Alex Jones nutjobs in?

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Thank you, thank you. I lov... (Below threshold)

March 27, 2009 3:44 PM | Posted by JS: | Reply

Thank you, thank you. I love it when people challenge sloppy thinking. This "I think it, therefore it must be true" approach to virtually everything is our new century's brain-numbing drug of choice.

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Ahem, I read this and was c... (Below threshold)

April 5, 2009 12:01 PM | Posted by Nazira Bashour: | Reply

Ahem, I read this and was completely disgusted. Just because I'm attractive and a perfect hourglass I have to be unintelligent? I'm in 8th grade and doing 10th grade math, passed out of vocabulary last year and have finished two and a half latin books in 1 and a half years. So shove your biased notions up your ass, lady. You can be attractive AND smart. And many times people look at my huge boobs and butt and etc. and assume that I am stupid. I am 13 for god's sake and have to deal with this because I have a "sexy" figure. Not to mention perverts constantly hitting on me. And then you say that being feminine is being dumb. I am sure those men who will do whatever they please would love if I was. But I am not and I am ashamed that you would encourage such a degrading stereotype. Because the true dumb women are the ones that try to look like us hourglass women with surgery and implants or degrade us so they can feel better. Come on. Instead of that just try to prove that because you aren't as curvy as me you are smarter. You just try.

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I'm a little disturbed by t... (Below threshold)

May 21, 2009 3:21 PM | Posted by Emma Cardwell: | Reply

I'm a little disturbed by the conflating of 'hourglass' and attractive here: those ladies who have posted about their hourglass figures meaning they are "both attractive and smart!" are doing exactly the same to the 90% of the population that are not hourglass as the article is doing to them.

The facts presented do not state that women are magically smarter now than they were in the 50s, just that there is a correlation between stress levels and hip-waist ratio.

Please would everyone stop bashing people with other body shapes. What exactly are you achieving?

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I'm a little disturbed by t... (Below threshold)

May 21, 2009 3:21 PM | Posted by Emma : | Reply

I'm a little disturbed by the conflating of 'hourglass' and attractive here: those ladies who have posted about their hourglass figures meaning they are "both attractive and smart!" are doing exactly the same to the 90% of the population that are not hourglass as the article is doing to them.

The facts presented do not state that women are magically smarter now than they were in the 50s, just that there is a correlation between stress levels and hip-waist ratio.

Please would everyone stop bashing people with other body shapes. What exactly are you achieving?

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There is no cause-and-effec... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2009 2:28 PM | Posted by J: | Reply

There is no cause-and-effect study which definitively state that hourglass or any other types of females are more or less competitive in the modern world. This is conclusion based on assumption.

Why do women need to type themselves in a physical way and expect that to somehow correlate to how they think? If hair color somehow explained the level of intelligence in a person, why doesn't that also apply to blonde males? Are they dumber than the average brown haired man?

This is yet another "the feminine form is less the worth of a more male form", deriving from nothing. Why don't we just accept women as they are; whatever the shape, size, color of their phyiscal make up, if they study dilligently, they'll get good grades; if they work hard, they'll succeed, and if they spend days and hours doing nothing but learn to do make-up, they probably won't know much other than make-up?

This is the type of things try to cast women as "second class". Is there a study that says "men with more feminine features are less competitive and do not succeed"?

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Thank you for pointing out ... (Below threshold)

August 8, 2009 10:26 PM | Posted by anonymous: | Reply

Thank you for pointing out the obvious flaws in this "argument." I am a woman with an hourglass shape. My waist is 14" smaller than bust and hips, but I am not weak, passive, or helpless. And contrary to the "logic" used in this article, men like my shape very much. No matter where I have traveled, my shape has garnered approval. I also have other physical markers of high estrogen, such as full lips, and I conceive very easily. I don't think the intent of this bullshit article was to make women feel better about their shapes, at least not if they happen to be hourglass, since the author was downright insulting toward women who are shaped like I am.

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"See the "Until no... (Below threshold)

October 18, 2009 4:15 PM | Posted by Nicole: | Reply

"See the "Until now"? Elizabeth Cashdan, Professor and Chair at the University of Utah, does not agree with this, nor with the medical studies that do. "Until now" means we are about to learn why all that is wrong"

How do you know thats wrong? Enlighten me. Wanna know why having a wider waist isn't healthy? Because thats where all your major organs are like your heart, lungs, intestants kidneys, bladder and so forth which makes perfect sense, most guys like the hourglass figure because its more attractive, and thats the same reason why painters always want the hourglass figure for nude paintings, it has a really nice shape and is more alluring than the other figure. And just because hollywood no longer worships the hourglass figure dosen't mean men don't, most of them I know still are attracted the the hourglass figure. I don't base it upon what "hollywood thinks."


"Before I explain what she's discovered, let me walk you through her logic. Women with "imperfect" bodies will be healthier and more successful because that thing which makes them "imperfect" also causes economic success and better health. If that doesn't seem improbable to you, wait till you hear her explanation:
androgens"

I known many ugly women that were stupid, and many beautiful women who were smart, and successful , and as for androgens being healthier see my answer above, hollywood wants you to think that amazonian women(androgenic) are healthier to make women with pear and hourglass shaped bodies feel bad about theirselves which is pretty far from the truth.

"So masculinized women are stronger and smarter than feminized women. Or: paint will stain your fingers; paint can also make a beautiful painting. So if you see stained fingers, expect to see awesome art

Maybe psycally stronger. Mentally? NO, women with bigger hips release endorphins women with more musculine bodies don't have.

"that's it. Don't bother looking for more, there isn't any: most women don't have hourglass figures, ergo it's not optimal"

read the book "escape your shape" by Edward Jackowski 40% of women have hourglass figures 30% have pears, 20% have rulers, and 10% have apples, do a little research beforehand.

"Got that? If he prefers the hourglass figure, it means he wants weak and submissive women. If he prefers the larger type, he wants someone strong who votes."

That very stereotypical, it dosen't mean it he wants weak and submissive women it means he wants an attractive woman, I'm an hourglass and I work out, and can guarantee you that a lot stronger than this apple shaped woman I know.

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i still don't get why every... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 4:45 AM | Posted by ph: | Reply

i still don't get why everyone considers the hourglass more "attractive". this is exactly why studies like this are needed, to balance out all the bullshit out there about hourglass being more ideal (which it is not, from an aesthetic and "practical" purpose).

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ph are you a fat woman, or ... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 8:04 AM | Posted by Steve: | Reply

ph are you a fat woman, or do you screw fat women?

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It strikes me that saying "... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 8:47 AM | Posted, in reply to Psychologist's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

It strikes me that saying "she must be fat" because one doesn't like what she's saying is pretty much like when a guy says "she must be a lesbian" because she's not sexually interested in him - why not just say "she must be a fat, man hating lesbian" because she's said something that confronts a particular bias. If it's just about the science and not the commenter's own issues, then it's enough to say "she's got her facts wrong, here's the science to prove it".

LaBellaDonna also makes an excellent point about hip/waist ratio and pear-shaped figures that addresses what the studies really show as being considered more attractive.

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Good one, Anonymous. Do yo... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 12:57 PM | Posted by anonymouse: | Reply

Good one, Anonymous. Do you think Steve may be about 11-14 years old? Me, too.

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anonymouse - Who knows? He/... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 1:09 PM | Posted, in reply to anonymouse's comment, by AnAnon: | Reply

anonymouse - Who knows? He/she is just as likely to be an older person with a juvenile mentality, hard to know on the internet but it can be fun to guess (as pointless as it is).

Always hilarious to have a blog post about how bias influences beliefs about reality followed by comments that are all about how the researcher must be wrong (not because the science is wrong) but because she "must" be fat.You know, people's prejudices get in the way of critical thinking.

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The article linked to by TL... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 1:48 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The article linked to by TLP isn't actually saying being fat is healthier, it's saying that hip to waist ratio is influenced by androgens and that there's both nature and nurture at work. Of course, it's more sensational to simplify it all and say "they're claiming being fat is sexier" - which isn't the claim being made at all. Hip/waist ratio has nothing to do with being fat or thin, it has to do with the difference in circumference between a woman's hips and waist...that's it and can apply to both chubby and slim women.

This seems to be built upon research that has shown higher androgen counts in women who function in more competitive environments (such as the workplace) and the hypothesis being put forth seems to be that this influences body type (where fat accumulates, which is at least partially governed by hormones). Cue Sir Mix-A-Lot....who is at least partially responsible for making big asses publicly acceptable to white men and women again. I'll refrain from theorizing about what it meant that white men found boyish, flat assed figures on women "hawt" at the time (or at least weren't likely to admit to others that they liked big butts).

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And, of course, the article... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 2:00 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

And, of course, the article TLP linked to is also warping the science for the sake of a sensational headline or intro paragraph. Hmmm, sensationalism, always good for getting an emotional polemic going where both sides ignore reality in favor of their personal opinion.

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I appericiate your... (Below threshold)

March 26, 2012 9:32 AM | Posted by Surgical Instruments: | Reply

I appericiate your effort its such a nice nice, and has very informative.

Surgical Instruments

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I appericiate your effort i... (Below threshold)

April 4, 2012 9:04 AM | Posted by Surgical Instrument Company: | Reply

I appericiate your effort its such a nice nice, and has very informative.

Surgical Instrument Company

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Anthropology is the researc... (Below threshold)

May 4, 2012 4:16 AM | Posted by Sterilization of Surgical Instruments: | Reply

Anthropology is the research of people, past and existing. To comprehend the full brush and difficulty of societies across all of record, anthropology attracts and creates upon understanding from the public and natural sciences as well as the humanities and actual sciences

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It's just psychology that i... (Below threshold)

March 20, 2013 12:44 AM | Posted, in reply to demodenise's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

It's just psychology that is based upon theories that are based upon an assumed evolutionary history.

So if, supposedly, our ancestors needed to know that females were fertile by looking at their hip-to-wast ratio, then one would suppose that today, because men like an hourglass figure, it must be a now-obsolete holdover of our ancient ancestors.

The problem is that they see evidence today, and use that evidence to prove a theory that was created specifically for the evidence.
And wouldn't you know it! The evidence matches perfectly!

Circular what? Reasoning? What's this?

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I guess Ms Cashdan doesn't ... (Below threshold)

May 10, 2013 4:02 AM | Posted by x-shape: | Reply

I guess Ms Cashdan doesn't have an hour-glass figure herself, which is probably why she wants to bash anyone who has one so that she can feel better about her own less-than-ideal shape.

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Alone worries that pseudosc... (Below threshold)

January 2, 2014 12:07 PM | Posted by Curio: | Reply

Alone worries that pseudoscientific trash like this make their way into Newsweek and become part of our (collective) knowledge base.

This is frightening, but not likely. In my experience, after enough of this trash piles up, people stop trusting the studies altogether. "Vitamin supplements are good for you, science says", "New studies say vitamin supplements do nothing", "Science says those studies were flawed", "Oh what the heck... who cares?"

Knowledge has become so "democratized" that anyone can find any study to support any assertion.

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"I conceive very easily" ha... (Below threshold)

April 12, 2014 10:51 AM | Posted, in reply to anonymous's comment, by johnnycoconut: | Reply

"I conceive very easily" hahahahaha

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This woman's views-if one t... (Below threshold)

July 19, 2014 10:50 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This woman's views-if one thinks them through-start to seem quite mysogynistic. (According to her) women with more androgens are better than women with less androgens. In other words, women with male characteristics are better than women with female characteristics. Taken to it's logical conclusion: men are best (since they are even more androgen filled than any women), masculine women are second best, feminine women are the weakest and worst.

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