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Valar Qringaomis

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Why do more attractive females (using self-ratings) show decreased feminist orientations, compared with less attractive counterparts?

Feminism: Why do more attractive females (using self-ratings) show decreased feminist orientations, compared with less attractive counterparts? - Quora
(the question has since been removed)

Question details: THE F WORD: IS FEMINISM INCOMPATIBLE WITH BEAUTY AND ROMANCE? - Rudman - 2007 - Psychology of Women Quarterly - Wiley Online Library

Extract from abstract: "more attractive female participants (using self-ratings) showed decreased feminist orientations, compared with less attractive counterparts"

My answer: The paper you reference, The F Word: Is Feminism Incompatible with Beauty and Romance? (Page on weebly.com),   notes that the more attractive a woman thought she was, the less she   identified with feminism and the less positive she was toward feminists.

The authors provided alternative explanations for this (other than the  obvious one - that feminists are less attractive), suggesting that  feminist women don't think personal appearance is important so they don't  spend time on  their appearance or mix with people who will compliment  their beauty.  They also suggest that non-feminists believe in romantic  ideals and thus  think they are more attractive than they are.

I find the former more reasonable than the former (another study finds that women with traditional gender roles invest more in "personal appearance standards"; Gender attitudes, feminist identity, and body images among college women), yet it is not all that convincing as an explanation - feminists, after all, find a wider variety of body types attractive (The influence of feminist ascription on judgements of women's physical attractiveness), so presumably on average feminists would rate their attractiveness higher than non-feminists (this assumes that feminists and non-feminists have a similar distribution of body types).

Furthermore, one study (The Effects of Exposure to Feminist Ideology on Women's Body Image) has found that exposure to feminism makes women more happy with their physical appearance (in other words, we would expect feminists to think themselves more attractive than non-feminists).

Ideally, we'd have a direct test of the theory that feminists are less attractive.

The  paper does reference a 1975 study by Goldberg, Gottesdiener, &   Abramson where 30 women were photographed and rated by others on   attractiveness, and their attractiveness did not predict their  feminism.  Yet, as the paper notes, "the Women’s Movement was young in  1975".  Perhaps more to the point, the sample size wasn't very big (and  the  results don't seem to have been replicated).

We  can also indirectly test this theory.

Intriguingly, where it is harder for women to find a partner, due either to an unfavorable sex ratio  (more women than men) or undesirability (men not liking, noticing or  complimenting them), women had higher career aspirations (Sex ratio and women's career choice: does a scarcity of men lead women to choose briefcase over baby?).

This is what we would expect if less attractive women were more likely to be feminist (undesirable women, who tend to be unattractive, are more  likely to seek to mitigate the effects of their unattractiveness -  either by earning more money or by being feminist).

Now, you might ask, how does being feminist mitigate the effects of a woman's unattractiveness?

A married female friend of mine who is rather attractive once proclaimed that she was not a feminist, and that attractive women  would not be feminists because they benefit from 'patriarchy'.

Cui bono? (Who benefits?)

I  studied a bit of sociology a long time ago, and one of the theories we  learned was Conflict Theory (CW Mills, in the tradition of Karl Marx).  Basically, in analysing and critiquing a social system, we look at who  it benefits and who it disadvantages. Those who benefit are thus those  with a vested interest in maintaining the existing system, and those who  are disadvantaged are those who advocate its change (or dismantling).


Example of conflict theory analysis

Returning  to the question of feminism and female attractiveness, feminists  proclaim that (among other things) they are against 'patriarchy' because  women are only valued by their looks.

Immediately, we can see that (if  this is true) attractive women have a vested interest in keeping  'patriarchy' and unattractive women would like to topple it (so that  they can move up the social hierarchy).

Inasmuch as people hew to  ideological positions that personally benefit them, we can conclude  that feminist women indeed are not as attractive as non-feminist women.
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