This news is receiving a fair measure of media attention. An article in today's issue of The Herald
notes some of the broader ramifications of this study:
The research team, led by Miriam Law Smith, a final year psychology PhD student, claims to have found a link between attractive women and higher levels of fertility.
Their findings undermine the notion that beauty is a social or cultural product, or even a subjective concept.
This should put an end to the "beauty is in the eye of the beholder myth," once and for all. Beauty is a timeless ideal, locked in the human heart (or, if one prefers to express it this way, in the human genome.)
Another article about this study, this one from today's issue of The Telegraph, describes more precisely the way in which estrogen shapes the female face into a more rounder, more feminine form:
"People have speculated for years that women with more attractive and healthy looking faces have higher oestrogen," said Miriam Law Smith.
"Hormones exert most effect on the face during puberty, she said. The principal male sex hormone testosterone causes the jaw and eyebrow ridges to become more prominent and facial hair to grow, making boys' faces grow more than girls'.
The female sex hormone oestrogen prevents the growth of facial bone, reduces the size of the nose and chin, and leads to large eyes, increased thickness of lips and fat deposition in the cheek area, along with hips and buttocks, features that announce that a woman is fertile."
Thus, an elongated jaw and correspondingly oval features are identifiably masculine traits, produced by the male hormone, while rounder chin/cheek areas are attributable to essentially feminine biology.* * *
In reaching these conclusions, science is only confirming what artists have known throughout human history.
But now that the timeless ideal has been validated, it becomes even more important to answer the core question posed by our Web project--i.e., why a masculine image of woman was imposed on modern culture as an artificial standard of womanly appearance in the first place, in lieu of the timeless feminine ideal; and what can be done to rectify this.
The only shortcoming of the study is that it doesn't pay enough attention to the degree to which weight, rather than estrogen, can help shape a woman's face, and give her features the rounder, more feminine qualities that her bone structure may lack.* * *
Hilary Duff is a singular example of this effect. While she was fuller-figured, the extra weight in her face rounded out her features, and gave her the distinctly feminine beauty that the aforementioned study determined to be most attractive. But in her current, emaciated state, Duff's facial features have been deprived of any feminine roundness, severely diminishing her aesthetic appeal. Sara Rue has recently suffered the same fate, leaving her almost unrecognizable.
Conversely, Kate Dillon's facial features were remarkably transformed for the better by her figure enhancement, back in 1996. In its very first issue, Mode enthused that "The beauty of Kate's face is that it is full"--and, as the above study has determined, the magazine was even more correct in that assessment than it probably realized.
Based on the conclusions of this study, if the plus-size modelling industry wishes to accomplish a thorough revaluation of society's aesthetic values, it should favour models who possess the rounder, more feminine facial features that the study establishes as the ideal of womanly attractiveness--whether the models achieve this roundness through agreeable weight gain, or through their natural femininity.
And here, by the way, is an interesting demonstration of these aesthetic principles. The graphic posted below juxtaposes an image of Lillian Russell, one of the most attractive woman of all time, with the images from the above study. Note how closely Lillian's features correspond to those of the ideally feminine face, on the left. She has the same full cheeks and rounded chin. Note, by contrast, how the jaw in the composite image on the right is more elongated, and the cheeks more hollow.
We could as easily have featured Shannon Marie or Kelsey or Christina Schmidt in Lillian's stead. This truly is the timeless ideal of feminine beauty, and the only difference between Lillian Russell's day and our own is that the culture of the 1890s was in tune with natural human inclinations, and venerated this ideal, while those who hold the tiller of contemporary culture have steered us away from it (for reasons which deserve scrutiny, and reappraisal).
The return of the once-and-future aesthetic is finally at hand . . .