[Paleopsych] Gold Sea: Asian Faces Under the American Beauty Standard
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Sat Apr 2 16:01:39 UTC 2005
Asian Faces Under the American Beauty Standard
[And here's the emergence of what, for want of a better term, Yellow
Supremacy. A reply follows from another list follows.]
Asian female faces rate high under universal beauty standards and are
moving up under an increasingly Asianizing American beauty standard.
by Dean Ching
Beauty matters. Ask any Asian American who has spent hours in front
of a mirror tormenting herself with the question ³Am I beautiful?²
Beauty is one of those things that's easy to spot but hard to define.
That's why lazy thinkers of the past have gotten themselves off the
hook with the breezy "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
Copout. That old saw begs the question, why does Ms Beholder think
I'm a total hottie and my pal has a great personality.
The whys and wherefores of beauty aren't any more difficult to
understand than, say, organic chem or quantum mechanics. It's a
matter of applying the same analytical tools with the same rigor.
What's really going on when we perceive someone to be hot? How does
Asian beauty rate against white beauty in American minds? Are our
faces beautiful or merely exotic. These are the questions on our
All meaningful discussions begin with fundamentals. Let's not confuse
personal attraction with a society's beauty standard. As an example,
most guys at the office may fantasize about that certain marketing
assistant but you may avoid her because she reminds you of a teacher
who traumatized you in the third grade.
That brings up a key concept: that beauty comprises both a physical
base and a social overlay. For any given individual the social
overlay plays a much bigger role than it does for society as a whole.
In other words, even though a society's beauty standards do
incorporate a large social component, it tends to average out
endlessly variable individual biases into a collective social overlay.
So how do Asian beauties like Vivian Lai, Song Hye-kyo or Sonohara
Yukino compare on the beauty scale against the likes of Kate Hudson,
Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon? (We're saving Asian male
beauty for a later article.)
A Universal Beauty Standard
Evolutionary psychologists have concluded that humans have an innate
attraction to beautiful people. Various studies have produced some
obvious conclusions: that lateral symmetry and a healthy appearance
rate high on universal concepts of beauty. Another universal seems to
be the waist-to-hip ratio in women which converges around .7 (e.g.
One of the most important, however, is a study conducted by Judith
Langlois of the University of Texas. It suggests that even 3- to
6-month old babies who haven't been media-conditioned show a distinct
preference for faces that conform to a narrow range of facial
proportions. Interestingly, these proportions vary little across
racial lines. They are uniform enough to have allowed a company
called MBA to derive blueprints showing the proportions and angles
that make up ideal beauty.
[Caption for picture: MBA has distilled blueprints for faces of ideal
beauty in both straight and smiling configurations. The blueprints are
good fits when superimposed over beautiful faces of every race.]
To help ensure that our species survives and continues up the
evolutionary ladder, we are genetically coded to be drawn to people
who possess traits suggesting health and strong survival and
reproductive abilities. These include wideset eyes, high cheekbones,
large eyes, full lips, clear light skin, a short nose and a
relatively small lower face. The majority happen to be traits that
Asian women are more likely to possess than women of other races.
Below is a chart showing each feature as embodied in an attractive
Asian and caucasian face and a score reflecting how the typical
features of that race would rate. Asian women can rest assured that
their faces aren't at a disadvantage when judged against deeply held
notions of feminine beauty.
American Social Overlay
Where Asian beauty encounters resistance is more often on the level
of the associations that its features evoke in American minds. This
social overlay comprises economic, cultural and political
associations as viewed through the prism of individual biases. For
example, a deeply tanned Asian woman might remind many older
Americans of impoverished and wartorn Asian nations, causing them to
assign a lower value to her brand of beauty. Another example is a
young American male who may associate an Asian woman with media
images, prompting him to impute more sexuality to Asian features. The
chart below shows the most common biases that produce the American
social overlay on Asian beauty.
Asianization of American Beauty
[Caption: The appeal of Asian female beauty is shown by the increasingly
frequent selection of Asians as newscasters and beauty queens. Among them
are 1997 Miss USA/Universe Brooke Lee (upper left), 2001 Miss America
Angela Perez Baraquio (upper right) and ABC news anchor Liz Cho.]
All three components of the social overlay are shifting in favor of
Asian beauty. The prosperity and modernity of East Asia and the fast
emergence of China from impoverished third-world status to having the
world's fastest growing middle class have raised the value of Asians
in American eyes. The vibrant hi-tech cultures of Japan, Corea,
Taiwan, Singapore and major Chinese cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai
and Guangzhou are associating Asians with the glamour of the future
rather than the dubious romance of the past. At the same time, the
remarkable success of Asians in the United States and Canada have
shown that Asians can compete well even as a minority on American
In the sphere of geopolitics, unlike previous generations in which
Asians were seen as military threats, today's focus on fighting
Muslim terrorism has transformed Asian nations into friends and
allies. Even on the economic front, U.S. industries have either
conceded the segments in which Asian companies pose the most intense
competition or made alliances and other accommodations. The combined
effect has been to raise Asians closer to the status of friendly,
upscale faces in global society. Consequently, America's beauty
standard has shifted to embrace this side of the globe.
[Caption: Recent years has seen a marked increase in the numbers of
Non-Asian beauties bearing Asian facial features. They include Renée
Zellweger (facial proportions, eyes, cheeks), Mandy Moore (eyes, nose,
lips) Shalom Harlow (cheekbones, jawline).]
The rise of Asians on the global socio-economic charts have had a
visible impact in American popular media. Recent years have seen a
dramatic increase not only in the number of popular actors of Asian
or part-Asian ancestry, but a dramatic shift toward more
Asian-looking facial types even among non-Asian celebrities. The
biggest source of Asian-looking features in otherwise non-Asian
Americans is the Native American contribution to the American gene
pool. Upwards of an eighth of the American population claim at least
fractional Native American ancestry. Genetically native Americans are
indistinguishable from people from northeast Asia, and their genes
tend to be dominant, giving a large number of Americans a uniquely
Asian look not found, for example, in most people in European nations.
Popular non-Asians beauties like Mandy Moore, Kate Hudson, Renée
Zellweger, Shalom Harlow and Reese Witherspoon share facial features
more commonly found in Asian women than in the average caucasian
women. Most have relatively small eyes, short noses, full lips,
pronounced cheekbones and broad jawlines. As for the eyes and the
jawlines, popular American tastes seem to defy the supposedly
universal beauty ideals isolated by researchers and are actually more
in line with features prevailing among Asian women.
This trend is reinforced by mainstream validation of straight-out
Asian beauties. For example, Miss USA/Miss Universe 1997 Brooke Lee,
Miss America 2001 Angela Perez Baraquio and Miss Canada International
2001 Christine Cho are recent winners before largely western panels.
Perhaps an even more convincing validation are the countless Asian
female newscasters on American TV. Major media companies are betting
market share on the power of their Asian faces to beguile American
news viewers for entire half-hour broadcasts. And these aren't
new-born infants but adults whose beauty standards are heavily tinted
with the social overlay of their biases.
The century-long suppression of Asian immigration produced an
anomalous situation during the 1970s, 80s and 90s in which relatively
recent immigrants made up the majority of Asians in America. This
fostered the perceptions that Asians are largely poor and
unacculturated, seriously discounting the value of Asian beauty. This
has been compounded by the fact that until the past two decades, Asia
itself has been markedly less affluent than the U.S. and western
Europe. Economics has traditionally imposed the most negative overlay
on Asian beauty.
The large and rapidly growing numbers of Asian Americans who make up
the best-educated and most affluent segment of the American
population, combined with the rapid rise of Asian economies, is
adding an upscale overlay to Asian beauty among younger Americans.
Asia's long history and exotic cultures have always added a rich and
complex backdrop against which Asian beauty has been showcased. On
the one hand, the perception that Asian women have historically been
raised to be docile has added a super-feminine overlay (largely
unwelcomed by Asian American women) that makes Asian beauty less
threatening and more appealing to many Americans, both men and women.
On the other, the misconception that Asian women were traditionally
considered second-class tends to detract from their perceived value.
The industrialization of East Asian nations, and their association
with advanced consumer products, is adding a chic, fun overlay to
Since the 19th century, laws have been enacted to restrict or stop
Asian immigration for motives of racial purity, economic competition
and military threat. The U.S. military occupations of Japan, Corea
and Vietnam and the resulting association with prostitutes and
bargirls, have added an unsavory cast to perceptions of Asian women,
especially among those old enough to remember these wars. This long
history continues to add a mixed emotional charge toward Asian beauty
as being both sexually alluring and potentially treacherous.
Steadily warming due to U.S. quest for friends and allies in war
[Caption: "Popular non-Asians beauties like Mandy Moore, Kate Hudson,
Renée Zellweger, Shalom Harlow and Reese Witherspoon share facial features
more commonly found in Asian women than in the average caucasian women."]
[Caption: "Where Asian beauty encounters resistance is more often on the
level of the associations that their features evoke in American minds."]
A key feature of beautiful female faces is the quality known as
neoteny, or youthfulness. The eyes of adolescent women appear wider
set relative to the distance from the brow to the tip of the nose.
High cheekbones are also an important factor, as cheeks and eyes tend
to droop with age. Asian women are favored with rounder faces that
are more likely to possess these features, though a significant
minority have faces that would be deemed overly broad. On the other
hand many white women possess neotenous features, especially those of
nordic, slavic or germanic ancestry.
Asian women are generally blessed with fine skin with small pores.
Many also have light skin when not tanned. While the majority of
white women have light skin with the pinkish hue considered
universally appealing in females, many are freckly, and hairier.
On average Asian women have shorter noses but some are broad and
fleshy. White women generally have longer noses though a significant
minority have the small delicate noses universally admired in women.
Asian women tend to have full lips while white women tend to have
thin lips. On the extremes, some Asian women can have lips that are
too thick and coarse while many white women have lips that are too
thin, creating a prissy look.
Asian women tend to have smallish eyes that are generally upslanted.
White women have larger eyes that are often downslanted. White women
are more likely to have the larger eyes considered generally
desirable in women. Also, the broader color palette of caucasian eyes
allow for attractive hues not found in Asian eyes.
And a reply on this from another list:
The single biggest surprise associated with my becoming a father for
the first time at the age of 50 was that the experience brought me up
hard against the age old question:
Q: Why is "beauty" only skin-deep?
The answer is, as I learned:
A: Because "beauty" simply does not *need* to be any deeper than that!
Of course I was not surprised that my new son was beautiful to my
eyes, but I really never expected to have complete strangers make a
special trip across the street to introduce themselves and share that
same opinion with me.
The most extreme reaction to his "cherubic" appearance has always been
from Asians. I have found this amazing since it is biologically
impossible that anyone from *their* "extended family" (Steve Sailer's
characterization of the concept of "race") could ever possibly look like
him. But just the other day my just-turned-6-year-old son and I
dropped in on the local Chinese buffet restaurant, and we were positively
*besieged* by the elderly (perhaps 10 years older than myself, so
The kindly Chinese gentleman ran to meet us when we entered his
establishment, and immediately squatted down to pepper him with
all sorts of unanswerable questions like, "Are you really a boy? You
are so pretty that I think you must be a girl!" He then returned
numerous times to our table as we ate to compliment my son on his
I got this same reaction from a Korean lady who is a fellow venture
capitalist. Every time we meet, the *first* thing she want is not my
assessment of where the latest big opportunities might be in the
enterprise systems management software space, but to see the latest
pictures of my son.
It's as if there is something universal to the blond-haired/blue-eyed
image of a "cherub" as the ideal look for a small child, even among
peoples whose children will never look like that.
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