Why 'scientific' studies shouldn't define what's beautiful
Like what you're reading?
Get more in your inbox.
A Japanese friend of mine was complaining about her wavy hair, her fuller cheeks and the larger shape of her eyes. She told me: “Monnie-chan, people always think I am Hawaiian, anything but Japanese.”
I shrugged and said, “What’s wrong with that? There are plenty of pretty Hawaiian women. That’s not an insult.”
She looked at me with the 'tsk-tsk' face and said, “You just don’t understand Asian beauty.”
That comment was jarring for me. I kept thinking how miserable I would be if I was constantly comparing myself to somebody’s made-up standard of beauty that I would never reach. It seemed counterproductive, especially considering I think plastic surgery is an absolute waste of money and rarely wear makeup (hey, Alicia Keys). "Embrace your face" is my motto.
However, a recent scientific study from Harley Street physician Dr. De Silva rubbed me all the wrong way. The study claims to identify “the world’s most beautiful face” by using the ancient Greek beauty ratio Phi to make a determination. The top 10 list is full of the usual suspects found on the covers of pop magazines.
Although it's no surprise that they’re on the list (and of course they're beautiful) but the more troubling factor is how their beauty was measured: A certain size lips and nose, the distance from lip to mouth or eyes to nose, and even foreheads. Judging from the list and the requirements to make the list, women with African features would be hard-pressed to qualify.
Jaw-dropping women such as Janelle Monae, Tika Sumpter, Angela Bassett, Regina Hall AND King, Queen Latifah, Meagan Good, Phylicia Rashad, Joy Bryant, Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige probably wouldn’t make the cut. And these are women I find to be just as stunning as those top 10.
Studies that depict people’s beauty based on these tactics successfully marginalize certain groups so they’ll never make the quota. When Beyoncé says “I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils,” studies like these basically respond back with “You shouldn’t.” (And who in their right mind would argue Beyonce’s not gorgeous?)
Now does the study make me personally feel insecure? No. I was told one too many times as a child, teenager and adult that I was pretty. Nowadays, if someone tells me I’m not, my response would be to “take that up with your optometrist.”
So why does this study matter? Because there are still entirely too many black women who are going under the knife, packing on makeup, getting surgical eye color changes, moisturizing with skin lightener and photo-editing their own pics to try to meet someone else's standard of beauty — not for themselves.
In 2016, studies like these continue to perpetuate the stereotype that makes some women feel "perfect" while others feel perfectly less than. So to women who worry about meeting someone else’s standard of beauty, consider reevaluating that.
Don’t diminish your pretty trying to keep up with petty "scientific" studies.
Shamontiel (pronounced Shə mawn T L) Latrice Vaughn is the author of two novels ('Round Trip' and 'Change for a Twenty'), and a freelance journalist for various print and online publications. Her work can be found in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Defender, CBS Chicago and more. Outside of the writing grind, the Chicago native is a dog lover and a strong supporter of a vegan lifestyle.