A study described by the Wall Street Journal concludes that women from “healthy countries” don’t like he-men. Respondents, mainly white women in “Argentina, Sweden, Russia, Australia and the United States,” were presented with pairs of photos each representing the same man. But in one the image had been subtly altered to create a more “feminine” appearance. The authors say that in countries with an efficient health care system the women tended to choose the feminine-looking image.
The faces, it turned out, looked eerily alike and yet subtly different, like identical twins. They were created by software that masculinizes or feminizes a person’s features in a few keystrokes. Only by examining the faces closely could one discern that the man on the left, say, had slightly rounder eyes and a narrower jaw than the one on the right. Some of the faces had slightly thinner lips than their doppelgängers, or wider-set eyes, or thicker archless brows. It took most women fewer than 10 minutes to click through the 20 pairs of male faces and select which ones they found hunkiest.
After crunching the data—including the women’s facial preferences, their country of origin and that country’s national health index—the Face Lab researchers proved something remarkable. They could predict how masculine a woman likes her men based on her nation’s World Health Organization statistics for mortality rates, life expectancy and the impact of communicable disease. In countries where poor health is particularly a threat to survival, women leaned toward “manlier” men. That is, they preferred their males to have shorter, broader faces and stronger eyebrows, cheekbones and jaw lines. The researchers went on to publish the study in this month’s issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences.
The authors argued from principles of evolutionary psychology that women from countries with bad medical systems selected men from a tougher genetic pool because they wanted their offspring to survive. Since a good proxy for tough genes turns out to be testosterone, they picked out Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome. But testosterone also creates problems: men who are “uncooperative, unsympathetic, philandering, aggressive and disinterested in parenting”. They are men who might balk at sitting down when using the toilet. What to do about testosterone?
The link is testosterone, the hormone behind manly muscles, strong jaws, prominent eyebrow ridges, facial hair and deep voices. Testosterone is immunosuppressive. This means a man must be healthy and in good condition to withstand its effects on his development. Testosterone is also linked to other traits related to strength: fitness, fertility and dominance. From an evolutionary perspective, masculinity is basically man’s way of advertising good genes, dominance and likelihood to father healthier kids. When disease is a real threat, as it had been—and arguably still is—heritable health is invaluable.
The answer is apparently for women to ditch it as soon as it is safe to do so. Hence the preference for feminine looking men in women from countries with medical provision. The reason American society is so full of atavistic knuckle-draggers is because its health care (until recently) was so primitive. Now that Obamacare has been passed the United States has every prospect of truly joining “Western civilized societies”. They are leaving the dark ages of Gary Cooper and John Wayne and entering the bright sunlit uplands of Mr. Sensitivo.
And where does the U.S. stand in the masculinity ranking? The answer is fifth out of the 30 countries in the study, one of the highest. This is, after all, the home of James Dean and Clint Eastwood. And where does America stand in the health index ranking? Twentieth of 30 countries, one of the least healthy.
With Obamacare passed it’s time to blow-dry your hair and apply that subtle cologne. But there’s a price. Taken to its limit this theory explains the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire: when a society becomes richer and more stable the he-men go out of fashion. The fops rule the roost. The girlie-men get the all girls. And so it goes until the barbarians arrive at the City Gates. Then overnight he-men are back in demand. But by then the race of two fisted men are extinct and the women are ravished by he-men of a different sort. The kind who rape, pillage, burn and torture. Ultimately they burn all the books, put women under heavy veils and go back to the economy of raising goats. So the evolutionary psychology also explains the Dark Ages.
Somewhere in my archives, there’s a passage in which I pulled some stagnant speculation about mankind’s development squarely out of my ass…but I suppose you could call it a crude form of “science” because I stumbled on this trying to find an explanation for something, and it seems nothing else really explains it.
I think, throughout mankind’s existence, we have spent thousands of years being lured back into collectivist living units; evolution has not succeeded in showing us what a failed experiment it is. Food gets scarce, the village needs to make a decision about who is to be ostracized. And so an instinct develops, and is refined to a competent art among those lucky enough to survive the famine. The instinct of “In scarcity, ostracize that guy, over there…not me.”
Some family units did not live in villages; and it seems they survived, and evolved, as well. Now, think about this. Two leopard-skin-covered cave ladies; one lives with her man and her whelps, the other lives in a village. Both of them are mothers to ancestors of people alive today. But the village lady does not see her man much of the time. She couldn’t, could she? The men would be off — together — trying to lay a trap for a boar like those skinny guys in the first few minutes of Apocalypto. The women would hang out together, raising their children together. Minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, the “home” stuff that requires male brawn would be handled by some village resource. A buff warrior left behind for such purposes, perhaps. Not by her dude. Something centralized.
The result would be two evolving, surviving, occasionally competing mindsets. One — “If it requires male intuition or brawn, it will be resolved by some resource inside my home.” Two — “the village will provide someone or something that is not part of my home.”
The point? I think the ladies are fighting this internal battle with greater conflict, and more zeal and more gusto on both sides, than the gentlemen are. If you’re one of the “healthy” girls picking these wimpy guys in the experiment, you’re not trying to make a political statement or anything — you’re just doing what comes naturally. Truly vexing problems are not to be solved by anyone or anything from your “cave.” The village will provide. And this has a bearing on what exactly it is that you’re choosing…which is something…pretty. An accessory, one visually uplifting. Like macrame.
Of course, macrame is disposable. To the best I can determine, the divorce rates in these countries-of-origin, were not discussed. And the bias I perceive in the research staff, based on the nuggets I have read, suggest that they will not be.
No man who’s been through any significant experience will need too much edification on what I’m going on about; it becomes quickly evident that all ladies are not looking for the same things when they pursue (or allow themselves to be pursued by) men. And it isn’t too hard to figure out which variety you’re courting. Just start growing a beard, see what she has to say about it. Some women want men to do things women cannot do; others are offended by this. They hide behind trivial things like “it scratches!” But generally, a lady who recoils from one masculine trait, will recoil from all of the others.
And households can be masculine in nature. A household that is constructed around a dictum of taking care of its own stuff, not relying on the village alms, is masculine in nature. A lot of people don’t like that, it seems.