Friday, April 26, 2013

Looking good

The New York Times recently had a story on a Dove advertisement about women's views of their own appearance.  According to the story, "Dove executives said the campaign resulted from company research that showed only 4 percent of women consider themselves beautiful."  It didn't say anything more about the research, but a 1999 Gallup poll asked "If you had to describe yourself to someone who didn't know you, how would you describe your physical appearance? Would you say you are Beautiful or handsome; Attractive or above average; Average; Somewhat below average in attractiveness; or Unattractive."  The percentages for men and women:

                                        Women      Men 
Beautiful or Handsome    4%          12%
Attractive                         40%         31%
Average                             53%         54%
Below average                    2%           3%
Unattractive                       1%           0%

Only 4% of women said "beautiful", exactly as Dove's research found, but 44% said they were above average and only 3% thought they were below average.  That is, people are almost as positive about their looks as they are about their driving ability.    More men put themselves in the top category, but it seems to me that "beautiful" is a stronger term than "handsome." 

The Gallup survey followed with two other questions about looks:  "All in all, are you satisfied with how attractive you are, or do you often wish you could be more attractive?" and "All in all, would you say you are generally pleased with the way your body looks, or not?"

On these, there were some differences:  26% of women and only 17% of men said they often wished they could be more attractive, while 80% of men and 66% of women said they they were generally pleased with the way their body looks.  But substantial majorities of women chose the positive response on each one.

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