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The Internet Shapes Peoples’ Preference for Faces?

July 11, 2014

In a new study some deem provocative, it appears that the internet may “shape” our culture’s preference for facial shapes. People having access to the internet were compared with people having no access to the internet to determine which facial shapes they found attractive. People with access to the internet claimed to prefer wider male faces and narrower female faces. People without access to the internet claimed to prefer exactly the opposite, narrower male faces and wider female faces.

The article was laced with the normal gender gobble-dee-gook speak about what constitutes “feminine” facial features, read narrow, and what constitutes “male” features, read, wider. Since so much of visual beauty preferences are determined by a cultural narrative, it’s amazing that the researchers failed to reveal any cultural narrative regarding these so-called preferences, determining instead that the internet shapes our preference for concepts regarding what is male or female. How boring.

“One possibility for the difference is the level of media exposure: people with internet access are more exposed to the media (adverts or websites), which promotes the beauty ideals of muscly men and thin feminine women,” study co-author Carlota Bartres, apsychology Ph.D. student at the lab, said in a written statement. People with internet access were also more likely to have a TV in their homes, further exposing them to influence from the media. While the study shows only a correlation between internet access and our preferences, its results match up with previous research showing that exposure to images of thin women in the media is associated with “internalization of the thin ideal.” That’s according to Dr. Renee Engeln, a psychologist and director of The Body and Media Labat Northwestern University, who was not involved in the study. “In other words, the more we see these types of images (whether on the Internet or in magazines or television shows), the more we tend to buy into the notion that thinness is a key indicator of beauty in women,” Engeln told the Huffington Post in an email.

While I do agree that “adverts” can cause problems about what we feel is appropriate for women and men for physical beauty, it could have just as easily been influenced by things like the Super Bowl worship and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Notice there is no reference to a female agenda with a title like “cowBOYS.” You mean having football fluffers might be an issue with gender norms in our society? I don’t see how treating like objectified penile fluffers who literally stand on the sidelines and jump could possibly influence gender norm ideals–do you??

Television is much more of a dominating force than internet. How many people could watch the Super Bowl if not for television? Television execs reach a wider audience with a televised production than they could ever hope to with a live production and a limited number of viewers. More to the point, it’s not the internet that determines cultural preferences; its the culture that sets preferences, to some extent the religions that dominate that cultural preference.

Shows like Duck Dynasty have no trouble exploiting their teenage girls with things like “fashion design” jobs, when something like biology, college, math professorship and such exists. Add in the ranks of shows like with the 3-ring religious circus of Duggars who profess to breed women to further breed more of their breed. Women in the Duggar clan are purported to be nothing more than broodmares, and those women with brains need not apply. Brains are apparently not necessary to birth.

One could look at the Kardashian family, busy selling its youngest members to the nearest swimsuit purveyor to better show off a young Kardashian ass that has yet to age.  Perhaps we could look at the Mormon family in Utah, wherein the women who purport to be wives engage in nothing more strenuous than housework and discussions on religion and how they lack the freedom to have women marry other women. (Methinks they have much in common with the LGBT community, should they realize it.) In light of all of these television shows, one must not forget

“Real Housewives,” whose only claim to fame is being a housewife and glorying in their lack of mental development outside of anything resembling a marriage or link to a man. Perhaps we could look at the former Jon and Kate Plus 8 wherein the female figure resembles an overwhelmed and angry woman suddenly dealing with 8 kids and apparently an unspoken desire for her own spotlight, which appeared in later episodes when she was sans husband. The fickle public doesn’t like a single mom with 8 kids apparently.

We can’t leave out of this equation beastly television sitcoms with the historical gender bias in the title, as in old school shows like “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It to Beaver.” Even “Bewitched,” with a purportedly female lead, attempted to figure out how to place a witch in the glory of Stepford suburbia.

It’s not just internet that’s to blame. Without internet, we might not have as much of a pulse on these preferences, but they are just reflections of the society gender stereotypes reinforced by television media.

If we didn’t have internet, we might not get specific about gender bias, may not be able to publicize it, just as if we couldn’t publicize the Super Bowl. But hell, if no one liked the Super Bowl male butt fest, would anyone watch it? Nope. The machine would shut down, and the industry would die out. What may take it out of the running sooner than anything else is that men may finally figure out that they don’t want to accept money to become brain dead from concussive injuries, but that seems a bit precocious at the moment. One can only hope that it will happen. Until then, it’s ridiculous, if not irresponsible to claim that the internet shapes a gender preference when a culture shapes that and the internet just makes us aware of it.

Consider this chilling statement from music pop star, Kesha, and see if, after all, it’s the internet or the industry that uses women that promotes shape preferences, facial shapes, body shapes, whatever… Note that Kesha penned this quote after exiting rehab from issues caused by cultural norms about shapes acceptable for women: 

“The music industry has set unrealistic expectations for what a body is supposed to look like, and I started becoming overly critical of my own body because of that. I felt like people were always lurking, trying to take pictures of me with the intention of putting them up online or printing them in magazines and making me look terrible.”

“I felt like a liar, telling people to love themselves as they are, while I was being hateful to myself and really hurting my body. I wanted to control things that weren’t in my power, but I was controlling the wrong things. I convinced myself that being sick, being skinny was part of my job. It felt safer somehow.”

Let’s not talk internet, People, let’s talk cultural norms. 

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