Put away your sneakers, ladies. "Beauty race" is a myth

Are women really getting more beautiful, as the UK Times suggested? Not really, says the man behind the research

Published August 11, 2009 9:12PM (EDT)

Two weeks ago, the UK's Times Online announced, "women are getting more beautiful.” Science said so. The paper cited a study from the University of Helsinki which apparently suggested that women are in the grips of a “beauty race,” the ultimate aim of which is to be impregnated. Papers gobbled up the story -- The Daily Mail even declared, “beautiful women have more children than their plainer counterparts.”

Feminist blogs were dubious; in a skeptical post, Jezebel jokingly referred to the study’s author, Markus Jokela, as an “Anne Coulter-loving scientist.”

But here's the thing: No one at the UK Times  even interviewed Jokela, and he only found out his study was in the news after it was published. Not only did the media mangle the research, making it seem as though he exclusively studied women, but they also obscured some of its findings --  for instance, hotter men are also more likely to have more children, though in different proportion to women, and it’s not the most attractive women who are likeliest to have more kids -- it's the second prettiest group.

Of course, none of the papers included men in the beauty equation (in fact, some papers actually reversed the findings, suggesting that as women "advance," men remain “Neanderthal”). It's a good reminder that even science can't get in the way of the old lies the media is so fond of telling us.

By Frieda Klotz

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