I read and commented on a piece recently that lamented the rise in rhinoplasty (nose jobs) among Iranian women, seeking smaller more feminine noses. But I am not sure it’s a reason for lament.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC STATUS
Self modification is partly popular because it is expensive and demonstrates that you have joined the market-participating (middle) classes. So, partly, this is about status seeking. Status seeking is important because it controls access to mates. It is not as important for men as women. Women are more status conscious of men, and men more beauty conscious of women. In reality this is a pretty successful algorithm for a population to follow. It increases everything good, and causes rotation of elites and genes.
INTERNATIONAL STATUS AND POWER
Aside from local trends, people also adopt status signals based upon which culture has ‘power’. As the west rose, western dress and ‘looks’ increased in status. As the west declines in power, regional preferences are becoming favored. (We see this in the returning preference for paternalism in china for example.) So STATUS properties are plastic and to some degree — they are a ‘fashion’.
[callout]Think of it as part of ‘globalization’: symmetry across all human forms.[/callout]
UNIVERSAL SYMBOLS OF BEAUTY
Conversely, there are certain properties of beauty that are universal, such as health, waist-hip ratio, height weight proportionality, long legs, and hemispheric symmetry. It turns out that, “on the whole” people view large noses as asymmetric now that they have exposure to enough human variety to see them as a asymmetric. Therefore, regional “racial” symbols of attraction are subject to change because of exposure to a large number of different faces, with different status attributes.
THE CONCEPT OF PHYSICAL SYMMETRY UNDER GLOBALIZATION
Think of it as part of ‘globalization’: symmetry across all human forms. Although across all cultures, there appears to be a universally attractive look, and this look is associated with being ‘white’ the truth is that it’s just the greatest symmetry that can be obtained in the human form as we currently undertand it. (This is an interesting area of research.) But it is not whiteness. It’s symmetry on the one hand and ‘feminine fineness’ over masculine mass that determines beauty (in women). So this tendency is a mathematical expression. (I read recently that prettier women have more children so that it’s likely that the process will improve, but then there are gene-pool collisions that simply haven’t worked themselves out in every region.)
It might be useful to note that people will not likely adopt asymmetric modifications (enlarged noses) in order to achieve status. People will tend to increase their appreciation for local asymmetry (traits dominant in their local group) if it is associated with greater status – such as nationalistic or racial traits. Therefore the fashionability of nose modification will drop even if the permanent attraction of smaller noses as more attractive doesn’t. In other words, the priority of these different status symbols can change over time. We see racial feature preferences in Jewish, African American, Greek and Italian populations. It has gone out of fashion and become impolitic for white northern europeans to classify themselves racially beautiful examples, and instead they simply refer to more general ‘beauty’. Despite that other racial groups do maintain their preferences.
ITS AFFECTING ‘WHITE’ PEOPLE AS WELL
It may be interesting to note that white women currently envy african buttocks and east asian body weight distribution, rather than traditional fertility-driven ‘curviness” — so feature-envy it works both ways.
It may also be interesting to note that ‘white’ skin color is a fashion, not an absolute. Skin clarity demonstrates health, and lighter appears to be more attractive than darker, no matter what race you’re in. But It appears we like ‘very light coffee colored’ as the ultimate symbol of health, because ‘very white’ that borders on translucent is also now associated with lack of skin plasticity (aging badly). So, we are ‘learning’ some things that are meaningful as well.
BEAUTY IS A COMPLEX NETWORK
So, beauty is determined by a number of properties: International cultural power status. Local Economic Status, symmetry, femininity, healthiness, and “globalization” – exposure to greater choice.
We can all feel equally inadequate. (Spoken as a small nosed, short, northern european.)