Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Ethnocentrism in East Asian use of fashion models and mannequins

No evidence of ethnocentrism in East Asian use of fashion models and mannequins

Lee Ellis & Ping He. Race and Advertising: Ethnocentrism or “Real” Differences in Physical Attractiveness? Indirect Evidence from China, Malaysia, and the United States. Mankind Quarterly 2011;51(4):471-489.

Ellis and He addressed three studies that challenge their interpretation.  The first is a group of studies reporting that computer averages of European and East Asian faces are rated more attractive than the parent populations, such as Rhodes et al. (2005).  This has gone uncommented by Ellis and He.  This is a topic that I have not addressed at this site, but have in a different publication; the find is dubious because of methodological flaws.  It is well documented that East Asians rated more attractive by East Asians have face shapes closer to European norms, and the pattern of facial cosmetic surgeries in East Asians is clearly a shift toward European norms.  This is evident in pictures of attractive East Asians provided by enthusiasts.  In contrast, no Asianization of attractiveness is seen among Europeans.

To illustrate, the masculinized European woman on the left below is not made more attractive by shifting the face toward Asiatic shapes (middle), but by retaining the European shape and simply enhancing femininity (right).
Frida Aasen, Amber Heard
Left: below average femininity.  Middle: below average femininity.  Right: slightly below average femininity.  The below average femininity of the woman shown in the middle, Frida Aasen, is clearer in this picture, where she is not even 18; the masculinity will better manifest in subsequent years.  Aasen is a long-skulled, lightly pigmented European and her face may have nothing to do with any Asiatic genetic input, which may not be there in the first place, but the shape elements count for our discussion.  Greater feminization than the example shown on the right, as in Britt Ekland, will continue to maintain a European shape if corresponding to greater attractiveness.
In two additional examples, the faces shown below can be made more attractive by making the facial features more Anglo/Jutish/Frisian/Saxonic (left, middle) or more feminine (right), not Asiatic in any case.  In general, it has been systematically shown that attractiveness in European women corresponds to changes in face shape in a direction away from Asianization.
Selvije and Cathrine Norgaard
Left and middle (Selvije): average femininity.  Right (Cathrine Nörgaard): below average femininity.
Implicit in the concept of ethnocentrism is the idea that people will consider members of their own race or ethnic group to be more attractive than members of other groups. If so, one would expect advertisers to take advantage of such preferences by choosing “local” models when promoting clothing fashions and other products.
A contrary view is that judgments of physical attractiveness are to a substantial degree neurologically “hard-wired” and evolved similarly throughout the world. With the assumption that fashion models and manikins are considered highly attractive, the present study recorded the race of models and manikins publically displayed in city malls in China, Malaysia, and the United States. Caucasian (white, European) models were found to be mainly utilized in all three countries, especially in regard to clothing fashion displays.

Even advertisements for cosmetics and fashion accessories were “Caucasian-biased” in China and Malaysia although less so than in the U.S. and less so than advertisements for clothing fashions. Findings call into question the relevance of ethnocentrism in determining the choice of fashion models used in advertising, and are instead consistent with other evidence of universal standards of physical beauty that advertisers rely on to help promote their products.