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Pretty long-term

Beauty, it now turns out, doesn’t lie in the eye of the beholder alone; it is a commodity that, according to a Finnish researcher, is becoming more available in the market thanks to evolution.

india Updated: Jul 27, 2009 21:53 IST

Beauty, it now turns out, doesn’t lie in the eye of the beholder alone; it is a commodity that, according to a Finnish researcher, is becoming more available in the market thanks to evolution. The study conducted by Markus Jokela of the University of Helsinki’s Department of Psychology found that beautiful women had up to 16 per cent more children than their less pretty counterparts and were more likely to have daughters who would carry their mothers’ beauty down the line.

Where do the men come into the picture, you ask? Well, they don’t. Evolutionary biology tells us that prettiness in women is a well-honed physical marker that advertises the child-bearing’n’rearing capabilities of women. It’s not beauty — a short-cut by-product of one’s fertility — that women look for in men, but stability and the ability to take care of and protect the family. These behavioural patterns, one must understand, are hardwired into us through evolution even though we’ve moved on from the ‘caveman-cavewoman’ scenario. But isn’t beauty, by its very nature, a highest uncommon denominator — in other words, gaining its charm and power because it’s ‘rare’?

As more and more pretty girls start to populate the world, will the notion of beauty, with its high romantic and aesthetic value, start losing its special shine? In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man may be king, but in the land of the beautiful, only the plain-looker may just stand out and not only for the wrong reason. Which brings us right back to the old business of beauty being a subjective matter: Kate Moss and Mamata Banerjee may not be considered beautiful in all societies, but there will always be somewhere where their looks will be appreciated. Thus, the notion of ‘prettiness’ and ‘beauty’ will also change. What worries us is that by the time pretty women take over the world, the men will have changed the goalposts of what constitutes feminine beauty yet again.