Sarah's Reviews > Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty

Survival of the Prettiest by Nancy L. Etcoff
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's review
May 09, 2007

liked it
bookshelves: book-club
Read in January, 2007

I read this immediately after reading The Beauty Myth because it was billed as a rebuttal. The idea is that "beauty" is not a social construct after all, but an evolutionary fact.

Since it was billed as a rebuttal, I feel compelled to rate them against each other. Survival is definitely easier to get through. It is better written. It is full of fun facts and studies. I read both books on vacation and Survival definitely seemed more appropriate for the beach!

But I couldn't help but feel that it didn't have a cohesive argument; it didn't have something important to say like The Beauty Myth did. I think the main mistake was inviting the comparison by referencing The Beauty Myth. As a stand-alone book about why we find certain characteristics attractive, it was very interesting and I'm glad I read it.

But I wasn't convinced that evolution is all that is going on.

And strangely, even though it was a lighter read, it was actually more depressing. If it's evolution, we're working against "billions" of years of conditioning- conditioning that makes sense! We like thick blond hair and small waists because they indicate youth, health, and strong reproductive capability. The logical conclusion is that you are not only ugly... you are unhealthy and infertile. And getting old. Yikes. That comes dangerously close to reaffirming the old idea that beauty indicates goodness. I don't think we want to go back down that path, do we?
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05/04 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Heather (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:05AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Heather that is a depressing thought to imagine being up against billions of years of conditioning. And after reading the book, I thought maybe I should go color my hair. And I felt silly for having it short. :)

message 2: by Valter (new) - added it

Valter Heather, it might be depressing... but non-fiction is about "What is", not "What it should be".

message 3: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Technically you're not up against billions of years of evolution, but rather the molecules that have been shaped by billions of years of evolution. If you see a rock that resulted from billions of years of geology, you can carve it into a different shape. Reshaping our molecules is considerably more difficult, but the principle is the same. In any case, it's not a question of whether we want to "go back down that path." We're on it. At the moment we have no more choice about what evolution did to our brains than we have over the loss of our tails, fur, and prehensile toes.

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