Books about cultural construction of beauty?
May 26, 2011 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Books about skin color and beauty standards across cultures?

REcently I've become very interested in cultural standards of beauty, after realizing that Chinese people and Westerners can have vastly different ideas of what is beautiful or attractive (Im an American living in China) I am looking for books about:

-differing ideas of beauty/attractiveness in different cultures and how they develop

-theories behind why white skin is considered more attractive in many cultures and how this relates to racism and cultural hegemony

-inter-cultural/inter-racial dating; dating and marriage rituals in different cultures and countires

-theories behind why people of certain races tend to be attracted to people of other races (i.e. why many white men seem to be attracted to asian women but many white women are not as interested in Asian men; unelegantly put on my part, sorry)

Bonus points if the books are related to china specifically, but I am interested in any books on these topics generally.

posted by bearette to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams by Karen Kelsky covers many of topics you mention in your post, but it focuses specifically on Japan.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 8:43 PM on May 26, 2011

Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters has some material on this, but I wasn't convinced by it. One of the two co-authors, Satoshi Kanazawa, recently wrote an infamous article for Psychology Today about how black women are "objectively less attractive" than women of other races after controlling for various factors. (Never trust people who say they've controlled for all factors!) Psychology Today took down the article and ran this piece explaining that even based on Kanazawa's own data, black women aren't rated less attractive than women of other races. That's aside from the fact that even if they were, it wouldn't make them "objectively less attractive" because, as you know, "eyes see what culture socializes."
posted by John Cohen at 8:59 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some books on the fetishization of Asian women by western men:

The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, & Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient by Sheridan Prasso
The East, the West, and Sex: A History of Erotic Encounters by Richard Bernstein
And here's an article from about the book listed above.

Racing Romance: Love, Power, and Desire among Asian American/White Couples by Kumiko Nemoto focuses on American couples, but might be illuminating for some of your questions.

Are you looking only for books? Here's some web content of relevance:
Beauty: The Korean Way
Assimilated Beauty (from the blog Racialicious, which you might find really interesting even though it focuses on the US)
posted by bluedaisy at 9:40 PM on May 26, 2011

Not a book, but you might be interested in this series, which you can watch online. (Warning: depressing as fuck.)
posted by DarlingBri at 1:29 AM on May 27, 2011

It's more about evolutionary biology than culture, but Survival of the Prettiest is an excellent book on the impact that human beauty has on our behavior.
posted by alms at 7:21 AM on May 27, 2011

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