Being 'Hot or Not' Matters More for Women in the City

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Once upon a time there were two female mice. One lived in the city, the other in the country.  Both mice were unbelievably desirable rodents — absolutely smoking HOT furry little knockouts.

One day, the mice were captured by a research team in the interest of science.  After a battery of invasive tests, the researchers concluded that the smoking hot city mouse had a higher level of social and psychological well-being than typical female mice. The same link wasn’t found for the country mouse.

That’s more or less what researchers reporting in the journal Personal Relationships discovered about ladies living in the city versus those in rural areas.  Survey data from women ages 26 to 75 within urban and rural communities across the U.S. were analyzed for associations between physical desirability and personal assessments of well-being, defined as “life satisfaction, self-acceptance, feelings of control, and interaction with and support from friends.”

Physical desirability was defined as having a favorable waist-to-hip ratio, which the researchers were careful to point out is not necessarily an indicator of overall attractiveness. But, for whatever reason, past research has shown that women with a waste-to-hip ration of 0.7 (waist significantly narrower than hips) are rated as most desirable by men. 

The results showed that in general women in cities were just as happy as those in rural communities, but the correlation between physical desirability and self-contentment was significantly higher for urban women versus rural women.  Further, urban women who were even a tiny bit below the desirability average reported experiencing less robust social ties and psychological well-being. 

One possible reason why: population density. People in cities, theoretically, have more opportunities for friendships and sexual partners, allowing them to be choosier in their social dealings. In contrast, people in rural areas are more likely to fall into pre-existing social networks that last over time.

The study also found that urban residents reported more frequent contact with individual friends and acquaintances, while rural residents reported a greater sense of connection with the larger community. 

All in all, I don’t find these results hard to believe, and I’m sure several other traits (strength of personality,  facial features, etc.) would be linked in the same correlation. I think this speaks to how cultural influence shapes perception. If the culture prescribes a physical evaluation criteria for establishing social contacts, then it stands to reason that social contentment and well-being will be affected by whether one makes the “desirability grade” or misses it, even marginally. That’s a damn shame, but let’s face it—ours is a make-the-grade culture whether we like it or not. 

On the other hand, screw these results.  They may be accurate, but perhaps they best illustrate what we should be striving to avoid instead of chalking them up to “that’s just how people are.”  I don’t think our urban culture of “desirability” has added much to the public sphere beyond more unrealistic expectations of physical beauty, more self-esteem issues, more plastic surgery, and more twits like Paris Hilton and Heidi Montag.

Maybe it’s time the mice revolted.


HT: LiveScience       


6 thoughts on “Being 'Hot or Not' Matters More for Women in the City

  1. Having just returned from the deserts of NM and AZ, I loved how differently women have to live here to function, thrive and win respect for — gasp — their competence, not their cuteness.

    You can wear mascara and perfume and fuss about your BMI, but can you spot a rattlesnake before you step on it? Manolos won’t cut it on gravel roads nor on horseback, thank God. I count the days until I return there, sick to death of these faux dramas over women’s body size and shape.

  2. As a recent transplant to NYC, I definitely notice the greater emphasis on outward appearance. Before I started working in the corporate world or began frequenting a fancy gym, I never really thought about my make-up or personal style – now the pressure is on!

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  4. I’d be interesting to switch genders and test this in Alaska; they’ve got such an undersupply of women there that they published their own catalog of single men as a magazine.

    Mind you, having lived both in small towns and the big city, I have to say that I like the way the city makes you step up your game. The small town I stayed in over Christmas had a fashion column in the paper all righty, but the columnist complained that when she went to the “Big City” (I think she meant Kelowna, BC) she was asked if she was a member of the Pussycat Dolls. In a real city, someone would have clued her in even faster and more brutally.

    Probably me.

  5. Having lived both mouse lives, I agree with the findings in the study. But I don’t find it demeaning to feeling good about how I look. I KNOW I’m smart and worldly…. The difference is that I don’t easily slip INTO sweats and OUT the door in them here in the big city. How slippery that slope is. Frumpy sweatpants and sweatshirt, driving alone to the suburban gym , frumpy inner me.
    Walking out the door knowing that I might (and usually do) see a friend or neighbor as I walk to my gym here in the city, is one of the many incentives that makes it ENJOYABLE to step out looking unfrumpy. And hey, as a 48 year old mom, I like that I get comments on how good I look. What Billy Crystal’s Fernando should have said, “You feel good? You look marvelous”!

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