Of sexy clothing & brainy women

Of sexy clothing & brainy women
Hold the front page: a new study has found that women who wear ‘sexy clothing’ appear more intelligent. That’s right ladies, it’s time to whip out that cocktail dress, shimmy into something lycra, pop on a push-up bra and strut to your workstation. Yes, that is the sound of my head hitting the desk. And no, my short skirt didn’t cushion the blow.

Researchers at the University of Bedfordshire have just published a paper looking at the effects of women wearing ‘sexualised’ clothing — something they’ve spent actual time and money studying.

Academics showed 64 undergraduates (average age 21) photographs of a model in her 30s, wearing a low-cut top, very short skirt and jacket. They then showed the students the same woman wearing a longer skirt and flesh-covering top.

The model was then ranked for her perceived intelligence, faithfulness, personality, morality, job status and intention to have sex. (A nice message to give young people about how they should judge women, don’t you think?)

And the results of all this hard work? “Contrary to our predictions, it was the sexualised clothing which resulted in higher intelligence and faithfulness ratings,” said the researchers, whose findings were presented at the British Psychological Society conference in Nottingham recently.

Dr Alfredo Gaitan, one of the academics who worked on the study, added: “Have attitudes changed so much that people are not making judgements based on a woman’s dress? We think there are still negative attitudes out there, but perhaps people are seeing the sexy look more positively.”

Outdated stereotypes

I’d suggest the only ‘negative attitudes’ were those of the researchers whocommissioned and conducted this study in the first place — and were left surprised when their outdated stereotypes of women weren’t supported by the student guinea pigs. Well, I’m calling time. Universities need to stop with these so-called studies and turn their gaze firmly away from women.

It seems that hardly a week goes by without women being told what will make them look better/worse/more intelligent. And far from the ‘advice’ coming from crackpot sources, it’s being fed to us from the world’s leading academic institutions. How on earth is it possible, in this day and age, that universities can still be allocating resources to such outdated, sexist — and, frankly, statement of the bleeding obvious — research?

Last year, researchers at Bangor University found that women are ‘more attractive’ without makeup. University of York psychologist Robert Kramer said: “If you put makeup on an unattractive woman, it won’t make her more attractive than a pretty woman without makeup. Your natural features and identity determine attractiveness and there is not much you can do about it.”

Another hardy perennial is the burning question over whether high heels are
‘sexier’ than flat shoes. One such study was published in January 2014. Nicholas Guéguen, of the Université de Bretagne-Sud in France, dedicated time to exploring the radical notion that the height of a woman’s heel influences male behaviour. He sent a 19-year-old woman, in different heel heights — she alternated between flats and stilettoes — on to the streets of Brittany, where she asked 90 men to
complete a survey. The shock findings: men were more likely to respond when she had heels on. 82% agreed to do the survey when she wore stilettoes, compared with 42% when she was in flats.

Nicholas also had the woman ‘accidentally’ drop a glove on the ground (Jane Austen must be turning in her grave). He recorded that 93% of men chased after her when she wore heels to return the glove, compared to 62% when she wore flats.

“As a man, I can see that I prefer to see my wife when she wears high heels and many men in France have the same evaluation,” he said by way of explanation. Exasperated, I asked Nicholas to unpack his motivation for the study at the time. Didn’t he think that, just maybe, it was a teensy-weensy bit outdated?

“High heels — old fashioned?” he replied, astounded. “Today nearly all the women in France wear shoes with high heels. This study was first suggested by an undergraduate female student who reported that more men smiled when she wore high heels. Since this paper, we have conducted further studies. In one of them, the photography of the same woman’s body profile wearing high heels or not was evaluated by men. Results showed that high heels were associated with greater sexiness, overall physical attractiveness, breast attractiveness, beauty, attractiveness to other men, and willingness for a date.”

Ah well, that’s ok then — it was suggested by a woman! No matter that it was likely a teenager keen to impress her male university professor. Sorry, but I just can’t picture a young female student coming up with the phrase ‘breast attractiveness’ without a helping hand.

By consistently conducting such banal research, academic institutions are normalising it. That young female (and male) students think these are just the sort of topics they should be exploring, in order to make their mark academically, speaks volumes. And don’t get me started on the University of Auckland study that found women are OK with sexism as long as it benefits them.

Of course, there’s a chance that all this research is really, truly designed to benefit women. Perhaps I need to put my inner cynic back in her box. So ladies, from
today it’s on with the ‘sexy look’ — low-cut top, short skirt and stilettos. After all, how else am I going to get my lost glove back?


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