updated 10 Jun 2013, 05:54
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Tue, May 14, 2013
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Singapore women reasonably secure about their looks: Survey
by Melissa Sim

A forensic artist draws women according to the description of themselves, then does another sketch based on descriptions given by a stranger.

The result: The women seem to underestimate their own beauty, as the faces in the stranger-described sketches turn out more attractive.

This is the video by beauty brand Dove, which has gone viral, hitting more than 48 million views on YouTube since it was uploaded on April 14.

In Singapore, women seem to be reasonably comfortable with their looks, according to Dove's Internet survey of 300 women here.

Results show that 2 per cent of the women used the word beautiful to describe their looks, while another 21 per cent used positive words such as attractive, pretty and good-looking.

The survey did not include negative descriptive words for the women to pick.

Experts who spoke to SundayLife! weigh in on how concern over one's looks is in line with the different social expectations of each gender.

The general consensus is, women here may not consider themselves beautiful, but are still confident individuals. Associate professor of psychology Norman Li from the Singapore Management University School of Social Sciences, says: "It's not too alarming to me that only 2 per cent consider themselves beautiful."

He explains that "beautiful" is at the very top of the beauty spectrum, and that it's "hard to imagine a society of people where a significant number consider themselves beautiful".

Also "it's not like 50 per cent of the people are considering themselves ugly", he says.

And even if a women does not think she looks beautiful, she could "still feel very secure about herself", says Ms Pang Li Kin, president of the Association of Image Consultants International (Singapore Chapter).

In fact, the survey also found that 52 per cent of the 300 women surveyed said they were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with their own beauty.

And a good 49 per cent also said they were "confident" or "somewhat confident" about their looks.

Ms Pang adds that even clients who seek professional help from image consultants "may not feel insecure about their looks as such, but rather, are ignorant about how to present themselves positively".

That said, there are women who are insecure about their looks and Assoc Prof Li says the insecurity is due to "social comparisons being made to countless attractive women, many of whom are viewed through print and electronic media".

Says Assistant professor of psychology Joyce Pang, from the Nanyang Technological University: "Exposure to media cultivates a kind of image of what is physically attractive."

She says models in advertisements and movie stars that are currently popular have features that become the "body ideal" for women. For example, they are slim, young and have big eyes.

Assoc Prof Li says people compete with one another in terms of physical attractiveness because "it is important for mating".

Research has shown that men value physical attractiveness in a mate and that does put some pressure on women, he says.

But with the TV and Internet, instead of competing against real people, Assoc Prof Li says women compete with "air-brushed people".

"Your mind thinks you are competing with these people and you will never quite look like that, no matter what you do," he says.

While women may be insecure about their looks, men are often less concerned about it. This is largely because women do not value looks as much as the ability to obtain resources in a mate.

"From an evolutionary perspective, a man's looks can be passed to the children, but without resources the children would not live," says Assoc Prof Li.

In terms of confidence about their looks, he says men are the opposite from women. "In fact, men think they are more attractive than others think they are."

So it is not surprising that at least two parody video have surfaced, where men talk about their looks and the sketches come out looking like Brad Pitt and George Clooney. The videos have gained some traction on the Internet, with one reaching more than 2.4 million views since it was uploaded on April 17.

But Assoc Prof Li also points out that his gender too has insecurities.

"In the same way women are affected by comparisons of looks, men too are affected by comparisons to all the wealth and success they see in the big cities and in the media," he says.

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