As an Indian woman win’s Miss America Beauty Pageant for first time in history – have Indian women become more beautiful or just more accepted?
She’s not just a beautiful woman – Nina Davuluri — a 24-year-old University graduate wants to be a doctor (born in the US, she is the daughter emigrants from India to the US), and has made history by being the first Miss America of Indian descent.
The Miss American Beauty Pageant is a nationally televised event involving states all across the US, where young women compete for serious scholarship money for University tuition fees.
Her success is particularly striking given in the early years of the pageant – which has been running since the 1920’s – less racially tolerant times – infamously “rule number seven” stated that “contestants must be of good health and of the white race”.
Once the winner of this year’s Miss America Beauty Pageant was announced, Nina Davuluri apparently faced a barrage of racial abuse on social media, from complainants that her victory was not by a true North American.
How to find out what people really think about attractiveness and race given it’s such a taboo area? One recent study tackled the problem by examining the preferences of those using internet dating.
Using a sample of proﬁles collected from an internet dating website, a team of researchers from the University of California, found that in the USA, white men are more willing than white women to date non-whites in general, yet, with the exception of their top two preferences for dates, whites and Latinos, the racial preferences of men and women differ.
The recently published study, in the academic journal Social Science Research, found that among daters with stated racial preferences, white men are more likely to exclude blacks as possible dates, while white women are more likely to exclude Asians.
The researchers, Cynthia Feliciano, Belinda Robnett and Golnaz Komaie were partly prompted to conduct the research because they were puzzled that if (according to various surveys) most white Americans say they do not object to inter-racial marriage, why was it only about 4% of whites marry non-whites?
The authors of the current study, entitled ‘Gendered racial exclusion among white internet daters’ point out that in past ‘speed dating’ experiments, women place more emphasis on selecting a same-race partner than men. One theory to explain this are the well-established gender differences in dating goals. Women may be looking for a marriage partner, while men may be seeking more casual encounters?
This new study found that Asians are one of the top three most excluded groups by white women, while Asians are among the least excluded groups by white men. White men are more open to dating all other racial groups compared to white women. White women with racial preferences are over four times as likely to exclude East Indians and Middle Easterners as white men.
The gender pattern is most striking in the case of Asian exclusion. White men are much more inclusive of Asians than are white women. White women are almost 12 times as likely to exclude Asians as dates. The authors argue this ﬁnding is consistent with expectations based on the negative portrayals of Asian men in U.S. popular culture and possibly the fact that Asian men are not as tall and height is a favoured physical characteristic by women.
Surprisingly, liberal white women ie white women who describe their politics as liberal, appear more likely to exclude Asian men as dates.
The authors conclude that their ﬁndings conﬁrm race still matters a lot in dating situations. Race remains one of the main selection criteria for white internet daters. Whites express racial preferences even more commonly than religious or educational predilections.
White men and white women are highly exclusionary towards East Indians and Middle Easterners, and are most open, if they are going to date another race, to dating with Latinos.
The authors suggest this pattern of racial dating preferences reflects an ‘assimilation’ theory. This is that the most recent races to arrive in a country find it more difficult to be accepted because they remain the most unfamiliar to the host nation. Over a period of time as the newly arrived races become more integrated, so the theory goes, they also become more assimilated and preferred.
Who the winner is of the Miss America beauty pageant may seem trivial in the overall scheme of things, but in fact this research suggests Nina Davuluri’s historic victory could be an extremely important symbol of shifting attitudes to race in the West. Just as the negative reaction on social media should also give pause for thought.
Perhaps our true racial attitudes are only really tested most when it comes to intimate relationships, marital choice, and physical attraction.
This is exemplified by the ground-breaking 1967 movie ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn, where an ostensibly liberal middle-class couple’s real attitudes to race are only finally revealed, when their daughter brings home a black fiancé.
Interestingly, the makers of the film ram the point home that Sidney Poitier should really be an ideal marital choice, given he’s a doctor. Nina Davuluri has been represented in the media as almost perfect, given her beauty yet also intelligence, and ambition to be a physician.
In one of her acceptance speeches Nina Davluri didn’t just mention wanting to become a doctor, she specifically mentioned psychiatry as a favoured possibility.
This woman isn’t just easy on the eye, she is clearly a genius.