Fair vs. swarthy
atractive men are more likely depicted as dark, while beautiful women are stereotyped as blond and fair-skinned. These typecast are not limited to Anglo-European cultures, as one might imagine. In the forward of a 2005 book on the subject, « Fair Women, Dark Men » by Peter Frost, University of Washington sociologist Pierre van den Berghe wrote, « Although virtually all cultures express a marked preference for fair female skin, even those with little or no exposure to European imperialism, and even those whose members are heavily pigmented, many are indifferent to male pigmentation or even prefer men to be darker. »
These extensive preferences may throw back the fact that, from puberty on (and in all populations), women tend to have lighter skin, hair and eyes than men do, and so opinions about the « ideal » coloring for each gender may reflect pigmentations that are inherently more masculine and more feminine.
The lightness of a woman’s skin correspond with the ratio of the lengths of her index and ring fingers, and her digit ratio in turn correspond with how much estrogen she was exposed to in the womb. For this reason, scientists believe it is exposure to estrogen before birth that somehow « programs » the lightening of female skin during puberty. Similarly, studies have also found that digit ratios are higher among blond people than dark-haired ones, suggesting that higher estrogen exposure also lightens hair.