According to Henry Finck’s opinion, there is substantial evidence that cultural evolution and sexual selection throughout history favored the petite body type of a woman’s beauty (Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).
The Distinctive Body of the Amazons in Ancient Greece
Many ancient legends and epic poems of Greek mythology portray the Amazons, the female warriors and hunters of ancient Greece. What was special about their physicality? A British statesman and politician of the 19th century, William Gladstone (1809-1898), once remarked that
“Stature was a great element of beauty in the view of the ancients, for women as well as for men; and their admiration of tallness, even in women, is hardly restrained by a limit.”(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 520).
This Greek’s depictions of the Amazons appear to be different from modern aesthetic-amorous taste. Modern cultural standards do not perceive a very tall and bulky woman as very graceful, even if she is stately and majestic. Grace is an important attribute of physical beauty and a powerful trigger of love.
A very large and tall woman in love appears odd and almost comical in modern eyes. Besides, people rarely associate great stature with delicate joints and extremities. However, the quasi-masculine physical type of Amazonian women is the primary reason why modern lovers disapprove of this kind of woman.
Sexual Differences in the Types of Stature
People tend to differentiate the sexual features of beauty, which are considered as attractive in stature as in everything else.
An English statistician, psychologist, and anthropologist, Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911), made observations on 205 married couples. He concluded that
“Marriage selection takes little or no account of shortness and tallness. There are undoubtedly sexual preferences for moderate contrasts in height; but the marriage choice appears to be guided by so many and more important considerations that questions of stature exert no perceptible influence upon it…. Men and women of contrasted heights, short and tall or tall and short, married just about as frequently as men and women of similar heights, both tall or both short; there were 32 cases of one to 27 of the other.”(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 521).
However, Henry Finck believes (1887/2019, p. 521) that this argument is rather weak. Francis Galton admits that
“There are undoubtedly sexual preferences for moderate contrast in height”
And then, Henry Finck emphasizes that
“Galton’ figures show 32 to 27 in favour of mixed-stature marriages, in most of which the women must have been shorter, owing to the prevalent feminine inferiority in size. And in course of time the elimination of non-amorous motives of marriage will assist the law of sexual differentiation in suppressing Amazons.”(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 522).
Further Arguments in Favor of Petite Female Stature
Philological arguments attest even further in support of the modern preferences of men for the petite stature of women. It is quite illustrative in this citation from Crabb’s English Synonyms:
“Prettiness is always coupled with simplicity; it is incompatible with that which is large; a tall woman with masculine features cannot be pretty. Beauty is peculiarly a female perfection; in the male sex it is rather a defect; a man can scarcely be beautiful without losing his manly characteristics, boldness and energy of mind, strength and robustness of limb; but though a man may not be beautiful or pretty, he may be fine or handsome.”
“A woman is fine who with a striking figure unites shape and symmetry; a woman is handsome who has good features, and pretty if with symmetry of feature be united delicacy.”(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 522).
An Irish-British philosopher and statesman of the 18th century, Edmund Burke (1729–1797), noted that “it is possible to fall in love with a very small person, but not with a giant.”
A Natural Prejudice Against Very Tall People
The mind of many modern people does have a natural prejudice against very tall people—women as well as men.
As Thomas Fuller, an English historian and churchman (1608–1661), wrote in “Andronicus, or The Unfortunate Politician” (1646),
“Often the cockloft is empty in those whom Nature hath built many stories high.”
A British philosopher, Francis Bacon (1561-1626), said something in the same vein that
“Nature did never put her precious jewels into a garret four stories high, and therefore that exceeding tall men had ever very empty heads.”
This cultural belief is also backed up by strong scientific evidence in “Nervensystem” by Professor Hermann:
“When the body becomes abnormally large, the brain begins to decrease again, relatively, as Langer found in measuring giant skeletons.”(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 522).
The Beautiful Stature of Spanish Women
According to 19th-century scholars, beautiful Spanish faces and bodies evolved from the mixing of many cultures and body types.
In fact, many visitors to Spain were struck by the extraordinary beauty of Spanish women, who were distinguished by their petite stature, dark eyes, and long black eyelashes.
In past articles, I cited many quotes describing why they admired beautiful Spanish women. Among other women in Spain, they found that Andalusian women are especially beautiful.
Henry Finck expresses his belief that the perfect woman resembles an Andalusian brunette. Several features of Andalusian beautiful women that many reporters talk about are their stature, complexion, tapering plumpness of figure, and posture. One of these is the Spanish women’s diminutive stature, which contributes significantly to their exceptional grace of gait. (Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).
Therefore, Henry Finck concludes that the petite type of body became the ideal type for a woman over time.