“He’s such a poser”. “Why do people care how other people look? It’s so shallow”. These are comments that we regularly hear today. Comments about vanity with very little justification on either side of the opinion. Believed by many to be a demonistic quality, vanity is just about as far from that as you can possibly imagine; it is used by humans and almost all mammalian species to ensure their survival on this planet.
Vanity is a biological mechanism used to ensure that advantageous or desirable phenotypes (physical traits based on a person’s genes) are passed on through generations. For example, large hips on a female is good for birthing, but if they are too large they will impair movement. So naturally, the majority of heterosexual men will find somewhere in between the most attractive, and thus will seek to reproduce with females of that phenotype. The offspring will have a heightened chance of inheriting healthy-sized hips, and the entire species will be more likely to survive. People care what they look like; they apply makeup; they go to the gym; they wear clothes which look good on them so that potential partners view them as more desirable. These things give the illusion that they have more advantageous genes than they really do, and so they are more likely to mate. Therefore, vanity itself is used as an enabler to increase an individual’s probability of sex – one of our basic human needs, and the driving force for the continuation of life.
Some finer details aren’t so much to do with the advantageous traits of a partner but are down to nurture. An example of this would be a girl who prefers bald men over hairy men. The phenotype of male patterned baldness is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, and yet many women have a preference. This is usually due to past experiences in their lives – nurture over nature – which has led or trained their brains to view these features as more attractive, and it results in different people having different “types”.
The mechanism of vanity and also of social class is also why people have standards, and how those standards are constantly changing. Its about the sexual availability of those whom they are after. One individual with a lower level of Darwinian Fitness (more qualities which are deemed genetically advantageous) will be unlikely to reproduce with someone of a high level of fitness, because those with the high fitness are interested in others who also have high fitness. Therefore, those with the lower level of fitness will have “lower standards” and go for those of a similar fitness level, increasing probability of reproduction and the continuation of their genes.
It really is as simple as that. Unfortunately, we live in a society where social etiquette dictates that many perfectly natural, and indeed auspicious, personality traits are wrong and should be condemned. It should not be condemned, of course, but endorsed. We should live in a society where everybody can exhibit their phenotype as much as they want to advertise themselves as suitable mates for others, and thus potentially increase the average fitness level of the human race a great deal.