The Beauty Advantage

2nd August 2010

The Beauty Advantage

I meant to post this the other week, but that pesky thing called life got in the way and I back-burnered it.  Newsweek has put together an awesome special feature on the advantages (and yes, even disadvantages) of being beautiful and how it can affect our lives, careers and health.  There are a lot of great multimedia links to follow, but here’s a few that caught my attention:

(And in my own addendum on the subject, I highly recommend Kathy Peiss’ Hope in a Jar: The Making of America’s Beauty Culture and — what I consider the definitive work on the history of American cultural beauty standards — Lois W. Banner’s American Beauty: A Social History…Through Two Centuries of the American Idea, Ideal, and Image of the Beautiful Woman.)

I think that most of us would agree that lookism is A Bad Thing, but surprisingly, in a survey conducted by Newsweek, only 46 percent of the public said they would favor a law making hiring discrimination based on appearance illegal.  Is this a case of a deluded public who’s bought the beauty myth hook, line and sinker?  Or could it be a pragmatic public realizing the practicalities of such a law difficult to enforce?   Your thoughts on this and the other columns and galleries in Newsweek’s special feature on beauty?

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 2nd, 2010 at 11:25 am and is filed under Body Image, Fashion, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, Pop Culture, Rachel, vintage ads. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 4 responses to “The Beauty Advantage”

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  1. 1 On August 2nd, 2010, kb said:

    I’m mostly unconvinced about such a law because of enforcement difficulties-beauty is too much “I know it when I see it” and too little provable. also-is it really just the beauty, or is the advantage the confidence that a lifetime of people reacting well to you provides? That’s exceptionally hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

  2. 2 On August 2nd, 2010, Frankincensy said:

    I agree with kb – discrimination based on looks is obviously not fair, but such a law would be very hard to enforce.

  3. 3 On August 2nd, 2010, Cat said:

    I was particularly struck by “The Beauty Advantage,” and its assertion that yeah, such an advantage exists, but it’s really not such a big deal. Love yourself, do your thing, and screw those idiots.

    Now, this article’s sentiment is admirable, and, like Agent Mulder, I’d really like to believe…but I’m not sure the evidence is there, Hillary Clinton notwithstanding. If capitalism trumps everything, why do only about one-third of insurance companies cover birth control (a need widely considered a woman’s problem, in a country where women are half or more of the insured), when nearly all of them cover Viagra (a need specific to men)? If capitalism trumps everything, why aren’t TV shows overrun with strong, interesting, complex parts for less-than-beaiutiful actresses, when the viewing audience is well over half women, most of whom are presumably less than beautiful? When women are the consumers and presumably arbitrators of women’s fashion, why are business clothes for women still geared to objectify women’s bodies for men’s gaze (short skirts, stockings, heels) rather than to provide comfort for the women who wear them as men’s suits do for men? If capitalism trumps everything, why are so few designers and retailers willing to sell diverse, interesting, professional clothes to larger women, when so many larger women are willing to pay for them? As I think most of us know already, it’s because prejudice, preconception, and stigma actually can trump capitalism. There actually are forces stronger than profit, and misogyny, objectification, and bias, like fat hatred, are among them.

    A Hillary Clinton doesn’t change that…especially when even a Hillary Clinton is a death wish for her party because she’s so widely, and inexplicably, hated. And for what was she so hated ? Look at the critiques–abrasive, incompetent, too hard, too soft, shrill, cried too much, cried too little, all critiques which are levelled only at women. Clinton has her issues, but so did Obama; what we couldn’t forgive her for, and what, arguably, may well have kept her from being president, was the fact that she is a woman. And the impossible beauty standard is part of that–a system which consistently judges and hinders women in a way it doesn’t judge or hinder men. More power to the women who can ignore that system and accomplish whatever they can in the time they have! Some can, especially those of us who are lucky enough to start from a position of privilege. But don’t tell me that that system doesn’t exist, or that the harm it does us is all in our heads. It isn’t. Ask Hillary. Ask anyone here. And that, I’d argue, is one powerful reason why there will never be a law against discrimination based on looks.

  4. 4 On August 3rd, 2010, Crimson Wife said:

    I would not support such a law because it’s too broad. Let’s face it, there are certain jobs where attractiveness *is* a legitimate requirement. Things like PR, advertising, real estate, management consulting, etc. where there’s an element of selling yourself. When I was job-hunting as a college senior, I was advised by the school’s placement center to include my position as Vice President of my sorority on my resume when applying to certain types of jobs because employers in those industries specifically screened for sorority membership.

    Now, I do think that for the majority of jobs attractiveness is not particularly relevant. If I’m a hiring manager for an engineering position, I care about your technical competence, not your appearance.

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