Newsweek Magazine recently published a series on beauty: The Beauty Advantage. It investigates the impact of beauty in culture and more specifically in the workplace.
When I read the first few articles, my attitude vacillated between bored and agitated. Bored because the stories relay research and sentiments presented numerous times in the past, e.g., the fact that babies stare longer at beautiful people; all things being equal, a beautiful candidate will likely get the job over the less beautiful one; aging women have it tough in today’s workforce. And agitated because the articles present the typical, negative point of view on beauty, i.e., it’s physically and socially harmful, creates an unfair advantage, and is enslaving. Check out The Beauty Advantage, How Much is Beauty Worth, Six Ugly Secret of the Cosmetics Counter.
Thankfully some of the other pieces, while not fully celebrating the pursuit of beauty, still provide a different perspective. Don’t Hate me Because I’m Beautiful points out how beautiful men and women face discrimination and their own glass ceilings in the workplace because of their attractiveness: “Pretty women tend to be seen as too feminine, and thus unsuited, for most leadership positions that are associated with masculine traits – one reason, perhaps, why so few women CEOs control Fortune 500 companies or Wall Street firms.”
The best and most refreshing article by far is Beauty is Defined, and Not by You, by Raina Kelley. Sure, being attractive is a plus, she notes, BUT it isn’t the only type of advantage out there! Kelley writes: “Beauty bias notwithstanding, there are still opportunities for people who aren’t hotties – lots of them.” And to portray women as miserably enslaved by beauty totally flies in the face of women’s rise in social, political, and economic spheres. Do Hillary Clinton, Sonia Sotomayor, Elana Kagan, or Oprah Winfrey ring any bells? Are they enslaved? Don’t think so! Kelley still recognizes the value of paying attention to personal appearance (which is great) but also reassures her readers that they don’t have to “turn themselves into Scarlett Johansson” to get ahead or be happy.
There’s no question that beauty, like many other parts of our lives, impacts one’s personal, social and economic success. And Newsweek does a pretty good job reflecting that. I just wish that there were more pieces like Kelley’s that encourage us to enjoy beauty rather than fear or vilify it.