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Lookism in American Society
Why Physical Appearance Is IMPORTANT In American Society
There is a saying that beauty is only skin deep. A group called the Temptations have a song in the 1960s , BEAUTY IS ONLY SKIN DEEP which elaborates on the importance of love and inner beauty. However, in the real world, physical looks are extremely important. More attractive people tend to be treated better by their parents, relatives, peers, and authority figures than their less attractive counterparts.
This culture thrives on beauty. There is a multibillion dollar industry based upon societal standards of what is considered to be attractive. Madison Avenue and Hollywood preys upon our vulnerability about our physical appearance, guaranteeing a better life based upon being beautiful and/or handsome. Everywhere in the advertisements, television, movies, and in other media, the emphasis is on being beautiful and handsome. People who are beautiful and handsome are idolized and worshipped in this society. Besides the multibillion dollar cosmetic industry, there is a plethora of plastic surgeons willing and ready to "correct" any beauty defect for the right price.
Female children are strongly inculcated with the concept of being beautiful. Girls and young women are incessantly told that life would be more easier, fantastic, and wonderful if they were beautiful. There are child beauty and child modelling contests. Although in these contests, talent matters, it is looks that win the prize. Children who are more attractive, regardless of their gender, are more likely to win these contests and oftentimes are considered for the entertainment business.
In the world of Hollywood, savvy agents usually choose the more attractive children whether or not they have talent because the American public want idealized images to look up to. Average looking and/or less attractive children are seldom, if ever, chosen to be in the entertainment business unless they have phenomenal talent. Studies show that in elementary and junior high school, teachers treat more attractive children more leniently and more preferentially than less attractive children.
Furthermore, more attractive children are viewed as more popular, smarter, likeable, and are presumed to have more leadership capability than less attractive children. However, at the upper elementary and junior high school level, sometimes attractive girls are bullied and ostracized by their female peers. Oftentimes, attractive tweens and preteens are excluded from girl clubs and girl groups at their school.
At the high school level, attractive teens of both genders are more likely to be viewed as more popular and in demand than their less attractive peers. Usually at the high school level, superficiality abounds. The average person at the high school is really not concerned with the inner character and inner attractiveness of a person, he/she mainly goes by outer appearances. Less attractive high schoolers are often ostracized and excluded from social groups. Attractive teens are ten times as likely to get dates and belong to social groups than their less attractive peers.
However, this issue does not matter at the college level. At the tertiary and postgraduate educational levels, it is only academic and intellectual acumen that reigns supreme,. At the college and postgraduate level, students who do not demonstrate acute academic and intellectual are derided and weeded out of these institutions.
In the postacademic world, being attractive can strike two ways. In the corporate and academic world, very attractive women may be hired but they have to prove to be serious contenders if they wish to get promoted. Oftentimes, if a superior is another female and is less attractive, she is oftentimes threatened by the more attractive female. Many times very attractive women are not promoted in corporate and academic settings especially if the superior and/or supervisor is another woman.
I remember there was an article stating that one of the admissions officer at a prestigious law school did not admit an extremely attractive and qualified candidate because of her looks. These admissions officer, another female, stated that she did not want her in the school. Very attractive women in the workplace may be hired but oftentimes are not taken seriously enough. Oftentimes at work, attractive women have to work extremely hard to prove their intelligence and credibility in the workplace.
However, this is not the case with attractive men. Attractive men are more likely to be hired and earn more in the workplace than their less attractive peers. In the entertainment and fashion industries, the more attractive a person is the better. In these industries, looks count and they count a lot! Actors and models must be extremely attractive in order to be successful because the public desires glamorous and idealized images to look up to.
Even if an average actor has phenomenal talent, it is usually the more attractive actor that wins out! In the entertainment and modelling business, looks sell! The only way an average or less than average looking actor and/or model makes it in the business is to have something extra whether it would be an extremely phenomenal talent or the "it" factor- personality and/or sex appeal plus.
There was a news segment on 20/20 a while ago which aptly illustrates the prevalence of lookism in this society. The study confirmed how more attractive people, especially if it is a woman, are helped more than less attractive people. The story showed that attractive people were helped when they are either lost or in distress; however, the less attractive people were left to fend for themselves.
Studies substantiate that in the judicial system, less attractive criminals and felons were more likely to receive longer and harsher prison sentences than their more attractive peers. As you see in this society, looks do count and the more attractive a person is, the more accolades he/she receives rather it is economic and/or psychological. We are long way from the concept of judging people based upon their character and worth.
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© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams