Beauty or intelligence, what’s more important

November 29, 2011

Political Theory

Newsweek Article:

Often people’s confidence, dating life, and friendships can be affected by their physical appearance, but can one’s good looks help them succeed in the work force.  In Jessica Bennett’s article, “The Beauty Advantage” (link above), she suggests that being good looking can not only help someone get a job, but also help them excel within the company they work for.  She also suggests that if people do not live up the expectations of beauty at work (for example, women not wearing heals) it can serve as a disadvantage in the work force.  People are expected to look similar to the people society and the media portray as beautiful.  Bennett claims that “when it comes to the workplace, it’s looks, not merit, that all too often rule.”  People’s future careers are being determined according to a factor that they cannot control.  The American work force has lost focus on what qualities make better employers and has become focused on superficial ideas.  Bennett says “beauty is linked to confidence; and it’s a combination of looks and confidence that we often equate with smarts.”  People falsely associate good looks with intelligence and because of this stupid good looking people might have an advantage in the work force over smart ugly people.  American culture has created a superficial image of beauty that encourages people to focus on physical appearance.

Over the years America’s perception of beauty has become more superficial and has lost focus on inner beauty.  People strive for good looks by exercising, getting cosmetic and/or plastic surgery and using Botox.  American citizens have become obsessed with physical appearance and it has become a factor in people’s ability to get jobs.  American culture has focused so much on physical appearance that employers now see it as an advantage for their employees.  Now when competing for a job people may find that a six pack or big curves could give a better advantage in getting hired than organizational skills or ability to learn fast.  Being good looking is not something people can control (for the most part), but somehow it has become a factor in success in America.  In the article, Justice, Justice, Shalt Thou Preval, by Thomas Nagel, Nagel discusses John Rawls idea that people are born with different advantages and disadvantages.

Rawls believed that humans’ natural differences create inequalities within all aspects of society.  Rawls claims that people have some control over their lives, but that uncontrollable factors have a big influence on different aspects of our lives.  Rawls mentions sex, race, religion, class of parents, and people’s “ability or inability to acquire skills that command desirable rewards.”  Rawls believed that people were not responsible for these factors that affect their lives.  Over the past few decades physical appearance has become another factor that affects our lives that we cannot control.  Do you think that Rawls would consider being good looking a natural advantage that helps create the inequalities of society?  Do you think that being good looking is an advantage in the workforce?  If so, is there any way for “ugly” people to overcome this obstacle when applying to jobs.



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2 Comments on “Beauty or intelligence, what’s more important”

  1. elyssashea Says:

    I would definitely say that Rawls would consider being good looking a natural advantage that helps create inequalities in society. Just as it may have been (and can still be) an advantage to be of the male sex when acquiring property or a new job at times in the past, today technology has made people’s faces omnipresent. We so frequently are able to view and compare the faces of people that it is not hard to establish favoratism of those who are the most visually appeasing. Also, because image seems to be everything in these times, it could definitely be an advantage in the workforce to be attractive. Companies are represented by their image, and it would make sense that they would want to be represented with faces that strike people as attractive and welcoming. Therefore, it would not be hard for attractive people to find themselves in places of power.

  2. beaurh Says:

    Unfortunately, I would have to agree with elyssashea above. Physical attractiveness is definitely an advantage in society. Whether it be getting a job, or making network connections, attraction plays a vital role in a person’s initial reaction.
    A psychology study was done on facial recognition and the role attraction plays in forming initial judgements of people. A group of students were chosen to pick which face he or she would enjoy the most. The majority chose the faces that were predetermined to be attractive to the majority. Physical attraction immediately creates a link to pleasure and happiness.
    This could explain the reasoning behind why so many seemingly attractive people are in positions of power. They are initially judged as likable and confident.
    The attached abstract is taken from another psychology study. This study links physical attractiveness and its perceived social influence. It is an interesting abstract that I believe can give a good understanding of why physical attractiveness facilitates social inequalities.

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