Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Beauty Bias

Did you know that none of the 16 female U.S. senators aged 46 to 74 has a visble gray hair?

That was one of the tidbits I read recently in a NY Times review of a book called, "The Beauty Bias. The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law.''

It is no shock that women tend to be judged on their appearance. And they respond to that fact. Cosmetic surgery has quadrupled in the last decade. Women still wear stiletto heels that ruin their feet and buy wrinkle smoothing cream for any price.

And the author, Deborah Rhode, says that being fat continues to carry as much stigma as AIDS, drug addiction and criminal behavior. Men are largely unplagued by their imperfections unless they are short.

It points out that only Michigan and six cities have laws to protect against appearance discrimiantion.

Since women often tend to comment on my blog, I thought I'd ask for your thoughts on this fact of life in our society and how you, as a woman, deal with this reality.



  1. It sucks......

    For many reasons I can no longer dye my hair.. and I have noticed a BIG drop in attention from the male species of our society.

    Mind you it is a good thing they stop at the grey hair.. cause I have scars and wrinkles and droopy..... well I don't need to draw you a picture.. I try to wear my age proudly.. after all I have done a whole lot of living in these years......

    But yeah there is massive huge bias.. and



  2. It is not fair that women are judged on their appearance. I live in Fort Lauderdale and work in Boca Raton and I will tell you there are beautiful people everywhere and when it comes to my job I have to look the part. Hair done, makeup, nice clothes.

    My boss was hiring a leasing person for our properties and his requirments were it had to be a woman, easy on the eyes, and flirty. It didnt matter if she knew what she was doing.

    Men are pigs...no offence FD. Its just the way of life


  3. Well, I can't say much here on this issue. I've never personally felt any kind of negativety because of the way I look. I think that women are harder on women then guys are on women. I'm not skinny (not super fat though either) and I'm not stunningly gorgeous, but there is no doubt that guys think I'm beautiful. I'm sure many guys wouldn't even consider my weight, but I know women do. They look at me and see how many pounds I need to lose, but guys look at me and see that I'm curvy and they like that. So for me the prejudice comes from women, not men, and even when from women it isn't horrid. So I don't have all that much experience with this topic, other than to say that there is a prejudice, but i think it is increased because of the media, and because women are more judgemental than men.


  4. It is not fair...but then neither is life. But then the man who decides about you based on gray hair, or weight or even just by knowing your age is missing out on some great opportunities. Even knowing that,,,it is hard to accept.

  5. i agree with alice, i think women are far more judgmental with women than men are...im 48 and only have a few gray strands but i still color my hair...i get nice attention from men and some women too... but then i like to smile alot so i think that goes a long way in itself.

  6. Women are indeed far more judgmental than men. However, beauty bias is alive and well in the 21st century. As a professor, I see many very qualified female graduate students move into the workplace at less money than some of their more attractive peers who have inferior skills and credentials. I am also a BBW, but have lost a few pounds and feel sexy and healthy...always did for that matter. Times do change however, and as more and more women move up the corporate ladder, men may someday be the ones who have to work harder to keep their weight down and their hair free of gray! As for me, I've turned the tables in my household. My sissy hubby has a weekly weigh in and she better not be over her target weight! I've been away for nearly two weeks. One of the first things she is doing when I return is stepping on that scale!!!

  7. There seems to be two issues here...one of 'appearance' bias (weight, perception of beauty, women's beauty in the developed world)and one of age bias. The worship of youth..boy have we got that wrong, but that doesn't become apparent until we are older does it? Personally, I love the age I've reached, 45, oops 46 just the other day! As I hurtle toward 50? I feel the anxiety of becoming an older woman, less desirable maybe..just at I time when I have discovered the power of my desirability. And my hair?. Deliciously lightened with streaks of sun..now this is fun for me..lightening and brightening, but I don't pretend it's real. Its part of my girly self..and I love my girly, womanly self. x

  8. FD, First, I think women are truly sexy when they reach middle age. Second, I think some women who are considered exceptionally beautiful feel discriminated against, too. And third, Senater Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas has very attractive gray hair.

  9. Very interesting subject.
    Well it is painfully true, I know women are pretty judgmental. I can be sometimes.
    I have learned in the past 5-10 yrs that there are a lot of qualities that I possess that people find incredibly sexy. I, like Suzanne, am a BBW. I love me and my body which is something that has attracted some men who wouldn't normally move toward a BBW. I have been told that they hesitated with me because of my size but found out later that they 'chose the wrong one' (their words).
    I have noticed that many women who are pretty and have that great body are the most insecure ladies I have met--shocking to me and more importantly that is unattractive to me. Which is probably why I tend to lean towards a bigger girl (BBW) with confidence.
    Yes, men are accepted in society in almost all aspects and yes the short thing is a stigma--at least for me it is. I mean men are usually the tall, slightly dominant one. It's hard to see a short man as dominant. See I have my biases as well.

    I do not fight any aging process, I believe that is what makes me who I am. I am proud of my age, few gray hairs, and wisdom.

    I have learned that men like to "look" at that woman with the smashing body, but they have no brains and some can't hold an intelligent conversation to save their lives. This is the part where men are shallow. Give me plain Jane with confidence and I will take her anytime (then get her naked if at all possible). WINK WINK
    But all in all beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


  10. It's a sad fact that women are judged on their appearance. I had a friend who went for a job with 5 other women and was told she hadn't got the job because of her size. Employers wouldn't be allowed to say that now.

    Personally I like a few grey hairs, can be very distinguished looking :)


  11. At the ripe old age of 50 i am comfortable in my skin,wrinkles scars and all. There is a beauty Bias though and unfortunately some women suffer for it.Personally if my Master is pleased with my body and i am ok with the way i look ( i still turn a few heads..) i don't care what others think of the way i look.

  12. by refusing to age, wrinkle, gray or sag, of course! :)

    sorry, but it's millions of years of evolution at work (and a few decades of madison avenue) and not likely to change any time soon.

  13. Unless you have the money for surgery and/or constant skin and body treatments, there's not too much you can do to halt the aging process.

    I try to do the best with what I have. Men, of any age, don't really want to bother too much with an over 50 woman. However, I don't want to bother much with men that only judge a woman by her age and/or face and body.

  14. This was a great post and the comments were fantastic.

    I don't mind a woman with grey hair -- on her head or below the belt -- assuming they don't go bare down below.

    Comments from anyone? Thoughts about our elected officials?

  15. I have a friend who told me last year that she was going to let her gray show and not dye her hair like all other women she knew. One year on and the gray has gone.....she looks much younger. She was brave to try it but gray looks dull and lifeless. Silver now is a different matter. My mother stopped dyeing her hair when it had all turned from black to silver and it looks fantastic. Silver has shimmer and is light and bright.

  16. Can I just say that I've always tried to dress like a slob to avoid attention and it just never worked? Well maybe not like a slob, but ponytail, no makeup, baggy t-shirt and jeans, and sneakers. That was my wardrobe for many years and I still got the whistles and comments on my beauty. So it's really been my thinking that it depends on who you're trying to impress?

    Also, I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to take care of yourself and look beautiful. Maybe the reason I always attracted guys... even though I didn't exactly dress like a model... was because I took care of myself. My skin to this day is soft and supple as though I was 19 and I'm in my late 30's now. Everyone told me I had a natural beauty so it didn't matter what I wore... and I think that had more to do with how I took care of myself and how I carried myself than trying to change my appearance to suit others.

  17. Morningstar: Yes, it sucks.

    reina(RT): Yes, some men are pigs. I try not to be one of them.

    Alice: The idea of women being harder on women is interesting. And great that guys see you as curvy. I like curves myself.

    abby: Yes, life isn't fair and the guys who judge women that way are missing out on some great opportunities.

    Hisflower: Always good to smile. People respond positively to smiles.

    Suzanne: Good to hear that as a BBW, you still feel sexy. And interesting that you've turned the tables on sissy.

    LittleOne: Good to hear you love your girly, womanly self. If you feel positive about yourself, people are more likely to see you in a positive light.

    Mick: Interesting that the author overlooked Kay Bailey Hutchinson. But then she recently lost an election. Don't know if one has anything to do with the other.

    ronnie: Yes, employers have to be more careful now but even if they don't say it, they sometimes do it. And yes, a few grey hairs can be distinguished.

    His mountain girl: Great to you that you are comfortable in your own skin and that your Master is pleased with your body.

    naughty: Yeah, things aren't likel to change much any time soon.

    Nitebyrd: Yes, not worth bothering with men who judge women on their age and/or face or body.

    Ron: Do you like a full bush down there or trimmed hair?

    doll: Yes, silver has appeal.

    turlya: Yes, no problem with taking care of yourself and looking beautiful.

    As Ron said, the comments on this blog were fanastic. Keep them coming.


  18. I will be turning 53 in september. As well I was a size 22. Over the past year I have went down to a size 8 and find that while I have many more more wrinkles because of the weight loss (I think I may start gobbling like a turkey soon)I am getting much more attention than I did from both males and females. People who pretty much ignore I existed are now overtly friendly. So I have to judge from that that weight is looked upon worse than the wrinkles of age.

  19. Renee: Thanks for your insight that weight is looked at as being worse than wrinkles.


  20. Coincidentally I met a woman at work yesterday whom I haven't seen for two years. In that time she has let her gray grow out. Now from behind you would put her somewhere in her 60's. When she turns around you would have to readjust because of the lack of wrinkles and put her in her 40's BUT she is in her 30's. So it is no wonder that no woman worth her salt is going to let the gray show until she is well into old age.

    I found my own response interesting. Because in general we only see men with hair that color for the first time I questioned her sexuality. Going gray would be good for a butch lesbian or a woman in a profession where having a more masculine persona would be an advantage.

  21. doll: It would be interesting to know why she went gray. But maybe she figures she wants people to accept her the way she is.


  22. I'll just say I go with the flow that makes me feel good. Don't really care too much what others think, unless it's very hateful.

    Kisses, Crystal

  23. tigers: going with the flow is often a good idea.


  24. Sadly I have certainly given in to the stereotype of being a beautiful woman in the workforce; I recall times I was not aknowledge much by male co-workers at meetings and decided to wear a lower cut shirt at the next follow-up meet where their attention was much better... though perhaps not on what I brought to the table for work...