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Business: Beastly Toward Beauty?

Publication Date: 
June 10, 2010
Los Angeles Times
Meghan Daum

Professor Deborah Rhode's book The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law is reviewed in this opinion piece by Meghan Daum of the LA Times:

In an odd twist of timing, a new book about workplace discrimination against the "unattractive" has coincided with a lawsuit by a woman who claims she was fired because she was too attractive. Deborah L. Rhode, a Stanford law professor and the author of "The Beauty Bias," thinks that "looksism" is such a pervasive problem that the only recourse is to impose laws similar to those designed to combat discrimination based on race and gender. This would mean (to cite two real-life examples of alleged beauty bias) Hooters waitresses couldn't be fired for gaining weight and managers at Abercrombie & Fitch couldn't monitor their sales staff for acne breakouts.

Moreover, Rhode argues, such laws would serve as a corrective to what she sees as commonplace attractiveness prejudice. In the United States, Rhode writes, the unattractive are more likely to be given higher prison sentences and lower salaries and performance assessments. They're more likely to be poor and less likely to be married. In one survey, college students said that having an obese spouse would be worse than having one who was an embezzler, drug user or shoplifter.


That's because as unforgiving as Rhode's version of beauty bias can be, Lorenzana's might represent an even worse tyranny, one that sees beauty as something that must be chased down like prey and then flaunted. It's a beauty that is never owned outright but instead leased and under constant threat of repossession, a beauty that's only as good as the latest spray-on tan and the last teeth-whitening session. In other words, it's the same brand of beauty that gets shoved down our throats every time we read about celebrities or watch a makeover show on TV, the kind that tells us that being hot is not only crucial but also a full-time job.