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Why These Shoes Matter More Than An M.B.A.

Publication Date: 
September 24, 2011
Anne Kingston

Professor Deborah Rhode's book, "The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Work" is mentioned in the below MacLean's article by Anne Kingston on whether "lookism" should be accepted in the workplace.

The British sociologist Catherine Hakim is no academic wallflower. More than a decade ago, her “preference” theory positing that personal choices, not gender discrimination, governed women’s involvement and advancement in the labour market, won praise, sneers and influenced social policy. Now she’s back tweaking nipples with her new book, Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital, which argues that “erotic capital” can be as professionally useful as a university degree, that women have been conditioned not to exploit their attractiveness for economic benefit and that prostitution is a rational, lucrative female career choice.

Predictably, a book published in 2011 by a respected scholar (a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics no less!) that contains such sentences as “Becoming an ‘idle’ full-time housewife is a modern utopian dream for most women” and bills itself “a truly feminist manifesto” has hit a cultural nerve: debated on the BBC, discussed in the Wall Street Journal, and pilloried by female columnists with attractive head shots.


England also questions the broader implications of Hakim’s work: “I’m not sure we want to accept lookism by employers when it doesn’t have anything to do with the job,” she says, a point brilliantly made last year in The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Work, by Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode. But in Hakim’s brave new world, lookism is often warranted: attractive people deserve to be paid more because they offer benefits in a white-collar, service-based economy: they’re more confident, persuasive and effective, she writes. Just look at Christine Lagarde, says Hakim, who regards staying fit as more important than sleep.