What Lookism Is and Why It May Become the Racism of the 21st Century

In the past, society was infected with national and ethnic discrimination but today, so-called lookism is taking place. Lookism is the discriminatory treatment of less attractive people. Studies show that attractive people have more chances to become successful, get good jobs, and build careers.

We at Bright Side tried to learn more about the connection of someone’s appearance and their success in life.

What lookism is

During a survey, it was revealed that appearance discrimination happens more often than ethnic or national discrimination.

There is even a term, lookism which means that less attractive people have fewer chances to build a career and be successful overall.

It was first widely used in 2016 when a female employee of a big company was sent home without a paycheck because she refused to wear shoes with heels.

It's quite possible that in 10 years, it will be prohibited to have a dress code at a company or require to wear specific makeup or a haircut. But now a person may not get a job because their clothing size is too big and their smile is not attractive enough.

How the brain reacts to beauty

We react to beauty just as a hungry person reacts to food. In studies conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, scientists found that when a person sees an attractive face, the same brain regions are activated when a hungry person sees food or a gambler sees money. So, the influence of beauty is partially out of our control.

Scientists think that our attraction to beauty is a biological thing, not social. Newborn babies take a longer time to look at photos of attractive people even though they don’t have any social experience yet.

The first impression is an automatic response from our brain. There’s a term, halo effect which happens when we make a conclusion about something by judging it by one small thing. For example, if a person is attractive, we automatically jump to the conclusion that they are smart, kind, and talented.

Here’s how the halo effect influences us:

  • Women who have a medium amount of makeup on are considered to be more attractive and competent, and they seem to be easier to work with.
  • A person who has a symmetric face looks healthier.
  • Attractive strangers look more trustworthy.
  • A jury in court are more likely to give a lenient punishment to an attractive person.
  • Good-looking professors motivate students to study harder.
  • Attractive people in good physical shape are more likely to get a loan.

In these cases, the standards imposed by advertisements and movies are to blame. And even though big brands are giving up on perfect models and choosing more realistic-looking people, the stereotypes are deep in our minds.

How society encourages the cult of beauty

The cult of beauty didn’t just appear. Ancient Egyptians had their own cosmetic products that are similar to what we have today. When photography first appeared, the usage of cosmetics increased dramatically. Today, the cosmetic market is booming and it’s predicted to grow by 7.5% by the year 2023.

The requirements for an attractive appearance are growing. South Korea is the world’s plastic surgery capital. Here, appearance-related discrimination occurs more often than anywhere else. And it has an impact on people’s self-esteem, health, and even body mass index.

The price we pay for the cult of beauty

Attractive people are more likely to be invited to a job interview. So in a study, scientists suggested a group of people to imagine themselves as recruiters and look through 2 CVs with the photos of candidates. If a CV was good, the people invited the candidate anyway. But if both CVs were mediocre, more attractive people had more chances.

Appearance twists the perception of professionalism. Attractive scientists are more interesting to people and in turn, want to read their studies. But the more attractive and communicative an expert is, the less competent they are believed to be. This fact serves as more proof that beauty can help in a career if it is necessary for the job and can be a problem if other qualities are more valuable.

Beauty is connected with bonuses and fines. Women who are more attractive on average receive 8% more money, and women who are “below average” pay fines of about 4% of their income. Attractive men earn about 4% more than those who are believed to be unattractive (the latter pays 13% of their income as fines).

Attractive people sell more. Good-looking real estate agents earn more and use their appearance more actively as a compliment to their professional skills.

Professor Renee Engeln believes that being obsessed with appearance is a psychological illness of an entire society. She spent 15 years researching why people want to be attractive and wrote a book about how the obsession with the perfect appearance hurts women.

The psychologist gives links to the studies showing that the beauty cult leads to depression, eating disorders, cognitive impairment, and losing time and money.

Do you think that the special treatment of attractive people is a biological feature or a stereotype imposed by culture, advertisements and the movie industry? Have you ever been faced with discrimination over your appearance, clothing style, or makeup?

Preview photo credit MCDCHLO_EC030_H / East News
Share This Article