While researching and considering this topic, I came to the title’s conclusion. The stories they feed you are true: pretty people make money.
Now, we all make money.
Okay, apparently it doesn’t matter if you don’t wear makeup or if you aren’t attractive: there’s no jobs for which to doll yourself up! Phew. Dodged a bullet there.
Depressing economy aside – or perhaps especially because of such – everyone who has a job and makes money…well, makes money. So, saying “pretty people make money” is like saying “a percentage of money-making people make money.” My point: don’t panic. Don’t despair. (And, as we’ll learn, don’t run off to the plastic surgeon…)
The concept of attractiveness being directly proportional to income isn’t new. As old as the halo effect, the idea states that if someone is perceived to be good at something – let’s say, being sexy and, biologically speaking, appearing reproductively capable – then they will be perceived to be good at other things…
However, this discussion has recently been fueled by a new study funded by Proctor & Gamble. Incidentally, Proctor & Gamble produce Cover Girl and Dolce & Gabbana, but don’t worry – no one actually buys D&G cosmetics.
The study – now that I’ve satiated my innate feminine desire for pictures of pretty lipstick – took about 150 participants and gave them pictures of women’s faces. These women had their faces in four stages: “bare,” “natural” (aka makeup), “professional” (aka more makeup), and “glamorous” (aka even more makeup). They were only given these photos for about 250 milliseconds – enough to make a snap decision, but not enough to study them in-depth. Interestingly enough, only about 60 of the participants were male. After this portion of the study, 119 additional adults (30 male – seriously?) looked at the photographs for an unlimited amount of time and made the same decision: does this person seem competent?
The results were, judging by the title of my own post, obvious: the more makeup, the more competence judged. (Even in the “glamor” shots! Though I’m hardly surprised – they didn’t exactly look like they were about to walk a drag show. I saw nothing worthy of “dramatic” by my generation’s standards.) If you refer back to my previous link – no? fine – there’s also been correlations between perceived attractiveness and higher rates of pay.
So, all of this swirls into the culmination of a sad truth: perceived attractiveness affects you. It affects how much money you make and how competent others think you are in matters that have nothing to do with looks. And, aside from a tailored wardrobe and a haircut and some lipstick, experts and “one serious study” – whatever that was – say that even plastic surgery can’t help you. Baby, you were born that way.
No one wants to talk about this. Humanity’s tendency – no, instinct – to “judge a book by its cover” and “find people sexually attractive” is our dirty little secret that we try to correct and harness and sweep under the rug and deny. It’s a jumbled mess, and there’s a lot of shame and indignation around the topic because, to some small extent, we all know that we’re guilty of the halo effect affecting our judgment, and we all know we have judgments, and we all know that we can recognize a hot piece of tail when we see one and are more likely to talk to it than the average, though completely nice and perfectly capable piece of tail to its left.
(… I’ll refrain from some sort of tail picture but just this once.)
Now, do I personally find this fair? No. Do I personally find this morally, logically, or in any way correct? No. (Unless you count “naturally” or “biologically” – then yes, I find it to be a correct assessment of the situation.) Do I think we can correct for it? Yes. Can we overcome it?
I’m probably going to vote no.
This really isn’t a happy blog post. You can read the studies and refute the evidence and find counter examples until the cows come home, but ultimately, the evidence is there, human nature is there, and our refusal to recognize it and, in doing so, perhaps work with and around it, remains.
Perhaps I simply want to see things in terms of human nature instead of morality. We don’t seem to do this – we’re above animals and instincts, apparently – and I’d like to see what happens if we do. We already have to wear mascara to seem competent, right? It can’t get worse than that.