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Saturday, January 2, 2010

January: Beautiful and taken seriously?


In The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, Frankie "blossoms" and finds family and friends not taking her seriously. E. Lockhart asks if you think it's difficult for women who are beautiful to be taken seriously? If so, why?


Lorie Ann Grover said...

I've read of studies that show beautiful people have an advantage that can be seen even in kindergarten. Teachers favor them unconsciously. Human nature is drawn to the beautiful.

That said, I think beautiful people may have a first advantage of gaining attention. But then they have to work harder than others to be heard.

Why does our society believe brains and beauty don't often go hand in hand? Hm...

L. E. Harvey said...

I agree with Lorie Ann Grover. It seems that in order to be intelligent, you must be ugly or plain at best. We all know that's not true, yet our society still tightly grasps the stereotype of the stupid beautiful girl.

Little Willow said...

I wish that everyone valued inner beauty more than outer beauty.

That being said, if we are talking about physical appearance, I think natural beauty comes from a genuine smile. A wholehearted & honest laugh or a beautiful singing voice would be a joy to hear. Natural grace when dancing or doing something else that's athletic - that kind of physical agility is beautiful.

I know, I know - this isn't really an answer to your question. So here you go:

Yes, sometimes, beautiful people are favored; sometimes, disparaged. I don't think anyone should be considered less or more than they are simply based on looks. People should always be given a chance to prove their worth and be taken seriously. Let people speak or write or share their intelligence and abilities in some way before you think them beautiful or ugly or intelligent or shallow.

great.perhaps said...

I think, to an extent, women of various looks aren't taken seriously for various reasons. If you are what's stereotypically considered pretty, people might assume you're a "bimbo" or that you're only there for them to look at. But, it goes both ways. If you happen to be what's stereotypically considered unattractive, a lot of people (esp. the media) seem to want you to hide away where you can't be seen or heard. The whole thing is irrational and sexist. It is more of a "being a female" thing then "being an attractive female" thing.

For example, think about the latest election-maybe we could here about Obama and McCain policies, but nearly everyday we were assaulted with headlines about Clinton's "cankles", Palin being hot, or how Michelle Obama's arms look in a dress. The entire world focuses too much on looks, especially women's looks.

Dia Calhoun said...

I think being beautiful gives you an initial advantage. But it is also true that beauty can engender loneliness. One is not valued for oneself but rather for one's looks. I think that can be an impediment to the development of one's personality, as well.

Priya said...

As everyone else has been saying, I think that society naturally doesn't take beautiful women seriously, because it always seems like they're obsessed with clothes and makeup and whatnot. And a lot of people naturally view smart women with glasses and tacky clothes.

I find this kind of interesting, because I usually talk to the person first and find out more about them before deciding whether or not to take them seriously.

Anonymous said...

Little Willow, I like how you re-articulated the question -- because it's true. There are even types of physical beauty (grace, athleticism, a warm, inviting body language, a smile) which are separate from the kind of beauty I was thinking about in posing the question. And while a certain kind of physical beauty is a luck of genetics, these others may be learned or obtained.


Anonymous said...

I think one of the issues that teenage girls face is: how to look and feel pretty (which can be fun and self-affirming) and yet not prioritize beauty or get obsessed with it.

Then also: if one looks conventionally attractive, how to deal with the reactions of the people around them to that attractiveness? Because those reactions can be unwanted (harassment, undesired flirtation, dislike from other girls, etc.), intense beyond what they're emotionally ready for, or derogatory (i.e. they are underestimated, prejudged as stupid or slutty, etc.)

I wonder, as our culture is growing and changing, what the experience of exceptionally good-looking young men is? What are the advantages and disadvantages for them?

--E Lockhart

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think Little Willow has a good point. Some people aren't beautiful in the traditional sense, but their smile or personality makes them irresistible. It's a complicated question. And to further complicate it, in my personal experience, as blonde, I find people don't take me as seriously as they did when I was a brunette. When people talk to me like I'm an idiot, I often want to scream and dye my hair back. But Hubby likes it blonde, and so do I, so whatever. I may have to work a little harder to be taken seriously. As someone who believes in the rewards hard work can bring, maybe that's not such a bad thing. I guess I figure if I do something awesome enough, no one will care what I look like.

Melissa Walker said...

Great points, all. And I love Dia's quote: "I think that [beauty] can be an impediment to the development of one's personality, as well."

There are lots of country songs about the town beauty ending up alone because she never had to be more than a pretty face and then she lost her pretty face to age.

Cultivating inner beauty always enhances the outer, of course.

On the male question E. raises, I've been thinking of Jon Hamm from MAD MEN, who deliberately tries NOT to look like Don Draper, his incredibly handsome character, when he's not on the show. He's less handsome, and I think purposefully so, so that people might SEE him.

Melissa Walker said...

Oh, and did anyone see the "30 Rock" where Liz dated Jon Hamm and found out that everything came incredibly easy to good-looking people? They called it "the bubble"--hilarious.

Catch My Words said...

So THAT explains my problem! ;)

Shelf Elf said...

I wonder if we like to believe that any good things that happen to "beautiful people" only happen to them because they are beautiful? Does it make it easier for us plainer folk?

Like Priya said, I think in the end beauty might draw you to a person more quickly than if that person was not hugely attractive, but it's what happens when someone opens their mouth that really seals the deal for me.

I think beautiful people can be taken seriously. I think that they likely have to work harder to be respected depending on the people they are interacting with.

JenFW said...

I suspect the teen response to physical beauty is different from the adult response. I think with time and experience we learn to see past it in others, at least to a some degree, and I think we focus less on our own.

I wonder, though, how much our culture contributes to an emphasis on beauty and how we interpret it. We know that beauty is defined differently in other cultures. Are teens in other cultures less focused on physical beauty, perhaps, however it's defined, and might beauty be associated with brilliance in some cultures?

Making snap judgments based on physical cues is natural and sometimes good. I don't think we want to get past that so much as understand it and counter it with our slower rational thinking.

This dilemma is beautifully drawn in Frankie. That Matthew never suspects her--can't see past her appearance--is so natural and real. It feels obvious, true, simple. And simple in a novel is anything but; it's an illusion created by a literary Houdini.

Sorry, E. Don't mean to gush or suck up, but Frankie rocks!

Little Willow said...

Thanks, E. I rarely if ever think or say someone is physically beautiful. I'm far more likely to call a song or a performance "beautiful" that a person's features, or to say what someone did or said was beautiful, to describe their actions (and their outlook, when people are optimistic and positive thinkers) as such, rather than their physical looks.

Also, I never use the word "hot" to describe someone's looks. Just typing that makes me cringe.

E. also asked (in the comments here) about the experiences of exceptionally good-looking young men, and what advantages or disadvantages they might encounter. Some of the stereotypical assumptions would be conceit, vanity, and, again, the intelligence factor. I know smart guys who don't consider or care about their looks, other than basic hygiene. I know sharp-dressing guys who could discuss string theory. I know guys who love wearing glasses and others who loathe it, for all sorts of reasons.

edithspage: Thanks for the comment! I agree that good work - true effort and talent - should be recognized and rewarded. Just be you, and let that shine through. I'm sorry to hear that people have unfairly judged you based on your hair color. Wear it how YOU like it.

Keep the comments coming, everyone! This is a great discussions already, and we're going to have more like this all month long. I know we'll touch on similar subjects when we discuss the Uglies books by Scott Westerfeld in March, so please stick around. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jen!

Oh, LW, I look at people's physical beauty all the time. Perhaps it would be more virtuous not to, but I do.

On the other hand, I find all kinds of people beautiful on the subway. Fat people, old people, scraggly teenage boys, and regular type beautiful people. I see beauty all around me!

But I also objectify people. I can't help it.
I just try to write about and think about it articulately.

Anonymous said...

P.S I also objectify John Hamm.

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