Does Beauty Help You Get Hired?

I think I need to start a new series titled “The Stupid Study of the Week.” There are so many pseudo-scientists engaged in fake research whose only goal is to get into the media that I will never run out of blogging topics. Consider the following study, for example:

A team at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg in northern Germany questioned more than 3,000 people about their career, and compared this with rankings of how attractive they were. The results suggest that being one point more attractive was worth a three percent wage hike, while being five points more attractive boosted a career by the same amount as having a university degree.

Professor Christian Pfeifer said his study, published this week in the Applied Economics Letters journal, also showed that the importance of looks in the workplace was even more important for men than it was for women. . . “Five points more – that is about the difference between an ordinary face and downright beauty – helps in getting a job as much as a university degree,” he said.

Let’s leave aside the question of who composed the rankings of attractiveness and why we are supposed to take that person’s idea of beauty as a universal yard-stick. Who’s to say that the creator of this ranking system doesn’t have a really horrible taste?

Never mind that, however. Let’s look at the last statement of the passage I quoted. Is this weird researcher at all familiar with how the hiring process is organized nowadays? Does he think that people just show up at the place where they hope to be employed to demonstrate their beauty? Did anybody find their job, a job that required a university degree, in this strange manner?

When I was on the job market, I never got a chance to impress anybody with my “downright beauty” before proving I had the necessary college degrees. Nobody would have discovered how I looked at all if I hadn’t had the required diplomas. My CV would have ended up in the trash can in a matter of seconds. I cannot imagine a situation where a search committee would have looked at my CV and said, “Well, she never went to college at all but let’s meet her anyways. Maybe she’s pretty. Then, we might still consider hiring her for a professorial position.” I also don’t recall any discussion of the candidates’ beauty or lack thereof at the (often very heated) meetings of the search committees where I participated.

I actually got my very first academic position as a Visiting Professor at an Ivy League university without ever meeting anybody from that school face to face. They hired me sight unseen on the basis of my CV and portfolio. Probably if they had gotten an opportunity to see me before hiring me, I’d be the university’s president instead of just a junior faculty member.

My sister is a professional recruiter, so we discuss the job market and successful recruitment strategies all the time. From what she tells me, a recruiter first reads a cover letter, then a CV, and then decides whether it makes sense to meet the candidate in person. She tells me that a college degree is crucial in the job mandates she handles. The question of a candidate’s beauty came up a single time in her career. That was when she was looking for a receptionist for a plastic surgeon’s practice.

I do believe, however, that Professor Christian Pfeifer had to be hired for his beauty. Based on the kind of study that occupies his time, I find it hard to believe he was hired because of his intellect.

Looking Good for Your Partner

Reader el writes:

Imho, paying *some* attention to one’s looks after finding a partner is necessary. I don’t mean surgeries. I mean may be the same hair creams to strengthen and make hair shinier one used before, watching one’s weight (not extreme, not working crash diets, but healthy food and some exercise), etc. Marriage is a sexual relationship too and trying to look attractive to one’s sexual partner should be a no-brainer. Especially in a marriage, where, unlike in one-night stand, you want the other side to be attracted tomorrow too.

I think we all know by now that I’m very much into makeup, pretty dresses, beautiful shoes, and cosmetics. However, my partner in life is the only person in the world who never even notices what I wear or how I look. He stares at me with the same adoring gaze whether I wear my best clothes and perfect makeup or lie in bed sneezing and coffing with my eye infected and gunk pouring out of it.

I remember how once we spent the entire day at the beach. I usually feel very content whenever I look at myself in the mirror. On that day, though, I saw my reflection and recoiled in horror. My hair was filled with sand and looked like a hornet’s nest. My face had acquired an unappealing red color. My eyes were piggishly small. Freckles had appeared out of nowhere and were covering my entire face. Even I had to recognize that I was no ornament to humanity on that day.

And then I saw N. staring at me. “God, you are beautiful!” he gasped. “You have this Biblical beauty that makes my heart stop.”

If you look at my photo on this blog, you will see that only a completely besotted individual would see anything Biblical in my appearance. This was when I knew that N. really loved me.

Since then, we have nursed each other through flus, stomach bugs, pericarditis, depression, very significant weight gain, etc. And in the midst of all that, each of us was always the most beautiful and desirable person the other had ever met. It is a great comfort in life to have somebody by your side with whom you are unafraid to be not pretty. We all have beautiful moments and ugly moments, both in terms of our appearance and our actions. The only partner in life worthy of the title is, in my opinion, a person who wants to be there by your side, and nowhere else, through beauty and ugliness alike.

Stigmatizing Girls Under the Guise of Caring for Them

Can somebody please explain to me why we need a program ” trying to get girls to think differently about their bodies through multimedia presentations around the country” and “a campaign that encourages girls to make their dreams come true while maintaining a healthy lifestyle”? Why not a program and a campaign that promote these goals among people, irrespective of their gender?

The very existence of such a campaign signals that this is and should be a women’s problem. How is this not detrimental to women?

The founders also know that girls look to television, advertisements and the pages of fashion magazines to figure out what beautiful looks like, so they’re joining the industry itself to try and make a difference instead of trying to get girls to stop what they’ve been doing for decades.

And where exactly do boys find their ideas of beauty? Aren’t those same TV shows and ads filled with ripped, perfectly muscular men with no chest hair and unattainably perfect figures?

Can we just stop singling out women as people who need to be protected from the bad, horrible media at all costs? A thousand TV shows and glossy magazines do not do the kind of damage to women that is inflicted by this relentless insistence that we are perennial victims who need some guy to come and save us by teaching us how to relate to our own bodies.

An Impossible Standard of Beauty

“Our culture promotes and imposes an impossible standard of beauty on women,” people often say. “I’m expected to be a skinny, wrinkle-free, modelesque type of woman all the time because this is the only kind of female appearance that our culture accepts. This is causing me all kinds of suffering!”

Well, actually, our culture does nothing of the kind. You are simply confusing culture with trash. The culture of our Western civilization bears no relationship to the junk you are choosing to consume in its place. True culture, the one that has withstood the test of time, has nothing to do with impossible beauty standards. And the best thing is that you can gain access to it for a low price of. . . well, to be honest, for the most part, you can access it for free. Here are just a few examples.

1. “Magazines are filled with photos of air-brushed stick-thin models!” That is very true. However, your Vogue and Cosmo are not “culture.” They are trashy magazines that will end up on a garbage heap at the end of the month. Instead of obsessing over them, why not turn, for example, to the immortal art of Peter Paul Rubens.

Three Graces

This incredibly beautiful painting is what our culture has cherished, treasured and worshipped for centuries. Vogue and Cosmo are not being exhibited at the El Prado museum, while this piece of art is. Generations of people have stood in front of this painting with tears of admiration in their eyes. A crowd of people is standing in front of it right now with bated breath. You can do that, too, and forget about trashy magazines.

2. “Music videos show impossibly beautiful thin singers like Beyonce. I’ll never be able to look like she does!” With all due respect to Beyonce’s fans, performers like her are a dime a dozen. They come, they go, and we forget their names the second they stop performing. Why not turn, instead, to the magnificent art of Montserrat Caballé?

Caballé is not a “conventional beauty” by any standards. Her gift, however, is absolutely unique. Opera singers, for the most part, are not know for being thin. So if your consumption of culture makes you think of dieting, why not turn to opera? If this beautiful art does not convince you that weight means nothing, then I don’t think anything will.

3. “You only see very thin actresses with regular features and perfect makeup in the movies!” That’s not true, either. Maybe it’s time for you to realize that the garbage produced by Hollywood has nothing to do with the masterpieces of world cinema.

This is Natalia Gundareva, my absolutely most favorite actress in the universe. She died in 2005, which is a huge loss for the cinematographic art everywhere.

The photo is from one of her best roles in the film Autumn Marathon that you can find here. Actually, all of her performances were magnificent. Gundareva was not a conventional beauty and she was never thin. Actually, I look a lot like her and have the same body type. (When N.’s mother asked him what I looked like, he said I looked like Gundareva. This was the best compliment I could have ever received.)

Or take, for example, one of Spain’s leading actresses Carmen Maura.


This is how she looks on her brilliant role in the film The Promise. You could be watching her outstanding performances instead of insipid films starring the incredibly talentless Jennifer Anniston.

People ask me how I manage to be so much at peace with my body when society keeps telling me that my body type is ugly. The truth is, though, that society has immortalized the paintings of Rubens and the acting of Sara Bernhardt, and not inane TV shows and glossy magazines. If you choose to consume the performances of Rihanna and J Lo instead of all the available alternatives, whom can you blame other than yourself for limiting your reality so much?

I Found an Alternative to Sephora!

Those of you who are not fans of Sephora will not understand how deprived one feels when separated from it for any length of time. I was so convinced that Sephora was unique that I didn’t even look for any alternatives. Then, yesterday, we went to our favorite Indian restaurant, which, as bad luck might have it, is located 50 minutes away from where we live. I’m addicted to Indian food but have the misfortune of living in such a backwards little town that it doesn’t even have an Indian restaurant. (Have you heard of any other place in the civilized world where people have to drive for an hour for Indian food?)

So yesterday benevolent forces helped me stumble upon a Sephora-like place called Ulta on my way out of the Indian restaurant. It is almost like Sephora but it has the grave disadvantage of discriminating against men. As soon as we walked in, N. observed in shock that there wasn’t a men’s section, not even a tiny little one. Probably, men in Missouri have no interest in looking good, and from what I’ve seen in this state, that might be exactly the case. However, Ulta has something Sephora doesn’t: a really huge section dedicated to hair. Curling irons, straightening irons, hair dryers, and, most importantly, a really huge selection of hairbrushes, like I’d never seen anywhere else.

Another thing this store has is an impressive selection of these facial masks you can see in the picture. I got used to them in Montreal but they are always an incredible drag to find in the US. The last place where I did manage to locate these masks was Ithaca, NY, but even there the selection was paltry. Here, it was better than in Montreal. (For Chesterfield, MO to outdo Montreal in any way is a really big deal).

The only thing I regret that I didn’t know the store existed before going there. I just found their website and it gives you a 20% discount off anything bought in the store.