Don’t wait to be told — The awkward politics of ‘aesthetic skill’

In the 1960s and 70s Palmolive ran a series of tv ads warning men that body odour could hurt their career prospects. "Don’t wait to be told", said the jingle. And the reason was obvious — it’s awkward to talk to someone about how they smell. But body odour isn’t the only aspect of personal presentation that’s caught up in awkwardness. Career success can also depend on a person’s accent, body shape and complexion. And policy makers are surprisingly reluctant to talk about employers’ growing preoccupation with ‘aesthetic labour’.

An increasing share of entry level jobs are in service industries. And with much of their workforce on display to the public, service employers often treat their workers’ appearance as part of the product. They have strong preferences about how workers look and speak. Researchers now refer to things like grooming, dress-sense, body size, accent and tone of voice as ‘aesthetic skills‘.

Many of those in the policy community are also reluctant to confront the widespread use of appearance in hiring decisions. After all, how people look and speak is tied up with their ethnicity, class background and identity — it’s part of who they are. To insist that a job seeker must learn how to present as a different kind of person can seem discriminatory and offensive. But persuading employers to stop using appearance in decisions about hiring and promotion seems impossible. As a result, it’s easier to avoid the issue.

Much of the debate in policy circles revolves around the less fraught issues of formal education and training in technical skills. However, a group of researchers in Scotland have challenged the emphasis on this kind of knowledge and skill. In a 2003 paper Dennis Nickson, Chris Warhust, Anne Marie Cullen and Allan Watt argued that employment services for the long-term unemployed should place more emphasis on ‘aesthetic skills’ in order to move job seekers into the emerging ‘style labour market’. According to their research, service industry employers place surprisingly little emphasis on technical skills.

‘Aesthetic skills’ are about more than innate physical attractiveness and grooming. They include body language and speech — things like facial expression, shoulder shrugging, hair flicking, vocabulary and pronunciation. As the researchers put it, it’s about "looking good and sounding right". Unsurprisingly, what’s ‘good’ and ‘right’ tends to come more naturally to people who are white and middle-class.

In a memo to the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Employment, Chris Warhurst and his colleagues wrote:

In many respects it was in the area of recruitment and selection that the notion of aesthetic labour had the most resonance, as this process allows for the filtering out of "inappropriate" people. The review of job advertisements in the Glasgow newspapers revealed that employers were using a variety of strategies to signal the type of people they would wish to employ. A number of key phrases occurred with great regularity in job adverts encompassing the leisure and retail sectors. Examples, of these phrases include, "smart young person", "smart appearance", "well spoken and of smart appearance" and "very well presented". Furthermore a significant number of adverts asked applicants to enclose a photograph with their application. This practice is something that is strongly countenanced against by the Employment Service, due to possible discriminatory practices. Organisations were looking for the "right" sort of appearance and disposition, the latter often being more important than any technical skills. For example, the personnel manage of a design-led hotel, in discussing the recruitment of staff for a new café within the hotel, commented that: "we didn’t actually look for people with experience . . . because we felt that wasn’t particularly important. We wanted people that had a personality more than the skills because we felt we could train people to do the job". Allied to this was the way that a certain type of image was portrayed in their recruitment material. The advert for these positions, which interestingly was placed in the Sunday Times, contained a picture of a physically attractive young women (in reality a model) who was felt to embody the desired iconography of the company and its "ideal" worker.

This quote hints at the care employers need to take to avoid running foul of anti-discrimination laws — a problem more severe in some jurisdictions than others. In California, fitness instructor Jennifer Portnick filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission when Jazzercise turned down her application for a franchise because they considered her too fat.

"Jazzercise sells fitness," wrote Maureen Brown, director of franchise programs and services. "Consequently, a Jazzercise applicant must have a higher muscle-to-fat ratio and look leaner than the public." But Portnick insists that being large is just part of who she is: "I work out six days a week. I’ve weighed close to what I weigh now for most of my adult life. This is the body I have." Clearly Portnick does not regard her size as a ‘skill’.

Stanford Law professor Deborah Rhode argues that employers’ emphasis on appearance can lead to unfair discrimination. In the Washington Post she writes:

Appearance-related bias … exacerbates disadvantages based on gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and class. Prevailing beauty standards penalize people who lack the time and money to invest in their appearance. And weight discrimination, in particular, imposes special costs on people who live in communities with shortages of healthy food options and exercise facilities.

Rhode favours tougher anti-discrimination laws. She points out that while beauty is supposed to be in the eye of the beholder, there’s a remarkable level of agreement about what’s attractive and what isn’t. And while customers might prefer to be served by someone they find more attractive Rhode insists that "customer preferences should not be a defense for prejudice".

Sometimes conforming to employer and customer expectations of beauty involves more than changes in behaviour. Some commentators argue that the increase in cosmetic surgery is partly a response to the demands of the workplace. When US legislators proposed a tax on cosmetic surgery, the National Organization for Women came out against it arguing that it was a tax on middle aged women trying to maintain their earning power.

But as it turns out, beauty doesn’t always help women get ahead in the labour market. While an attractive, feminine appearance is an advantage in low-paid customer service jobs it is not always an advantage for higher paid, male dominated occupations. According to Ken Podratz of Rice University, people generally act as if what is beautiful is also good. But there may also be a "beauty is beastly" effect in some circumstances. In a study of the effect of attractiveness on hiring decisions (pdf) he found:

Female raters, but not male raters, were less likely to hire attractive women for jobs that were viewed as more male-oriented. But for jobs in which physical appearance was considered low in importance, both male and female raters were less likely to label attractive women as suitable for hire.

The advantages and disadvantages of attractiveness reveal some awkward truths about how customers, co-workers and employers think and feel about gender, ethnicity and class. Prejudice and discrimination hang like a bad smell around the whole idea of ‘aesthetic skill’.

Note: Thanks to Troppo commentor Anthony for telling me about the literature on aesthetic labour.

Update 1. — ‘Food deserts’

A couple of commenters have drawn attention to Deborah Rhode’s claims about weight discrimination. Rhode argues that "weight discrimination … imposes special costs on people who live in communities with shortages of healthy food options and exercise facilities."

Obesity is associated with low socioeconomic status. One hypothesis is that it’s harder to find healthy and affordable food in many low income neighbourhoods. As the Independent’s Jeremy Laurance reported in 1997, these neighbourhoods are sometimes called ‘food deserts’:

Food deserts, the minister of public health was told at a private seminar in London, are those areas of inner cities where cheap, nutritious food is virtually unobtainable. Car-less residents, unable to reach out-of- town supermarkets, depend on the corner shop where prices are high, products are processed and fresh fruit and vegetables poor or non-existent.

While initially popular with policy makers, the idea of food deserts has been disputed. Writing in the British Medical Journal, Steven Cummins and Sally Macintyre labeled food deserts a factoid. In a later paper Macintyre went on to claim that "More extensive empirical investigations of food deserts in the UK have since found very little evidence that areas with large proportions of deprived residents are poorly served by retail food stores."

In Australia, Elizabeth Winkler completed a PhD thesis on socioeconomic differences in fruit and vegetable purchasing in Brisbane. She reported that "findings from the secondary analysis of the Brisbane Food Study provided little evidence that the food retail environment contributed to socioeconomic differences in fruit and vegetable purchasing".

Update 2 — Adam Smith on the folly of imitating the rich

Nicholas Gruen’s appearance in the comments thread reminded me of Adam Smith’s disdain for the fashion-conscious elites of his day (Smith’s work is one of Nicholas’ favourite subjects). In The Theory of Moral Sentiments Smith wrote:

It is from our disposition to admire, and consequently to imitate, the rich and the great, that they are enabled to set, or to lead what is called the fashion. Their dress is the fashionable dress; the language of their conversation, the fashionable style; their air and deportment, the fashionable behaviour.

In Smith’s view, the courts of princes and the drawing-rooms of the great were filled with ignorant and foolish people who cared more about fashion than genuine virtue.

Update 3: Jarryd continues the conversation at Dysfunctional by Design. He asks "Can ‘professional appearance’ remain an understandable criterion within the reach of most individuals? Or will it lead to lead to a culture of conformity and superficial discrimination?"

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hc
hc
11 years ago

A basic source of discrimination is wealth. People from affluent backgrounds are better fed, have better health care and enjoy better within-family care. As a rule they are more aesthetically attractive. Its so unfair!

On the first paragraph, I notice that women are increasingly conned into using very powerful deodorants that smell identical to insect spray. I notice one each week in a particular venue I visit – she smells like a spilt can of Mortein as does the entire huge room she inhabits. And yes I can’t bring myself to tell her although I have mentioned several times “Has someone sprayed the room for mozzies?”

I don’t think such people should be discriminated against in the workforce although they might think of issuing their co-workers with gas masks. The Mongols of Genghis Khan treated someone’s smell as an honoured part of that person and smelt them as a greeting. You can bet they didn’t have access to modern deodorants.

Generally what Rhodes is on about is rejecting beauty if people have overly convergent expectations about what constitutes it. This however isn’t prejudice and discrimination it is healthy hormones and natural selection.

billie
billie
11 years ago

The assumption is that long term unemployed are unskilled.

In Australia long term unemployed who had well paid jobs or spouses who still work are not counted as unemployed, they have just fallen off the radar. The privatisation of the Commonwealth Employment Service has made the unemployed fend for themselves because the employment agencies only get paid when they place a person who has been registered as unemployed for more than 12 months.

The really galling fact for the skilled unemployed is that their job will have been offshored or now be being performed by a person on a skilled migration visa.

There are of course school leavers who would like loll around the family home and receive $234 per week but I know many adults with university degrees and work experience who eke out existences on this .

Thoroughly agree with the Scottish researchers findings that aesthetic skills matter.

Edward Carson
11 years ago

Thank you Don. I found this article extremely interesting. A lot of fascinating quotes by highly paid academics.

“And weight discrimination, in particular, imposes special costs on people who live in communities with shortages of healthy food options and exercise facilities.” Yeah, like you can’t buy a pair of runners to jog down to the market every other day to buy your lean steak, fresh fruit and vegetables.

“customer preferences should not be a defense for prejudice”
Remember the important thing is that the job applicant doesn’t have his/her feelings hurt for one day, and if your business happens to go broke because your clients go elsewhere then that is only a secondary concern.

“…this process allows for the filtering out of “inappropriate” people…”
What’s the problem? As the nerds and the geeks are those who lack the street smarts and the self educated experience to know how to dress and behave and what to say to get the desired job, isn’t it obvious that those coming from an alien religion, language or culture are going to find it that much more difficult? Ultimately it is only the uncool dorks the employers want to weed out, irrespective of what demographic they come from.

“A basic source of discrimination is wealth. People from affluent backgrounds are better fed, have better health care and enjoy better within-family care. As a rule they are more aesthetically attractive. It’s so unfair!”
HC: You’re being sarcastic here, err right?

Nicholas Gruen
11 years ago

Great post Don. Thx

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

Every link in this post represents millions of dollars of taxpayers money wasted trying to get people to be nicer to the ugly, stupid and smelly among us.

One day, do-gooders will just realise that all people were not created equal, and some people are going to have shitty lives no matter how many studies on “aesthetic skills” they fund.

meika
11 years ago

Yes, but are the costs incurred in maintaining ‘cool’ standards and aesthetics skills tax deductible, that’s the real test.

Tom N.
Tom N.
11 years ago

Yes, an interesting post. A couple of thoughts:

As a self-confessed “stereotypical superfiscial male”, I will admit that I sometimes catch myself lining up in the longer queue to get my groceries scanned by the pretty checkout chick, and that one basis on which I choose between restaurants or coffee shops on a strip is the aesthetics of the service staff. I also much prefer Virgin flight attendants to the ones over at Qantas, for who I suspect ‘wide bodied aircraft’ were invented. Whether that is deemed to be a “legitimate” consumer preference or not, I’m glad the market responds to it.

While I thus have no doubt that the discrimination mentioned occurs, it is surely worth recognising that the major returns to beauty and aesthetic skills are (apart from the wage earned by the odd supermodel) captured in the assortative mating market, rather than in the labour market.

Given these points, and the difficulty of finding an effective enforcement measure, I doubt the utility of proposals for governments to seek to reduce such discrimination.

Finally, I agree with Edward that the statement that “weight discrimination, in particular, imposes special costs on people who live in communities with shortages of healthy food options and exercise facilities” is a nonsense – presumably, its too politically incorrect to call fat people lazy or too blame the attitudes and behaviours that they learned from their parents.

murph the surf.
murph the surf.
11 years ago

Part this phenomenon may account for why 20% of australians suffer from episodes of mental illness?
Mainly depression and anxiety apparently.
The medication makes sufferers indolent and very hungry and then on the DSP they can only afford cheap fatty carbohydrate packed foods.
It’s not all their own fault in all cases….

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
11 years ago

Don,

a recent paper by David Johnston in Economic Letters found that in Australia, blond women get paid an average of 7% more than women with other hair colour. Also there is well-known early work by Daniel Hamermesh on the beauty bonus (which I think also led to other articles by other economists).

Otherwise, I am with Tom N. No way you are going to be able to legislate against this. However, since beauty is a clear fixed-pie commodity (i.e. it is relative), any investments in it should clearly be taxed to the hilt.

Elise
Elise
11 years ago

I love the posts here by ignorant, attractive, middle class people attempting to claim that discrimination is natural and purchasing a pair of sneakers to jog to the store is an attainable feat for anyone.

First, to the sneakers which cost 50-150 a pair; and for a single mother living on minumum wage, renting and running a car while taking care of her child, are entirely unobtainable

Second – the cost of fresh food is widely accepted as much more expensive than packaged, canned or processed food. Try making 400g of lasagne from scratch for under $4 and you’ll get what I mean.

Beside the fact that some people have MEDICAL issues causing them to stay overweight while eating healthy food and continuing to exercise.

On top of this, when did it become okay again to be racist? I have heard an alarming amount of HR managers and high level executives push aside an application from an indian applicant stating that their education and experience are great, but ‘we really require someone with a good hold on the English Language’ – India is a part of the Commonwealth and most of the Indians I have met speak demonstrably better english than the average white, middle classed twenty something – ‘like OMG!’

Michael
Michael
11 years ago

One day, do-gooders will just realise that all people were not created equal, and some people are going to have shitty lives no matter how many studies on “aesthetic skills” they fund.

Your juvenile machismo will serve you well when you are old and decrepit.

roseg
roseg
11 years ago

I’ve been recently musing on the use of the term “cultural fit” which seems to be the latest HR weaselword for “people who refect my views, age, humour, etc” – perhaps the white collar version of “aesthetics”? What bothers me most about this is the degree to which words (and practices) like this become acceptable. Imagine a world where we conveniently don’t ever have to deal with people unlike us – online, in our neighbourhoods, on screen in the movies we watch, in our workplaces and so on. Just like the Mickey Mouse club only better.

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

Did you have a point to make Michael, or just came here for the ad-hom opportunity?

Michael
Michael
11 years ago

Yobbo, if you were misfortunate enough to suffer a degradation in your “aesthetic skills” through a disfiguring accident would you expect people to make the effort to treat you fairly, acknowledge skills or knowledge you might have or would it be OK to exclude you and let you lead a shittier life? Maybe some “tax payers” might think improving peoples lives a worthy goal.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
11 years ago

Don,

You’ve been very non-judgemental of the demand for ‘aesthetic skills’ either by employers or by customers. Tom N and Paul F are more alive to this as a moral issue though – by way of justifying their own values. No way you can legislate against discrimination on the basis of beauty – and I guess I agree.

But I think the attitude that the society takes to these things is still significant to our enjoyment of life. There was a noble movement in the 1970s that I think aspired to disapprove of the demand for aesthetic skills. Leaving aside my agreement with Paul and Tom that you can’t legislate against it, you can kind of disapprove of too much fuss being made of people’s looks.

Feminism tried to do that – albeit under the banner of liberating women from their enslavement to the male gaze. But this was the age when long skirts became fashionable, the ‘natural look’ was ‘in’ and it was not fashionable to be too preoccupied with looks. I think that’s a healthier state for people to be in. It’s clearly a lot healthier for people who don’t think they look too great.

More generally I think it’s a better atmosphere – and in some ways is analogous to an atmosphere in which people are free to make money but the society doesn’t worry too much about how rich people are – doesn’t put much social store by it. You’ve just noted Adam Smith’s trenchancy about this (he wasn’t that trenchant about many things, but he was trenchant about the folly of the rich and the folly of those who admired them.)

As an article I was reading today reported “Rosie Boycott, a founder of the 1970s feminist magazine Spare Rib, hoped that women would become less obsessed with their looks, as fellow feminists rallied against the oppressive cosmetics industry which, they believed, forced women to aspire to be beautiful.”

The irony, I think it is a sad irony, that forty years after this kind of feminism women are more enslaved to their own ideas of how beautiful they are than ever before. One objective index for today’s obsession with looks – particularly female looks – would be a comparison of the income of a ‘super model’ in the 1970s (compared with average female wages) to the income of a ‘super model’ now. Chalk and cheese one would have thought.

Men never cared as much as women about how they look, but are now much more preoccupied about it. Of course it’s not all downside. It’s nice to be in a place where people like to dress well – in France and Italy even the men dress well and I guess there are health benefits to people trying to keep in shape though some women’s idea of ‘shape’ isn’t very good for them.

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

Yobbo, if you were misfortunate enough to suffer a degradation in your “aesthetic skills” through a disfiguring accident would you expect people to make the effort to treat you fairly, acknowledge skills or knowledge you might have or would it be OK to exclude you and let you lead a shittier life?

The key here is Michael that if people weren’t so obsessed about “Aesthetic Skills” then people wouldn’t feel them so necessary in the first place. After all, does anyone really care about the physical attractiveness of a guy who is applying for a job as a shotfirer’s offsider on a gold mine 2000km north of Perth?

The people who work there certainly don’t. But if you turned up to that interview without showering or wearing deoderant, you wouldn’t get the job. Which is retarded.

The fact is that most of the country are over-educated and over-trained already, and as a result employers standards keep rising to accommodate the difference between better trained applicants.

Maybe some “tax payers” might think improving peoples lives a worthy goal.

The question is where do you stop Michael? If you had 20 million dollars and 10 years for acting classes, personal trainers, elocution lessons etc, you could turn the average fat bogan from the pub into Russell Crowe. And he’d probably end up wealthy as a result.

But all that would do is put the real Russell Crowe out of a job, and you’d just have him on the dole instead. What’s the point?

All that government-funded education and training does is make that said training worthless when everyone has it. The only purpose it serves to employers is to differentiate applicants.

If everyone has those qualifications all you are doing is (at worst) throwing money into a black hole, or (at best) subsidising employers by training their staff for them.

meika
11 years ago

OMG I agree with yobbo.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
11 years ago

It seems to me that there are at least 3 distinct categories of “aesthetic skills” under discussion here, and that each possesses a somewhat different set of moral or ethical consequences in social justice terms.

John Rawls’ notion of the veil of ignorance might be interesting to deploy here.

(1) Attributes like beauty, strength and intelligence are innate and to a large extent unchangeable by an individual. Social justice concerns might be argued to militate in favour of equal opportunity irrespective of possession of such attributes, except to the extent that they have significant general utility value for a particular occupation. For example, I suspect that few people would have any problem with the proposition that high intelligence is a desirable attribute for a brain surgeon or nuclear physicist (perhaps even an economist or lawyer, although that’s more debatable). Similarly, physical strength has utility for a builder’s labourer and a Wallabies front row forward. However, beauty is more dubious. It appears that we can all recognise and agree on the attributes of physical beauty, but there are few occupations where it would seem to confer a tangible utilitarian advantage, as opposed to merely appealing to customers’ aesthetic preferences. Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of beauty would be unlikely to result in loss of efficiency in any industry, even airlines. A fugly flight steward can serve inedible airline food as efficiently as Lara Bingle. However, it wouldn’t be all that easy to design an anti-discrimination system that could meaningfully enforce a ban on discrimination on grounds of ugliness.

(2) Body size and tone of voice are in a middle category, in that they are to an extent innate but to a significant extent capable of modification by individual decision and effort. To what extent should the state intervene to restrict the choices of employers where their (middle class) customers manifest a clear preference for someone who is slim and toned and has a well modulated voice? Potnetial employees can alter their body shape and tone of voice to a significant extent, although obviously it’s harder for some than others.

(3) Finally, there’s grooming, dress and personal hygiene, which also seem to be classified as “aesthetic skills” according to Don’s post. These are entirely within the control of an individual potential employee. Personally I would take a lot of convincing that there’s a compelling argument for prohibiting discrimination against the slovenly, smelly, foul-mouthed or ill-mannered. Then again, I’m just as resentful (if not more so) of pompous, patronising metrosexual head waiters as I would be if they were replaced by foul-mouthed, more overtly rude fat bogans. But maye I’m an atypical customer …

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

For example, I suspect that few people would have any problem with the proposition that high intelligence is a desirable attribute for a brain surgeon or nuclear physicist (perhaps even an economist or lawyer).

Actually Ken, a lot of lefties do have a problem with this, as is evidenced by their demands for affirmative action places in Universities for such courses.

It is more important to some people that Brain Surgeons are “diverse” than they be the most intelligent applicants available.

A fugly flight steward can serve inedible airline food as efficiently as Lara Bingle.

Might be the case on a full-service flight where everything is paid for before takeoff. However, there’s no doubt that beautiful people are better at selling things than ugly people. That is a real efficiency gain.

After all, you don’t see many ugmos in their thigh-high boots walking around pubs dressed in Heinekin logos. Why? Because people buy more Heinekins from hot chicks.

People have known about this phenomonon for 10,000 years.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
11 years ago

Interesting distinctions Ken.

“Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of beauty would be unlikely to result in loss of efficiency in any industry, even airlines.” Yes it would for practical reasons as you go on to concede.

I also think that beauty is different to strength and intelligence in people’s moral intuitions. They are in mine. I laud intelligence though of course that’s unfair from some Rawlsian perspective. Likewise sporting ability. In each case however, one is lauding a talent that someone has usually worked very hard to convert into achievement. I’m a sucker for good looks (especially in women!), but I don’t mistake this for anything that is morally desirable and regard my own fondness for such women to be something that’s not particularly admirable in myself.

So I doubt you can separate 1,2 and 3 in your comment all that easily.

On your last point, you’ve taken the easy example. I agree on your example, but what of accents, dress sense (not neatness) and a bunch of other class based aspects of dress and grooming? There it’s trickier it seems to me – ethically anyway. Legally, one might argue that it’s too hard to police and not a big enough mischief to take out the big blunt arm of the law to deal with.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
11 years ago

Thanks for the link Don. I just reread the post and comments.

I was being so ‘nice’ in comments that, re-reading them, I’d just like to say now that I got a little frustrated that so many people said they didn’t know what I was getting at.

So here’s what I’m getting at in a nutshell:

Discrimination of certain kinds is not talked about as discrimination. Yet it is discrimination. It’s rife. It can lead people to suicide (eg adolescents who don’t think they’re cool) but we don’t really talk about the harrassment of the uncool, the (allegedly) ugly (at schools for instance) as if it were discrimination on a grand scale – which it is – and something that is deeply unjust and which causes grave human suffering – which it does.

Why is that so hard to understand?

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

What is there to understand?

If everybody loved everybody then our entire social structure would collapse. It’s not possible to have 10,000 friends, and so just as in employment you have to screen out the ones you want from the ones you don’t somehow.

Discrimination is one option, the other is a lottery. Would a lottery be any better?

Elise
Elise
11 years ago

Yobbo: that’s rediculous! no body is talking about friends, they are talking about business.

Also, you tend to make friends with those who are like minded, not aesthetically pleasing. Beside the fact that we’re not talking about love, we are talking about how nasty and hurtful discrimination is.

your post is entirely off the point!

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

Actually Elise, Nicholas in post 22 is talking about friends.

Discrimination of certain kinds is not talked about as discrimination. Yet it is discrimination. It’s rife. It can lead people to suicide (eg adolescents who don’t think they’re cool) but we don’t really talk about the harrassment of the uncool, the (allegedly) ugly (at schools for instance) as if it were discrimination on a grand scale – which it is

etc.

anon
anon
11 years ago

Discrimination of certain kinds is not talked about as discrimination. Yet it is discrimination. It’s rife. It can lead people to suicide (eg adolescents who don’t think they’re cool) but we don’t really talk about the harrassment of the uncool, the (allegedly) ugly (at schools for instance) as if it were discrimination on a grand scale – which it is – and something that is deeply unjust and which causes grave human suffering – which it does.

I agree that bullying should be given more attention by the government, but I can’t see any correlation between school yard bullying and screening for well-presented candidates in the recruitement process.

If you are interviewing 2 people with exactly the same set of skills, experience and personality, but one of them walks in wearing a pressed suit, looking fresh, smelling nice – and the other walks into the room with raggedy clothes, dishevelled hair and bags under their eyes; who would you hire?

It isn’t discrimination, it is about corporate image. You would not want someone who looks like they couldnt give a damn about their own presentation, representing your firm. How someone presents themselves communicates much more to you (and your clients, collegues etc) about their attitude toward others, than a statement in a resume would.

This is of course, an extreme example; most people wouldnt come to an interview looking and smelling like crap, but if such a scenario were to present itself, do you think that choosing based on that criteria is discriminatory?

As for food deserts – I don’t buy it. There are plenty of overweight people in affluent areas, and plenty of underweight people in poor areas.

Elise
Elise
11 years ago

No Yobbo, he is not. He is talking about discrimination and its part in the harassment of other people. He then goes on to use the example of how adolescents who are harassed committing suicide.

No one is saying that you must be best friends with everyone. All we are saying is that harassment and discrimination has a truly negative effect on those who are unlucky enough to not be considered aesthetically pleasing.

Your comment:

“If everybody loved everybody then our entire social structure would collapse. It’s not possible to have 10,000 friends, and so just as in employment you have to screen out the ones you want from the ones you don’t somehow.”

suggests that we are advocating everyone to love everyone, and as I stated, we are not talking about love. Yes, you have to screen the people you want to employ from the ones you don’t, but this should not be based on aesthetics, it should be based on technical skill, experience and whoever can perform the job the best.

It should never be based on who is the prettiest, most stylish or whoever has the same interests as you!

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

Yes, you have to screen the people you want to employ from the ones you don’t, but this should not be based on aesthetics, it should be based on technical skill, experience and whoever can perform the job the best.

It should never be based on who is the prettiest, most stylish or whoever has the same interests as you!

Sometimes they are the same thing.

Prettier people sell more clothes and perfume. They sell more mobile phone plans and they sell more alcohol. Better looking people generally perform better in any role that involves persuasion or networking.

This is a fact, but despite this fact retail and sales employers are prohibited from hiring on this basis whereas modelling agencies are not.

So in other words, better looking people are who “can perform the job best”. But as we all know in the envious world of the leftist, just being the best person for the job is not enough.

That is why we have things like “Affirmative Action” and “Diversity Quotas” which are all about forcing people to hire 2nd,3rd and 5th best candidates in the name of political correctness.

Elise
Elise
11 years ago

I would like to see the studies that support your views Yobbo.

I work in an industry that involves persuasion; and the best people at the job, in my opinion and from my experience, are the people with confidence, a smile and are willing to listen to the customer.

Hiring a pretty person with no brain is the same as hiring an ugly person with no personality.

Prettiest is not always best, there are people at my work who are pretty, brainless and refuse to do any work, just as there are models who work damn hard and do a great job. This is repeated across all races, weights, and measures of beauty.

“Better looking people are who “can perform the job best” ?

Not correct. People, who are willing to work hard, have a welcoming personality and a vivacious demeanour are “who can perform the job best”

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

Sorry, you’re just wrong.

Here’s a link to a study which I am sure you will dismiss/ignore.

http://www.physorg.com/news117383623.html

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

And here’s another

http://knowledge.wpcarey.asu.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1239

Did perceived good looks raise sales? Yes, they did. For each 1-unit increase in perceived attractiveness on the Likert scale — a move from a score of 5 to 6, for example — the salesperson’s share of product sold increased an average of 1.9 percent. These results held true regardless of the genders of physicians or their detailers.

I could link these all day, but it’s a waste of time since I’m linking to something everyone already knows. The fact that you refuse to admit it won’t be changed even if I linked to 100 conclusive studies.

FDB
FDB
11 years ago

Elise – it’s probably worth bearing in mind that we’re talking here about attractiveness being isolated as a factor. To say that attractiveness is a factor in the performance of certain kinds of job doesn’t mean that competence, honesty, demeanor etc are not.

Edward Carson
11 years ago

Elise,
You seem to be wanting to take the high moral ground on this but as Nicholas stated in his 2006 article “It’s things like this that make a mockery of the ideas we routinely deploy as absolutes (that discrimination is bad and that we should do what we can to stop it.)”

When we are not talking about government but private individuals is there really anything wrong with discrimination? If we possess the freedom of association, and thus a manifestation of that, dare I say: the right to choose, then how can the right to choose not imply the right to discriminate?

We are responsible for what we do in a tangible way to others (causing physical or recognised mental, financial or reputational pain), but we are definitely not responsible for how others perceive our actions and perhaps get their nose out of joint. What goes on in their head is their business.
We do not live to pander to the sensitivities of others.

Of course in the long term if we spend our lives manifesting our right to choose in bigoted ways our happiness will be much less than what it could be, but that is very much a side issue. Like eating healthy food or junk food, the issue is practicality, not morality.

Rafe
11 years ago

We are witnessing a new era where the function of the state will be to sustain the economic realm, as it is now globally. There are more millionaires/billionaires in public office the ever. You only need to see how many of them are in the House of Commons. Funny that, a house of Commons full of millionaires. it was Smith, I think, who said, “erecting and maintaining those public institutions and those public works which… may be in the highest degree advantageous to a great society… [but] could never repay the expense to any individual or small number of individuals…” Exposes the Abbott led Liberal Party of Australia completely. They are engaged in making absolutely certain that the Mining Barons pay as little tax as possible, and that the majority of people with only their labour to sell, pay as much as possible. This means that the costs of the nation like the military for defence, hospitals, schools, roads, rails and so on are funded out of the taxes of what little surplus remains out of the wages of labour. Shame on the supporters of the Liberal Party and good luck to the Billionaires having the communication ability to convince them that it is the right thing for them. What dullards, the masses seem to be.