Women’s Beauty Stereotypes in the Workplace
To no one is a secret that men rule the world. Arguably, most of the media and advertising are biased to favor men and their standards of beauty and success. Hence, it is not surprising that mass media is rigged to make women feel underappreciated and in need of something they cannot achieve. Consequently, by imposing stereotypes of how their body should look, beauty industries and advertising do not cater to women. Instead, they cater to an ideal woman that is not often found without chemical or surgical enhancements. The representations of the body are tied to a gender stereotypes that do not closely resemble real women. Therefore, a vast number of females grow trying to attain what media have made them perceive as beauty, instead of bolstering a culture of acceptance of themselves (Siebel, 2011). For this reason, stereotypes in the workplace are a commonplace and are often more important than academic qualifications when it comes to choosing a women candidate. However, fixing this issue is not in the hands of most women but in the media and advertisement industries that often impose offensive stereotypes to women. Hence, this essay tries to address the actual state of the discussion using the tools given in class.
Pantene’s add shows a shocking truth that there exists a considerable degree of discrimination toward women in the work industry. Thus, when the advertisement shows women and men in the same fields, more often than not, women are depicted negatively when they try to push themselves as far as they can (Suddath, 2013). Also, exploring the symbolism behind the ad would help to understand how the stereotypes of beauty do not reflect regular average women. The idea behind Pantene’s ad is a good one. However, using a model-like women is not. If the company wants to enforce the correct stereotypes of self-love, they should have used different models. Sadly, they seem to be caught up in the patriarchal game. Studies have found that beauty and gender have “significant and sometimes unexpected effects on earnings.” (Andreoni and Petri, 2008). This means that there exists a stereotype regarding women looks, ethnicity, and age when it comes to how they are perceived in the labor market and the amount of money they earn when compared to men with the same qualifications. Hence, this forces women to turn into something they are not to fit in and act according to the patriarchy’s perceptions. That is why videos such the one in the Upworthy website that shows how women did not recognize themselves after confronted by their “photoshopped” versions. One of the participants said, “Once someone else has done your makeup and someone else has done your hair and someone’s directed the way your body looks and then taken away your imperfections then there’s not much left of who you are.” (Gilkey, 2014). This is especially true in the workplace, where women have to create a persona that does not relate to their real selves. They are often driven to filling those stereotypes as a way to keep their jobs, further installing the notion that looks are the primary skill women need to succeed in their workplaces.
This situation could come from men’s definition of masculinity. This definition, imposed by the patriarchy, along with the institutions that tell men to “be a man,” often damage the idea of women as something other than an object. Also, since most men have violent relationships with their peers, they often find difficult to address to women in the terms they do with men. Hence, as men do not want to be feminized, they sexualize women to diminish their importance in the workplace and life (Siebel, 2015). For this reason, since men are often the CEOs and Resource Managers in companies, they judge women basing in their stereotypes of beauty and appeal, instead of taking into account qualities such as their preparedness and academic skills. Nevertheless, physical attractiveness is a complex construct that does not come entirely from the patriarchy. Attractiveness reflects a myriad of factors concerning body types and perceived attributes that make difficult to extract an exact notion of what is beauty (Shiners, 2009). For this reason, many women feel inadequate even though they are perceived by the society as beautiful.
Also, it is important to highlight how filmmakers, psychologists, and advertisers have used the idea of the differences between men and women to create conflict (Sheehan, 2004). Thes narratives, instead of eliciting unity are meant to separate women and men to create two separate sexes with different desires and ways to see the world when that is not inherently right. Each sex brings different perspectives to any discussion, that is true, but media has silenced women’s voices, rendering them useless when it comes to something different than bearing children and household matters. Subsequently, since the 1950s, mass media has established a campaigned aimed at making women feel underappreciated and ugly, instead of reinforcing their self-esteem. Hence, these narratives intend to project women as weak and needy, rather than active and independent. Forcing those women who decide to go “against” men and pursue a career in industries often closed to males, to masculinize to be able to keep up with the male environment. This is not only a myopic view, but it reinforces the stereotype that there are manly things and womanly things, when all the possible career paths should be available to any individual regardless their orientation. Thus, when groups of women try to assert their identities as strong and independent women, like the girls from Brand New Voices, they are often silenced and pushed aside as “feminazis” or “feminists” as if the latter constituted an insult (). That way, when women try to live their lives according to their standards and be whom they believe they should be, men see them as a threat, relying on these beauty stereotypes to make them feel out of place or unwanted as a way to avoid more competition in their areas
However, not everything is lost. There is a handful of publications that intend to teach women to harness their femininity and use it in the workplace. This does not mean that women have to be sexual. Conversely, it seeks to educate women on gender differences and how being women does not constitute a disadvantage against men. These practices remove the looks as a factor of leadership and replace it with natural feminine qualities related to support and comfort as a way to connect with their employees, shying away from the macho antics of most CEOs. Research says that this new paradigm in leadership has worked, and people who feel appreciated, supported and safe perform better than those who do not (Peace, 2012). Nevertheless, there is still discrimination as most of those women still earn around 77% of what men make, increasing the stereotype that women working in men’s professions are often perceived as less and have to rely on their looks and sex to entice those around them into working as if women exerted an aura that compelled men to do their bidding if they use their womanly attributes instead of their brain to get things done.
All things considered, stereotypes and sexism come from many places. For instance, it is found on men’s willing to stay as the “strong” sex. It is found in media and advertising silently remembering women they are not as adequate as the other women they see on their screens. It is found in their workplaces where they are asked to look a certain way and act a certain way to be considered beautiful to keep their jobs. Sadly, physical beauty still constitutes an asset when it comes to finding a job, as well as ethnicity and age. Also, despite the many efforts of advertisement campaigns to bolster self-acceptance, this situation is not likely to chance, as most of the women that see those ads are not educated in their gender. Instead, they are schooled to believe they are inferior because they are not men, and they cannot do the things that men do. Although today, most of those conceptions are highly debunked, women still feel bad with themselves, as the world keeps silently remembering that without their looks, they are nothing.
Andreoni, J., & Petrie, R. (2008). Beauty, gender, and stereotypes: Evidence from laboratory experiments. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 73-93. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from http://mason.gmu.edu/~rpetrie1/Beauty_JOEP_2008.pdf
Gilkey, M. (2014, February 17). 4 Ladies Get The ‘Cover Model’ Makeover Of Their Dreams … And Then Hate The Results. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from http://www.upworthy.com/4-ladies-get-the-cover-model-makeover-of-their-dreams-and-then-hate-the-results-11113?c=reccon1
Sheehan, K. (2003). 7: Controversies in Contemporary Advertising. In Controversies incontemporary advertising. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Shinners, E. (2009). Effects of The “What is Beautiful is Good” Stereotype on Perceived Trustworthiness. Journal of Undergraduate Research, 12. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from http://www.uwlax.edu/urc/jur-online/pdf/2009/shinners-erinpsy.pdf
Siebel, J. (2011). Miss Representation – The Representation Project. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from http://therepresentationproject.org/film/miss-representation/
Siebel, J. (2015). The Mask we Live in. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from http://therepresentationproject.org/film/the-mask-you-live-in/about-the-film/
Suddath, C. (2013, December 19). Pantene’s Anti-Sexism Shampoo Commercial Comes to the U.S. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-12-19/pantenes-anti-sexism-shampoo-commercial-comes-to-america
Warren, R. (2015). Watch These 4 Girls Destroy The Female Stereotype Like The Monsters They Are. Retrieved November 7, 2015, from http://www.upworthy.com/watch-these-4-girls-destroy-the-female-stereotype-like-the-monsters-they-are-rw1-9b