Chapter 2 of The Beauty Bias ("The Importance of Appearance and the Costs of Conformity") is the first course reading assigned for my seminar on Gender, Appearance, and Inequality. Last week we discussed one of Rhode's arguments regarding the double standard women face when they are told both that their looks are of crucial importance, and also that vanity is shameful. (Hence, the irony of "effortless beauty"!)
For today's "Fun Fact" post, I've selected a few more thought-provoking quotes and facts from Chapter 2. Each week I have my seminar students write reading responses that explore their thoughts about what they've read. I've chosen some of the passages that they found most interesting. I hope you enjoy them! I've also thrown in a few discussion questions for your consideration.
"Much of the effort and concern that individuals now invest in their appearance could be better spent on relationships with family and friends, and on paid or volunteer work that leads to personal growth or makes a meaningful social contribution." (page 30)Question: Do you think this is true? Where would you draw the line on giving up some of your beauty rituals? How would you use the extra time (and money!)?
(BTW, I kind of put this concept to the test during my year without mirrors and found it to be mostly true for me!)
"Many weight reduction techniques, whether or not associated with eating disorders, [..] raise concerns. A recent New Yorker cartoon parodies the extent to which dieters are often prepared to go: an oarsman on a galley ship boasts to another: 'I dropped twelve pounds the first week and kept it off!' For some women, smoking is the functional equivalent. Fear of weight gain is a major deterrent to quitting. Three-quarters of surveyed female smokers are unwilling to put on more than five pounds as a result of stopping; nearly half will not tolerate any increase." (page 40)Holy smokes! (pun intended) Not giving up cigarettes due to fears of gaining 5 pounds? People! Don't you realize how DEADLY cigarettes are compared to mild weight gain?! I've read similar statistics, for example, that most teenaged girls would rather be run over by a truck than be fat. These statistics illustrate that fear of fat has a whole lot more to do with stigma than health, no?
Question: What are your feelings about this? Is gaining weight your greatest fear? (BTW, it used to be mine, but I realized being unhappy and unhealthy was far worse than being a bit chubby. Sometimes I still have body-image crises, but I do my best to stay strong!)
"Many of the mental health difficulties associated with appearance are the product of widespread social stigma and discrimination. Beginning at early ages, children develop an aversion to individuals who are overweight or unattractive, and those individuals are teased, ridiculed, and ostracized. By age nine, anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of girls want to lose weight. [...] Obesity carries as much stigma as AIDS, drug addition, and criminal behavior." (page 41)Question: Was your body image at age 9 better or worse than it is today? Why?
Alright, that's all I've got for now! I'm headed to bed with only a few hours to sleep before Michael and I head to the airport for a weekend in Louisville, KY with friends and family. Happy (early) Memorial Day everyone!