Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear....

In The Last Triangle and Without Borders, two feminist bloggers describe the increasingly hairless norm in our culture and the decision to remain hairy despite this norm.
Carol Rossetti has the right idea.
I support this push for people to take control of their own bodies. People should be able to do whatever they want to themselves without being judged by society.

However, the courageous choice to go against social norms is not without consequence. Even if people are willing to accept these changes, their psychological biases might not go away. In a related example, science faculty are less likely to perceive women students to be prepared for a job in science. The scary part of this is that not only do male science faculty have this psychological bias, but women faculty members do, too. I would argue that these faculty members probably do not consciously recognize their own biases and would deny believing that men are more apt than women in the sciences.

In a similar type of case, studies of hiring patterns with respect to attractiveness have found that, in general, attractive people are more likely to be hired. To quote a study done by Camilla Shahani-Denning, a psychology professor at Hofstra University,

     In examining interviewer evaluations, an interesting finding was the relationship between applicant gender, attractiveness and high school rank. For males, higher rank was associated with higher interview scores regardless of attractiveness. For unattractive women, results were similar. However, for attractive women, interview scores were always high regardless of rank. Although there was evidence of attractiveness bias in interviewer judgments, the results were different when examining the overall admissions decision.

For this reason, people should be aware that deviating from social or beauty norms can have adverse effects. For this reason, we as a community should recognize our biases and be aware of any discrimination that it could cause. In the same token, those who could be discriminated against should consider what they do to their bodies and recognize others' biases before doing anything that cannot be reversed.

I recall asking my dad why it was necessary to dress formally for interviews. He first responded by saying it was important to appear professional at an important business meeting. Secondly, he mentioned the attractiveness bias I mentioned earlier. "Attractive women are more likely to get hired than unattractive women. Might as well work it to your advantage if you can!" he said.

While people slowly become more accepting of others' decisions to modify their bodies in different ways, we need to keep in mind that their psychological bias may not change at the same rate. Anyone can and should be able to do whatever they would like with their bodies, but should recognize and expect others to act differently towards them (despite the fact that no one should act differently).

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