Pretty Girl Syndrome

It’s fairly well known that people who are considered attractive are treated differently from less attractive ones throughout their life - while I don’t have any cites, I recall reading accounts of studies in which, for instance, primary school teachers were asked to evaluate students’ work, with and without photos attached, with a very definite difference observed for the good-looking students.

As these kids get older, this difference in treatment will continue and get even more pronounced, especially for the girls. If an attractive woman in her 20’s, for instance, needs change for the bus, there will be a queue of guys fishing around in their pockets, while if I need change for the bus … not. This favouritism will not usually be overtly sexual in nature - it’s just hard-wired into us unfortunate slaves of testosterone.

None of this is meant to imply that attractive young women do not have problems due to this status - shallow relationships and so on - but all in all it seems to me that constant attentions of this nature throughout their entire early adulthood must have a profound effect on their world-view.

Have any studies been done on this? I’m thinking, for instance of a survey of a large group of women which would ask things like “How nice are people?” and so on … the responses could then be correlated with a “Hot or Not”-style rating of their attractiveness and relationships drawn. It would be particularly interesting as it relates to women who had reached ther 40’s, had kids and a few extra pounds … would the (presumed) effect be undiminished? Or would they think that people in general and the younger generation in particular had become less polite with the passage of time, or what?

Does anyone know of any studies?

I know of studies that have looked into exactly what makes people think someone is attractive (the one I’m remembering had something to do with the proportionality of the facial features).

That one would be a neat one to set up, though. Have a team of women of varying degrees of ‘hot’ roam the city with hidden cameras or maybe just notebooks and clickers, doing things like dropping groceries on the sidewalk, running out of bus change, ineffectually trying to hail a cab… and see which of them get rescued the most often.

I remember a documentary I watched several years ago but I don’t remember where the study was done. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t isolated to women, good looking men had much the same advantages and not only from the opposite sex. It had to do with facial symetry. People of both sexes were asked to rate photos of both sexes on a scale of how good looking they thought the person in the photo was. COnsistently people with very symetrical faces rated as being better looking than those with less symetrical faces. (Tom Cruise=syymetrical; Danny DiVito=not symetrical) It even extended to babies as young as a few weeks. Reactions were measured as babies viewed people both in person and in photos and the person’s expression seemed to matter less than the symetry.

So then if that is the case, maybe the age and several kids would matter less than we think. My mother has always been a looker and although she is in her late 60s I think people still respond positively to her. Not in a sexual way but in a freindly way. I found the study fascinating.

You might Google the book The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.

Exceptionally attractive people are often subject to the same mean-spirited prejudice as the exceptionally unattractive.

I have wanted to do this study for years.

Make ratings of students in the UCLA yearbook, then send the top and bottom 20% surveys. Pay them to complete them to insure the statistical validity. Ask them about their self image and their image of society.

Velly intelesting.

I tend to agree with this as well. Not saying I am beautiful or anything but I feel really awkward when I first encounter a group of women I don’t know. Sometimes women hate me right off the bat. Women can be frickin’ VICIOUS! I think much more than men.

And men just want to see me naked. Geeez - I try and counter act with a sense of humor. I think funny people are totally attractive whatever they look like.

I’m 40, have 2 teenagers and a few extra pounds and find people are still nice to me. I always check my money supply before I board public transport, I don’t act helpless, but I’ve also never changed a tire and when my car died in the drive thru, another woman helped me push it out of the lane and 4 men ran over and pushed it to a garage across the street. As little ones, my children received a lot of extras because they were so cute. Even now, my son will comment “He thinks you’re pretty” if we get extra icecream/fries/bumped up in line.

The flip side is that a lot of what we think of as “attractiveness” isn’t actually directly correlated with appearance at all. I seem to recall studies which found that facial expression is a major component of attractiveness, for example: That is to say, people look better when they’re smiling. Undoubtedly, people who smile a lot are people with high self-esteem and positive worldview, but the cause and effect are reversed here.

I read in one of the “Dirty Little Secrets” books that in peacetime, the military tends to promote officers based on Hollywood casting criteria: square-jawed, steely-eyed mesomorphs. But during wartime, the incompetents among them are killed off and they’re replaced with real fighters with weak chins and brass balls.

I was watching a program on TLC, or Discover, and they took a pretty girl, put her in a sweat suit and padding, no makeup etc. they had her holding several items and drop some money and pretend not to realize it. The guys either ignored her and the money or took it and walked away.

Same woman, fix her up a bit and put her in a miniskirt same scenario, all of them returned the money to her.

I strongly believe that much of my landing decent jobs has been due more to my pretty face (now described as 'ruggedly handsome. lol!), good hygeine, pleasant nature & decent vocabulary than any real qualifications.

Of course, a lot of those jobs were in retail, so those might be real qualifications.

Are you trying to form a hypothesis along the lines of: Why do babes think the world revolves around them and are therefore stuck up b**ches?

The TLC program was called “The Human Face.” The website link has a lot of information which was on the program, and a helpful chart which you can put over a photograph of yourself to find out whether you’re beautiful, or not.

On a side note, my best friend is ugly. (Don’t jump on me-- she’d tell you the same thing herself.) I’m no raving beauty myself, but whenever we’ve gone out together, we’ve both noticed a strange phenomenon. If we approach a checkout counter together, the clerk will almost always turn to me first, as will servers in a resturant, etc. People are generally “nicer” to me than to my friend. Once, I went to a doctor’s appointment with her for emotional support, and the doctor spoke to me instead of addressing his patient.

The fact is, attractive people do have an advantage in this world, without a doubt. In the workforce, I have seen less attractive, but more qualified people turned down in favor of a better-looking person. (When I asked my manager why one such person was selected, she just vaguely said that she liked the more attractive person better, but when questioned, couldn’t “put her finger” on exactly WHY.)

I have never seen any studies, nor have any evidence to back this up, but out of personal experience, I have found that less attractive people are often times more intelligent and personable than beautiful people. The only theory I could formulate is that while attractive people can coast through life based on their looks, less gorgeous people have to work on substance, such as personality and intellect in order to be successful. (Of course, this is merely antecdotal, and I’m sure there are many beautiful people who have the “whole package” of smarts and attractiveness.)


This is exactly the kind of thing I’m asking about.

No. If you read my post very, very carefully, you might notice that I am interested in whether any statistically significant corellations can be drawn, devoid of any value judgements as to whether the cause is a good thing or as to whether the effects (if any) are a good thing.

Don’t project your spite on to me.

OK, so what I’m interested in is just how does a lifetime (or a decade, anyway!) of this affect people, their world-view and habits?

So what is your point? Are you saying that it is a choice?

I agree that almost any woman can be made to be pretty.

Those who are homely may even need plastic surgery or electrolysis, but nearly any woman can be attractive if she really wants to be.

Pretty styled hair, fresh make up, trim figure, a nice dress, and a friendly smile does the trick for most of us.

An over weight woman with a butch hair cut in sweats with scruffy gym shoes, is not trying or wanting to attact special attention.

The same thing can be said about men. A “dirty looking” man with scraggy hair and beard wearing sloppy clothes, is also treated differently than a clean shaved neat looking man wearing a suit and tie.

A very proper looking person, male or female, who is attractively dressed and neat, is also far more likely to be clean, hygenic. Who knows the last time any sloppy looking person had a bath or last changed his underwear?

Personal appearance, or first impressions, is what we are talking about, and as far as strangers go, that is all the information that they have. Therefore it is logical for strangers to behave just as they do.

Did anyone see Shallow Hal? Did anyone see "the making of Shallow Hal? The same woman, Gwyneth Paltrow, played both parts, and this entire subject was discussed in detail in that feature. Pretty interesting. Gwyneth also said that when she was fat and went out in public that way during the shooting, most people/strangers did not look her in the eyes - she said that was the worst part.

Sorry, jiHymas, I meant no offense. (I’ve got to remember to use the smilies! :smack: )

I thought I read something between the lines of your post, and wanted in a humourous way to point that out. But I did so in a clumsy way. My bad.

ABC news did a show about lookism a while ago. Only a bit of it is summed up in this web site

Pretty interesting I think. You’ll also notice there seems to no difference between man and women in the discrimination department, though I’d bet that is not to be found in the Wolf book.

I remember the job interview experiment on 20/20 that rogzilla linked to. When the man who gave the job to the attractive woman was interviewed by 20/20, he was quite frank about it, saying why not get “brains AND beauty”?

I also remember Lynne Sherr’s segment about short men. She and everybody thought it was hilarious.

On another episode of 20/20, Stossel talked to some primary school kids about appearance. One question he asked was “Would you rather have an ugly friend or a fat friend?” Most of the kids said they’d rather have an ugly friend.

IIRC in an issue of Vanity Fair, a woman described her experiences wearing a fat suit. While wearing the suit, she went to a restaurant with her boyfriend. She went to the ladies’ room to get out of it and change, and meanwhile two women went up to the boyfriend saying “Why are you with that pig? Wouldn’t you rather be with one of us?” When the woman returned from the ladies’ room, the two other women, rather than being ashamed of themselves, had the nerve to be outraged at being tricked!

My friend is a generally good-natured person, but I’m sure that deep down, it must make her a little bitter. I know I would be.

I think in a small way, the experience of being “ugly” in a beauty-obsessed culture must be a bit like it was to be black fifty years ago. No, there isn’t any wide-scale violence against unnatractive people, but there is belittlement, discrimination and insults. Ugly people are invisible in the media (unless as a victim of crime on a news broadcast, and even then, the interview with an attractive neighbor might be longer) or as the butt of a joke in a movie or television show. It reminds me of what the lead singer for Blues Traveller said when discussing his “Run Around” video, in which he only appears in shadow. “This ass doesn’t sell records to fifteen year old girls.”

Cosmetic companies strive to make us feel guilty for not living up to the beauty ideal, that we are flawed and repulsive if our skin is not perfect peaches-and-cream without blemish, and we look like hell if our eyelashes are not as thick. Their advertising promises that we will be as beautiful as the model if we try Product X. They promise to “fix” us. They are geared to make us ashamed, and are very effective.

Many early magazines ran ads for cosmetics with “true confessions” of women who won back straying husbands by using a new face powder, or gave dire warnings that husbands expected their wives to look gorgeous when they came home from work. The implication was that if your husband lost interest, it was your fault entirely for not “looking your best” by using the apprpriate beauty products. Television further set up these unrealistic expectations of beauty. Donna Reed did not look like a woman who had scrubbed the toilet and cleaned the kitchen immaculately made-up and coiffed, and dressed in her heels and pearls.

The cosmetic industy was the first to use what we now call “product placement.” In early films, even going back to the silent era, cosmetic bottles were prominently displayed on the character’s dressing tables. In magazine articles, mention was made of the perfume or face powders the women used, implying that their happy ending was due to their use.

Ads geared to African-American women fifty years ago hinted that blackness was something that should be “fixed” with the proper skin creams and hair straighteners. I have seen an ad which shows two women, one black and one white. The black woman looks as if she’s about to burst into tears. “See how sad?” the legend beside her reads. The same woman is redrawn as white, with the slogan, “See how happy!” This product was a “skin whitener.” Another ad shows a racial stereotype of a black woman with huge lips turned into a delicate-featured white woman with smooth, gleaming hair with use of the product.

Most cosmetic products are still mainly advertised to white women. There are a few commercial campaigns which have used black models, but almost always in conjunction with a white model. Shampoo commercials are especially intensive in use of white models swinging their long, gleaming hair. Products for black women are mainly confined to black television programming, or to black women’s magazines.

The media has also had tremendous influence when it comes to size discrimination. Our culture equates “fat” with ugliness, and despite the fact that Americans are large in size, a bigger person often has to shop at a specialty store in order to get clothing that fits. It seems that a lot of stores ignore the existance of large people, or their need for clothing. (My friend, a large person herself, has had store clerks approach her while we were shopping together and point out that they had nothing in her size, even without being asked.)

Countless ads for diet products tell people that it is essential that they slim down as quickly as possible. The advertised “ease” of using the product implies that you’re just plain lazy if you don’t lose weight. I remember one such ad which urged viewers to get rid of that “* ugly * fat.”

Advertising also insists that the natural process of aging must be hidden at all costs. Grey hair must be dyed, and wrinkles smoothed away by creams or botox injections. Droopy breasts can be supported by the Wonder Bra, and there’s even pants which can give you a perky, youthful butt. Men must, by no means, lose their hair. One ad portrayed a male model who said that his wife would still be happy if he lost his hair . . . she’d just be happy with someone * else. *

And, of course, if the products do not turn you into the beauty you should be there is always a surgical option. You can have liposuction to remove unwanted fat, can purchase a new nose or pair of breasts, or get a face-lift. The mere fact that people are willing to pay thousands of dollars and go through the agony of surgery should be a clear indicator of how much importance we place on beauty in our culture. All of our advertising and media insists to us that without it, we will never be happy, or successul, and we have bought into it fully.