By Rhea Arora
Elm Staff Writer
Do you remember your mother telling you that your looks don’t matter, that someday, you’ll be valued for more than what you look like? She was probably wrong.
Physically attractive workers make customers more receptive to business, and this makes it logical for employers to hire physically appealing employees. The fact that employers discriminate in the hiring process because of beauty violates the foundations of equality of opportunity, something that America prides itself on. The issue with the phenomenon of attractiveness is that it is subjective. Since it is hard to determine, anti-discriminatory laws cannot be implemented, which gives attractive people an unfair advantage. The “Smithsonian Magazine” stated that “Some studies have shown that attractive people are more likely to be hired in a recession,” adding to the unfairness of it all because one does not earn his or her genes by merit.
There is, however, one way to make up what you lack in the looks department: cosmetics. Daniel Hamermesh, the father of pulchronomics, says, “Beauty is scarce and that scarcity commands a price.” New age, scientifically proven products are all the rage, making us look less like ourselves and more like airbrushed models. The beauty and personal care sector was a $426 billion dollar industry in 2011, the United States’ 18,000 spa facilities raked in $13 billion, and nationwide cosmetic and specialty stores reported a collective revenue of $10 billion. This is a highly lucrative sector of the American economy that thrives on society’s need to be superficially superior.
Women claim a larger percentage of total expenditure on personal care products than men. There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, women face greater instances of sexual prejudice in the workplace and feel a stronger need to be sexually appealing. Secondly, women’s cosmetics are marked higher than men’s because of the high demand. For instance The Huffington Post “found that on average women pay $151 billion in extra fees and markups that men don’t have to pay.” Thirdly, female body image issues are more public than male ones and make women more conscious of their appearances than they would normally be, without the publicity. The Huffington Post also reported “35 percent of women use one or two products daily, while the majority of men (54 percent) don’t use a single product when getting ready in the morning.”
Plastic and cosmetic surgeons benefit from insecurities as well. The “Smithsonian Magazine” reports an expenditure of $845 million solely on facelifts. According to The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, procedures like liposuction, eyelid surgery, tummy tucks, and nose surgery have all risen by an average of 2.6 percent. The percentage rise of liposuction alone was 16.3 percent and use of Botulinum Toxin (including Botox) saw a 15.6 percent increase.
There is also a preoccupation with a healthy lifestyle. For example, “Popular Insights” reported that 11 percent of women spend most of their income on a gym membership, personal trainer, and fitness gear. This lifestyle choice may seem like a good thing, but obsession manifests into eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, and the progression into these eating disorders is difficult to discern.
Holding men and women to high physical standards is unfair, even with the option of making up the lack in natural beauty. The money spent on cosmetics can be put to more practical uses, such as education or debt coverage. The YWCA reports that “if a woman invested the average amount of money she spends on a monthly manicure-pedicure treatment ($50) into her retirement account every year for ten years, she would have almost $10,000 in her account at the end of that time.” It’s socially accepted that one must not be judged by anything other than one’s skills and abilities to work, least of all one’s outward appearance. Hence, the recent outbursts in the media about enforcing positive body images have gained such immense ground. Personal care companies, such as Dove, launch their products using marketing campaigns centered on a message of positive body image to boost sales and revenue.
We know that beauty is an inefficient and unfair measure of competence in fields other than modeling and entertainment. We understand that a large portion of income is spent on unnecessarily expensive and sometimes inefficiently tested products. We are also aware of eating disorders that stem from obsession with health. So, the question is: Should the government adopt the principle of paternalism and regulate this industry to a greater extent or just reap the benefits of taxation as it has currently been doing?