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Society rewards physical beauty and punishes unattractiveness. In the middle of this beauty bias, no one asks what people think or feel. There are many people who do not have a criterion, but there are others who, by their own experience, approve or reject the media influence. And surely, the prettiest are fortunate with all the advertisement paying tribute to their beauty. However, others who are possibly the majority, feel excluded from the group to which they aspire to belong, so they can be recognized. This is what the competition in life is about because the world has been made just for them, for those who can and for those who should try harder. Portrayals in the media affect viewers’ impressions leading to negative or distorted perceptions. Media content that promotes rejection of people’s visual aspects must be prohibited, and physical appearance shall be part of the Civil Rights Legislation, which outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the United States, to avoid prejudiced actions based on the physical appearance that have serious effects on people, thus impacting negatively their life expectancy, collective belonging, their economic level, and their freedom itself.
First and foremost, the mass media have an impact on people’s health lowering the life expectancy. The messages of what the ideal beauty is, bombard people on a daily basis shaping beliefs and behaviors; therefore, it generates insecurities and image dissatisfactions within those who are more vulnerable. According to Deborah L. Rhode, Law Professor, in her book, The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law,” “Many studies show that frequent exposure to media images and diet articles is associated with heightened anxiety and unhappiness concerning appearance, as well as eating disorders, particularly in female adolescents” (page 60). This impact influence is linked to the interests of large corporations, who find, in the media, the medium to achieve their objectives and stimulate the demand for unnecessary products or procedures. Therefore, some people become very self-conscious about themselves, obsessed with “perfect” images, surgical procedures, or drug consumption. Their self-esteem ends up malformed and turned into a lethal weapon against them causing health issues as depression and eating disorders. As stated by Deborah L. Rhode, “Eating disorders, as well as more general concerns about appearance, can result in depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem” (page39), whereby, if this has become a matter of public health, a serious intervention must be done. However, some people state that there is no evidence of such an influence and even if there are laws, nothing would change. As claimed by Deborah L. Rhode, “One state and six cities or counties prohibit some form of appearance discrimination… These laws vary in coverage and in the frequency of enforcement, but no jurisdiction has experienced the flood of frivolous claims that commentators have anticipated” (page 16), in other words, only a few complaints have been reported. However, no one has fought beauty bias because there is not such an ordinance that goes far beyond the discrimination, the influencer. Females and males are influenced by the information and canons of beauty that are portrayed in television, magazines, social media and the web, thus resulting in health issues because they cannot endure being discriminated by society in general which is unfair and demeaning to human dignity. Therefore, a federal law against unattractiveness discrimination must be considered to ensure the promotion of all human rights, the respect for everyone’s dignity and to prohibit media content that promotes rejection of the unsightly.
To continue, rejection of the unsightly is one of the most frequent and least recognized discriminatory issues. This exclusivity is mainly influenced by the visual media. The media depictions create a negative influence by displaying derogatory messages about people’s unattractiveness. In schools, many young people are mocked for their appearance, if they have crooked teeth, or if they are tall, short, fat, skinny, or just because they do not meet the perfect body or beauty standards. There is always someone making up names or nickname and excluding people from their social groups within the institution. According to Carl Pickhardt, Psychologist, in his book, “Why Good Kids Act Cruel: The Hidden Truth about the Pre-Teen Years,” In this independent world, not only pears but also popular media play an influential role in shaping the young person’s growth by providing new images, expressions, icons, values, and activities… the media decide” (page 58). Due to the media influence, young people who are not physically “perfect” can become easy targets of bullying and become socially excluded by being rejected and not invited to join other kids’ games or activities. Conversely, many people claim that people’s preference for good-looking images is something natural that it is not influenced by anything. For instance, in the article “Physical appearance and cosmetic medical treatments: physiological and socio-cultural inﬂuences” David Sarwer, Clinical Psychologist, emphasizes that “infants as young as 3 months prefer to look at attractive rather than unattractive faces. Infants interact more positively with attractive strangers than with unattractive ones; they also play for a longer period of time with attractive dolls than unattractive dolls… suggest that preferences for beauty may be the product of physiology rather than socialization.” However, the cited evidence does not prove conclusively that those preferences are a factor that causes rejections against others. Although some people claim children are cruel by nature, children, at an early age, start building their own ideas about the difference between the beautiful and the ugly, but they also learn what media has depicted as right and wrong (what is good and what is bad). For instance, children’s movies portray that everything unsightly is bad and everything charming is good. The princess, princes, fairy godmothers, and all the good-hearted characters are better-looking and brighter than the villains, the criminals, the bad ones. People learn since childhood to associate and connect people with specific characteristics, thus assuming that people who are bad-looking have terrible personalities. Therefore, the media must void intolerance in the acceptance of the diversity of physical characteristics.
Furthermore, the impact of the attractiveness of each person affects the perceptions of work performance. Physically attractive women and men earn more than average-looking ones, and unattractive people earn less. In the labor market, physical appearance has a bigger impact on earnings than education. The general perception is: beautiful people are more competent, kind, good people, more successful and smarter. They are given positive qualities, which probably they may or may not have, that influences people to think better of them than the less attractive. Beauty blinds people to what is fair or unfair, thus mistreating others based on their physical appearances rather than personal qualities or traits. As claimed by Bonnie Berry, Director of the Social Problems Research Group in Seattle, in her book, “Beauty Bias: Discrimination and Social Power,” “Attractive people are thought to be more intelligent, easier-to-be-around, more mentally healthy, and more socially skilled… attractive people are favored over equally qualified, less attractive people in decisions to hire, to be recommended for promotion, to be paid higher salaries and to be positively evaluated as to career potential” (page 40). In other words, having the perception of being attractive gives people a higher probability of getting hired, getting a better salary, and being considered for a promotion. Employers will always prefer to hire and remunerate someone who, with its good appearance, projects a better image of the company. On the contrary, it is natural to assume that because attractive people are happier, extraverted, and more confident, they perform their roles in life better than others. According to the article “Is There Really a Beauty Premium or an Ugliness Penalty on Earnings,” Satoshi Kanazawa, Psychologist, and Mary c. Still, Sociologist, claimed that, based on examination, “physically, more attractive workers may earn more, not necessarily because they are more beautiful, but because they are healthier, more intelligent and have better personality conducive to higher earnings” (261). Regardless, the study did not specify how the intelligence of each person was measured and did not determined if the attractive people manifest those qualities because of the positive feedback they received due to extraversion. For instance, Kanazawa and Still reported that “physically attractive children are more likely to experience positive feedback from interpersonal interaction, for example, they are more likely to develop extraverted personality than physically less attractive children” (251). Therefore, there is a possibility that the perception of intelligence in attractive people was generated due to their confidence while performing the activities during the examination, as suggested by Bonnie Beery, “‘Beauty,’ as Aristotle put it, ‘is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction’ (page 40).” Media is responsible why people associate appearance and intelligence, or lack thereof, and probably, even the most knowledgeable person is also influenced by the stereotypes depicted by the media shaping their attitudes to believe such conclusions. Therefrom, a legal enforcement must be implemented to combat systems, processes, and codes that promote unequal opportunities.
In conclusion, the media these forms of social discrimination based on aesthetics can have negative effects such as physical and mental health issues, unfair treatment in society, disadvantages at work, and creating obstacle to fulfil human development thus abridging people’s freedoms and opportunities. The subtlety with which these forms of distinction and exclusion are perpetuated through aesthetic discrimination makes it very difficult to identify. The nature of this forms of discrimination are imperceptible because most individuals have a perception influenced by the media and do not seem to assimilate it. Thus, making these forms of discrimination more effective and less susceptible to detection and correction through the institutional or legal systems. It seems that the only way out for those who are discriminated against as unsightly is that society becomes aware of the existence of such a form of discrimination, and thus cause the law to do its part, implement a federal law against unattractiveness discrimination to ensure the promotion of all human rights, the respect for everyone’s dignity and to prohibit media content that promotes rejection of the unsightly.
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