“Facing the Facts”: the Effect of Physical Attractiveness on Society

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Is beauty only skin deep? Furthermore, is the beauty truly in the eye of the beholder? Many people hold these time-tested axioms to be true; however, modern research has dispelled much of the credibility of these sayings. How others perceive and rate the desirability of a person’s physical features, i.e. their physical attractiveness, plays an enormous role in the formation of relationships and opportunities to climb the socio-economic ladder. The effect of physical attractiveness reaches across cultures and plunges into every age group. Diseases such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, which tend to effect young girls, can be attributed to their desire to enhance their physical features. Older people do not escape the vortex of desire for physical beauty either, seeing that they engage in face lifts and botox injections for their physical enhancement. Physical Attractiveness has been the cornerstone of several markets, including the fitness, cosmetic, and fashion industries. This could be explained by the vast advantages of being physically attractive. Physically attractive people are preferred over others, receive higher acclaim from colleagues, and obtain more job opportunities; especially in the modeling industry. Most of these unmerited rewards are based on false assumptions by modern society. One such erroneous assumption that society holds is that physically attractive people are more intelligent than lesser attractive people! Physically attractive people are also assumed to be more successful. Though there is no correlation between physically attractiveness and success, it is fair to say that people with more desirable physical attributes are given advantages that others are not. By having physically attractive features, one administers a positive influence on the attitudes of observers, which facilitates the creation of new relationships and job opportunities.

The definition of beauty, or physical attractiveness for that matter, lies solely in one’s perception. However, there are some variables that change our perception of what beauty really is. Some of these variables are obvious, such as biological or evolutionary variables. On the contrary, Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, asserted that some variables are much more subtle, like folk lore (Do Attractive, 2001). When children are growing up, they distinguish what is inherently good from evil by the fairy tells that are read to them. Often, if not always, the prince and princess are very attractive, while the witch is usually one of the most heinous things that the child has ever laid eyes on. Dr. Poussaint, during an interview conducted by Jet magazine, stated: In our society they try to project into our heads as little children that people who are crooks and dishonest look like thugs and that the fairy tale character who is a prince or a princess has adorable qualities. Think of all the images of people who are attractive and who are also considered to be virtuous; they’re all beautiful people. (Pg. 2). With the installation of these stereotypes as a child, society dictates what is perceived as beautiful and ugly. Furthermore, if beauty is associated with being good and ugliness is associated with being evil, then people are innately going to relate more to physically attractive people. Dr. Poussaint further expounded on this point, stating, “Most people don’t want to identify with, or become attracted to, something called ugly. Those kinds of standards are determined by society, and our society is certainly geared toward emphasizing beauty” (Do Attractive, 2001). By having physically attractive features, people are automatically more popular. This popularity is even reflected in the social arena of the workplace. Attractive people receive higher acclaim from their colleagues than others because of their compelling features. This acclaim, though unwarranted, is often a result of a...
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