>"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships…"*

>Discrimination works both ways – there’s the ugly duckling and then there’s the pretty chick, and if it’s unfair to judge the ugly duckling for the way it looks, it’s also unfair to judge a pretty face for the same reason.

Because there’s more to a pretty face than the pretty face alone. Why is it so difficult to stomach that a pretty girl and a handsome boy can get ahead in life on the strength of more than his or her looks? And why is it so easy to dismiss their success as a by-product of their good looks?

It would be foolish to think that anyone who is even a tad bit good looking doesn’t know it. And while beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder, there is no such thing as living in ignorance of your own beauty. You do know if you’re average-looking, then why expect a good looking person to not know the same about him or herself?

And here are some questions I’d like you to think about:
1. Once you know you’re beautiful or any synonym of that, what do you do with it?

2. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of attention and if it comes for the way one looks, no harm in it. But do you use your looks to get attention? And if you do that, is it wrong?

3. Do you get attention for your looks in the way you like it or is it a whole lot of unwanted attention as well?

4. Is it okay to say you’re intelligent, but not okay to say you’re pretty because the latter may be construed as being vain?

Thanks to my genes, I’m born with the kind of complexion fairness creams are advertised for. I’m slim and I think I dress well. I’m very happy and very thankful for the way I look. I get a lot of attention for all those reasons. But not always does it come the way I can enjoy it.

I have been called khadia, chalk, tube light and more such things by complete strangers on the road. ‘Milk’ is a common refrain among comments from eve teasers. None of it is flattering.

I studied in an all-girls school and girls weren’t very forthcoming with compliments. I never got any attention for the way I looked except critical comments. I was told my face would soon merge with the colour of the walls and because I was plump-ish, that I looked like a cow! I was labelled “arrogant” and “proud” for no apparent reason.

I remember working like a slave in my first year at work. I did not have a slave-driver for a boss, but I was extremely driven to prove myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Just before the appraisals though, a rumour was floated in the office saying that the responsibilities I got, the praise, the attention was not for my work but because of the way I looked. I hated to think that because I looked the way I did, I needed to prove my competence twice over! It bothered me when a colleague (whom I considered my friend) said that there was something about my looks that gave credence to those kinds of rumours. That it was easy to associate me with frills and fluff because I wasn’t dowdy, took care of my skin and feet and bothered to think about how I looked in the clothes I wore.

To revel in the fact that you’re nice looking is not the equivalent of negating the prowess of your mental faculties. When I started this blog over two years ago, I had a picture of me put up here. Yes, me, who now blogs anonymously (for most people at least) started out with a real face and a real name! But anything I wrote invariably invited comments linking my thoughts to my looks. I wanted to be read for what I was writing and not for how I looked, which is why I removed my pic. A certain male blogger forced me to turn on comments moderation on my blog because his comments focussed so much on his assumptions of what I must think because of how I look. It was irritating, to say the least, that I had to justify my stance as being independent of how I look.
After reading this post, there will be people who may think, “So she thinks she’s pretty, huh!” and will think that as if it’s a bad thing.

But the point of the post is not whether I think I look this or that. The point is that while it feels great to look good, it also feels horrible when people assume you must be a certain type of person if you’re good looking.

*From Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.
This is a reference to the beauty of Helen of Troy. Her abduction by Paris was said to be the reason for the Trojan Wars.


43 responses »

  1. >A very honest post, I must say…Yes, I'm sure good looking people get discriminated against just as average looking people do…In fact, I think good looking people face more flak at work…People are just jealous and there is no way to please everybody…

  2. >Thought provoking!! Well, AFAIR the linking of good looks to speedy promotions or favoritism at work is mostly applicable to females. I think I'm a good looker but never got any credit for it 😛 Probably I'm not a good looker after all :-|Jokes apart, people will always have opinions. It is how you let it influence you. You know you deserved something for the efforts you put in rather than your drop dead gorgeous looks. More often than not it is jealousy that takes the shape of rumors. So just let it be!by the way, what is a 'khadia' ?

  3. >@Sraboney: Yes, I didn't think of jealous.@Sangfroid: It doesn't bother me a wee bit any more. In fact, I got over it pretty soon and stayed on to work with those people for another 4 years! In fact, I'm very comfortable in my skin.Khadia is the raw form of chalk.

  4. >Looking good is part and parcel of one's job, esp. in the service industry. So good for you if you look good, even bettter if you can work too. What gets my goat is people who are neither presentable, nor hardworking, but still get to the top MERELY by virtue of their fawning around the boss.And believe me- there's a fair percentage of these people around!

  5. >an honest post and a thought provoking one..yes looks do have a lot to do with how the world sees us…its not fair ..it certainly is not right and yet there it is….happens all the time and it is irritating as hell..for a longtime I thought downplaying and working one's ass off was a good thing until I grew up and realized that noone benefited when I criticized my own self for X,Y,Z reasons and when I was not comfy in my own skin…now I know better …and no I am average looking but even average looking can be a pain in the ass so I can imagine what you face constantly trying to prove yourself..jealousy is one factor..but plain conditioning is another…the dumb blonde stereotype is applied in India as well…and frankly its a pain!

  6. >@GM: You keep your word – you did hog all that comments' space 🙂 Never mind that. Probably because I grew up with girls mostly, I did not get to exploit my looks or see others do it to get attention from boys. Also, I had a lot of friends who were not exactly good looking, I can say in hindsight, so every pretty girl isn't Veronica! Am glad you realise that.@How do we know: I wish you had said why you think what you think. But I can't complain for your agreeing with me!@JLT: I do understand that bit about good looks playing an important role in the service industry. But good looks alone aren't a deciding factor. I have seen scores and scores of pretty girls appear for job interviews but due to lack of good communication skills or confidence, they can't clear them. If you look at airhostesses as well, very few of them are what we call 'gorgeous' because companies need hardworking, smart girls!As for fawning around the boss, oh yes, that gets my goat too! Even the prettiest person would seem ugly to me if they were doing that.@Indyeah: You're right – the dumb blonde sterotype does apply here as well. And Hindi films have done their bit to perpetuate it: the pretty, manipulative girl vs the plain Jane, good-hearted girl is an oft-repeated theme, ain't it? And the latter will get the boy ultimately though the former may get his attention temporarily.

  7. >amazing post Ms. Dand perhaps to stretch it further in regards to blogs, it's mostly a pretty face in the profile pic that gets comments. that's just my observation.In all fairness, while there are some stupid bosses who do promote someone from their team only on their looks do exist, but I find it a bit lame. good looks can only take one so far, work speaks for the rest of the mile.and hey i think you me and everyone else is well within their rights and modesty to think they look good. what's the point if it doesn't come from the inside.P.S: making a copy of this comment incase blogger acts smart with me again 😐

  8. >How true! When I was at college,it was assumed that I because I was ok-looking, I was not too good at studies and when my marks proved otherwise, male students found various reasons for that! How unfair…In work atleast now, and also must be because I am older, I have not faced such discriminations…

  9. >Hey D, what an honest, thought provoking post! Well, I confess I have been guilty of imdtly judging people who are good looking.And I have started doing so because of my personal experience at college and then at work in the army. College days were formative in more ways than one. It shaped a major part of my thought process. Good looks, sexy figure, great clothes were all just so important. And because I didnt have any, I guess it was easier to have a negative outlook! 😦 Hmm.. excellent post. Maybe I should seriously reconsider my stance..

  10. >@J: Exactly – looks can take you only this far. Beyond that you need to have a brain.And thankfully, blogger didn't act funny with you this time!@Sindhu: I know how to handle this kind of discrimination better if I were to face it at work now. However, I'm glad I don't have a boss who's going to judge me for the way I look. That's because I don't have a boss at all ;)@Anamika: Oh no! Did it? What's with blogger eating up my readers' comments? Would you bother to re-post the comment please?@Piper: I'm glad to have you thinking even if you don't change your stance.

  11. >So I notice. Pity I didn't take a copy of my 'speech' on the last post :Pand I won't settle for a back up/second shot. Thanks for the mention anyways 🙂

  12. >am back to do just what you said.. Yes, there is a prejudice against good looking people.. usually, that prejudice comes from people who are NOT doing so well because of you. So, instead of trying to match up to your talent, some people take the easy route of giving credit to your looks.. But then again, there is also the fact that lots of gates open on their own every once in a while.. 🙂

  13. >Yelloooo….firstly thanks for the award in your last post. Just been extremely caught up with work cuz the courts reopened and barely had time to breathe.Secondly, I think it works both ways. I have seen really good looking women with no brains get the good projects cuz they take advantage of their looks while I'v also seen really good looking women slog it out and prove that they have got where they are because of their brains and nt their looks. Same witht he guys.When I had just started college, I didn't get many guys coming after me initially, but within 6 months I had a whole of dates. I don't consider myself a Miss Universe but I don't think I am bad looking either. It did hurt when the good looking ones got all the guys, but at the end of the day when we passed out, I was voted as one of the most popular in a batch of 200+ students 😛

  14. >I think there might be a subcategorization here – there are good looking people who are exceedingly talented, who DO get discrimintaed because of the way they look. And then there are fairly mediocre people who are good looking who expect to get shortcuts through life because they are good looking and resort to manipulation if they dont. Both forms exist. The latter, probabaly result in the former's discrimination.

  15. >A pertinent post and this prejudice is there in lot of things. People think average lookers are always intelligent and they can’t dress well or don’t bother to look nice. Those who look nice or dress well are dumb.These are all prejudices we see a lot. Even our cinema, there is this distinction of art and commercial where art houses always have “intelligent” actors sans makeup. Here in US, as soon as people see a blonde woman, they associate idiocy with her. Also, I have often noticed that if you are rich or own certain things then you are branded as snobbish or spoilt. Most of these things basically come from insecurity. Insecure people form opinion about others and then stick to it without bothering to even know them.

  16. >D, have seen it work both ways. Good looking and talented people putting more than 100% to avoid the brick brat. Good looking and not so talented getting away coz of the way they look.And then there is a category of good looking and also good at what they are doing who don’t give a damn. The fact of the matter is that yes the bias does exist. For me, I don’t suffer from the prejudice coz maybe I am at the other side, but frankly I don’t care. have moved beyond all this while I was still studying!!

  17. >@J: I guess this will suffice :)@How do we know: Of course, the looks or the talent are irrelevant if the gates don't open up!Thanks for coming back to elaborate.@SMM: I guess it does work both ways, but like I always say, two wrongs don't make a right.@Cynic in wonderland: Probably. Never thought of it that way. Basically, there are all kinds of people and categorising them doesn't help.@Solilo: I like the example about actors in art cinema vs commercial cinema. Food for thought!

  18. >There are sterotypes everywhere…..and it is because of such strerotyping that certain perceptions are formed. There are pretty girls who misuse their beauty to get certain things, there are politicians who take bribe to do certain things, there are certain skin color or culture who taint the entire clan. It is because of a few that generalization prevail and many are quick to assign, to judge, to type cast. I don't know why that happens. The best rule is to just do your thing and don't give a damn. People who want to form their own judgements base only on what they see and not make an effort to know for sure are certainly not worth your time or thoughts my dear girl. I would smile at them and fuel their imagination more ha ha ha. But that would be just me being evil 😀

  19. >Dont we all want to look good – either naturally or by making certain efforts to look good .. so if someone looks good naturally, why shud there be a concern. I am an average looking person, but I maky efforts to look good, not to grab attention 'specifically' but because it feels nice to look good. Be proud of your looks. and those who cant take it, just let them be.. They are not worth it.

  20. >Hell yeah people are prejudiced! Interning at a newspaper I frequently attracted comments such as 'What's a pretty face like you wasting her time in Print for? You ought to be in TV' … errr… thank you? I think? I don't think I've been classed as dumb/brainless based on my looks, not to my knowledge anyway, but I don't rule it out.

  21. >Stereotyping and prejudice does nothing good anytime. but this thing has never crossed my mind because looks are always secondary for me. I might compliment someone for being good looking but there it ends in two mintues I look beyond that flesh and skin to make an opinion. It still holds true. but for once I had this question on my mind if beauty rules over brains and hardwork. May be it is situation based. Otherwise it would have only good looking people who are successful and up the ladder. At one incident I got to see the other side of it where the good looking lady got biased favors when other 3 people in the team were of same potential. But still i would not give the complete credit to good looks because when a success comes as part and parcel having higher percentage of politics than hardwork ; there are other capabilities as well like right time; right people; right words and right opportunity.

  22. >I don't know, D. I have seen a lot of girls using their looks to get things done, and succeeding too. I have had bosses at work trying to take undue advantage and then threatening to call my 'hard work' mere 'beauty trying to get places'.I do like the attention at times, but I also hate the unwanted, tasteless attention I receive. A boon and a bane, I guess!

  23. >Well, I've always pondered over this thought, and your post clears it all up I must say. I agree, looks certainly play a major part in the initial stages, but there is only so much ground you can cover, based entirely on your looks, what comes after that is to see if you have the brains that match the looks. Ultimately, what I've noticed is the brainy and not-so-good-looking ones have achieved more success than their counterparts, unless a combination of brainy + good-looking meets. I guess it is partly to blame the society, coz almost everyone is so obsessed with color and beauty, that they make the person in question forget who they really are, and tend to make them concentrate on their looks. And since the ugly-ducklings(sorry about this term here) are not getting any attention, they want to make up for it by achieving success. But tell me one thing, in this day and age, amongst our gen, it's all about the competition, looks or no looks, brains or no brains, he who can talk and talk well succeeds.

  24. >Why are good looks considered to be evil? Why do good looking people thinkthat people "dismiss" their success, even if they attribute it to theirlooks?Why are pretty people stereotyped? Why is ANY group/kind of peoplestereotyped? And why do stereotypes anger people so much? Doesn't it have abasis?Having read this post, I want to see what you look like!!

  25. >I dont feel the same passion about my previous comment anymore 😦 so attempting a new one :)This is perhaps my first comment in your blog (not first anymore I guess:))Good looks are defined. Period. There are studies which say certain symmetry of the face and positioning of the nose so many inches below the forehead, yaada, yaada, yaada…makes someone better looking than another. There is a point system which assigns beauty on a certain scale! Bottomline, dont feel guilty about being blessed with good looks.I consider myself average looking or slightly above and cannot deny that it was my looks that certainly helped open some doors easier than for others. 2 people with similar personalities and one better looking will most likely tilt the scales favorably for the better looker in job interviews, social acceptance and more. I had an arranged marriage and there too I am sure looks did play a huge role. I dont feel cheated though. I dont feel bad if someone assumes my success is due to my looks only. Their ignorance. After a certain point in life, people with similar mindsets come together and then it does not matter how they look. I know of a woman executive in a giant multinational who is not at all a great looker but people get attracted to her just based on her personality AND before they even know who or what she is. So finally its the inherent nature of the person and how they carry themselves. Confidence in oneself brings out an altogether different kind of beauty. Dont you agree?Its unfair that beautiful people get judged as lacking in abilities. Its also unfair that not-so-good-looking people who are not able think they can get away blaming their incompetence on unfair bias againt them. Sorry for the most confusing previous line 🙂

  26. >@Iya: The crux of the matter is that each person is different and we can't go judging them for the way they look.@A: Oh, now I do smile at their limited outlook and don't bother. Even when I was in school, I derived so much confidence from the way my family treated me that what others said did not leave an bother me too much. It's on hindsight that I've realised these things.@Soulmate: Exactly – it's not a crime to look good, is it?@DewdropDream: Yeah, I too was at a newspaper office and unlike in the metros where journos are smart and well-dressed, most of them in the Hindi belt are quite unimpressive! Made things a tad tough for me.@Bluemist: I feel the same way. And once you know a person looks become totally irrelevant. Also, if you aren't supposed to look down on someone for being unattractive, you aren't also supposed to look down on somebody for being attractive! Like I said, it works both ways.@Meira: It's an unfair competition if the one judging is going to be doing it on the basis of looks.@Annie: I agree with almost all of what you;ve said. Your analysis rings true with me – how the unattractive may want to prove their worth by working extra hard and about how our society is obsessed with colour and looks. You can't really blame a good looking person growing up in such a society to not think of his looks as an advantage. But then again, why should one be apologetic for that? A lot of talents are god-given. We don't think using them is a bad thing, then why looks? I'm not taking a stand here. I'm just thinking aloud. Do you really think it's fair to make a sweeping statement like that about how the not-so-good looking achieve more success than the good looking?

  27. >D, I definitely not intend to imply that the lookers have less success, what I'm trying to say is that, looks or no looks, it is ultimately the brains and personality(who can talk and impress) that matter and who are smart enough to make use of what they are gifted with……be it looks, brains, talent or mouth. :)but then there are exceptions to every case, or else world peace would've been restored long back! Peace!

  28. >@unsung: Because when you're a successful, you know you've worked hard on it, not merely by looking good.Stereotypes anger or frustrate people because they try to categorise people into black and white. Why are there no grey stereotypes?@Anamika: I agree with you – personality and not just a pretty face makes a person good looking or not. @Annie: Ok, get your point. And peace always!

  29. >Okay here's my two cents.I think there's a reason why the stereotype exists.Children (and teens) who get a lot of attention for the way they look (which is neither their fault nor to their credit, after all it is genes at play) tend to depend on those looks to get popular. They may not bother to develop their personalities.In college especially, you see these good looking guys usually sounding dumb once they open their mouth and the really witty ones are usually not conventionally good looking.That's as far as good looks goes. I guess dressing well is considered vain and therefore people who do it, dumb. Eventually whether you succeed at college society or at work, depends on your self esteem. Some women who are really good looking have terrible confidence.All said, if I could pick and choose, I'd still be good looking and well dressed 😀

  30. >VERY valid point. something that's bothered me for a while… in fact for a few years when i started working. i managed client r'ships. and worked in media. add to that the fact that i never wear salwar-kameezes and i lived alone. put that together… and ALL success was attributed to my looks. (and i'm not even all that pretty to begin with!) it was even said that i flirt with my clients and that is why there are no complaints on my accounts. it was VERY frustrating. esp since i busted my ass working and maintaining peace despite not meeting deadlines. and also, i hadn't even met half my clients. such stereotypes TOTALLY sicken me! wonder why it's so difficult for ppl to come to terms with the fact that JUST bcoz someone looks good or dresses well, it's not mandatory for them to be daft.life is not easy or hard based on ur looks/clothes. it's how you deal with it – and all that it throws ur way – that should matter!

  31. >Such a pertinent post! You are right, there are all kinds of prejudices linked to how one looks. I used to have another problem at work – I look younger than my age – so people used to assume that I am very young and not upto the task! As for good looks, I have heard people assuming that some girl will not be a 'hard worker' because she is too pretty!!! And funnily enough – I am yet to meet someone who judged a man because he was too handsome! And yes, then there is that block of the mind that brilliant people will also be shabby and not nattily dressed! I wonder if it all will ever die down. And this is true about all societies.. We were watching a business reality programme here in the UK, where someone asked if the pretty blonde girl is getting away because of her looks! Thankfully all the other contestants agreed that if, anything, she had to fight harder to prove herself because people assume she is a dumb 'blonde' 😦

  32. >@Poppins: Good looking children do get a lot of attention. And because they are children, the onus of developing their personalities rest more on the parents. I do think parents have a crucial role to play here – if they do not obsess over looks, it helps to have a more rounded personality.Though I don't think anyone would mind looking good ever, I would never be able to choose between looks and confidence!@Rayshma: I think what people mistake as the work of a pretty face is the result of a pleasant personality. A grouchy person with great looks is not likely to get anywhere by the mere virtue of her beauty!@Smitha: Oh yes, I know what you're talking about. Been there! Thankfully, it doesn't take too long for people to realise that looks are deceptive and that a "young-looking person" is also capable of serious work!

  33. >That's frustratingly true. I'm in such a male dominated field, that apparently I just don't fit the 'scientist' mold. When I dress like a normal woman my age, (i.e. no sneakers, highish heeled boots) my mostly male colleagues make fun of me. Oh, any awards I win are because of my looks. Some of the less intelligent men around me go the other way and assume that because they're below par in looks, they must be above par in intelligence. That's really the source of this illogic. Beauty and brains can't coexist, apparently, just like idiocy and ugliness can't coexist. Blah. Don't let it get to you. Secure people who are good at their jobs are usually above such stupidity.

  34. >Completely agree with you on this one. When I was working, one of good work friends, was kinda very hot and pretty. Even though she was more talented and intelligent than everybody else, her success was attributed to her "beauty", which by the way had nothing to do with it. And she used to get hit at least twice every week by the people in office. One manager wanted to give her "company" in the night shift, which he had never offered to do for any other girl in our team. This other guy, once during a meeting asked her whether she was a "party person" , Lame, I know. But I guess that is also another kind of discrimination women have to face, not just in the workplace.

  35. >@Meluhhan: The more I think about it, the more examples I see of it around me. Ugly Betty (or its Indian version – Jassi Jaisi…) plays on the same stereotype: how the ugliest person in the office is the most efficient and the prettiest, the wilest!@Ramby: Oh yes! And so many times, you don't even know people are being nice to you because you're good looking!@Mampi: It is.

  36. >Its a classic case of sour grapes-what you dont have, malign it!A woman and a pretty one at that suceeding-it cant be because of her brains surely!!Why bother?Why should you dress dowdy for someone else?

  37. >I just read this one. I so totally know what you are saying. I know one is instantly judged as arrogant. And dumb. I have people tell me on my face that they saw me and decided that they would not speak to me because I 'look' proud. My shyness is mistaken for pride just beacuse of the way I look.I enjoy discussing economics and poiltics history and culture…and in the suburban culture I am presently in …its mostly the men who talk on these issues. I sit with the women in parties and so badly want to join the discussions men have…but am scared it will be seen otherwise…again because of the way I look.I have also heard many friends say that they do not have time to take care of their appearances …inferring that I spend hours in my physical upkeep…which is so far from the truth.I am also not sure wether a male who shows interest in me does so beacuse of my brains or my looks.Presently I am the focus of unwanted attention by another married male and I am scared to death that his wife may think I played some part in calling it.Being attractve has its advantages and its disadvantages too. It can be a lonley place and one has to work hard to prove their smartness.Sorry for the long comment….but good looks is nothing more than dipping into good gene pool (I am from J&K and every third person is beautiful) and not much should be made out of it…

  38. >I so completely understand what u say. I have been through soMe of this kind of stuff at work & felt really frustrated. But I also believe that being attractive gives u a kind of confidence that helps u excel. I applaud u for your honesty D.

  39. >@WSW: I guess that's what it is!@Chrysalis: And I so know what you're talking about. I itch sometimes to be part of conversations that usually men are expected to have. Just because we're women doesn't mean we need to be part of some dumbing down process wherein we can't talk about intelligent stuff. @Monika, Ansh: Amazing how so many of us go through the same thing!

  40. >Hey D:A little late in commenting. I am an academic, so I know from research in marketing journals (as in, real research, not HBR or Business Week), that good looks get you ahead, but that too-much-of-good-looks kill. Fact. This is true not only for products but for people as well. So I think your post is bang on, especially if one is on the too-much side :)-N

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