Are attractive women seen as less competent than their homelier counterparts? The Army thinks so
A recent email circulated by the United States’ Army, and sent to Politico, containing instructions not to use attractive, makeup wearing, women in ads has some folks annoyed.
Col. Lynette Arnhart, leader of a team studying how best to integrate women into previously inaccessible combat roles, wrote the following in an email:
“In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead.
“There is a general tendency to select nice looking women when we select a photo to go with an article (where the article does not reference a specific person). It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy. For example, the attached article shows a pretty woman, wearing make-up while on deployed duty. Such photos undermine the rest of the message (and may even make people ask if breaking a nail is considered hazardous duty).”
Arnhart also reportedly wrote that a photo of a female soldier with mud on her face that was used by news agencies in the past “sends a much different message—one of women willing to do the dirty work necessary in order to get the job done.”
One of the email’s recipients forwarded the missive to public affairs officers, with the message “when [public affairs officers] choose photos that glamorize women (such as in the attached article), we undermine our own efforts. Please use ‘real’ photos that are typical, not exceptional.”
It seems people are annoyed at this whole exchange.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier reportedly tweeted that it is “another example that @USArmy just doesn’t get it as it debates if pretty girls should be used in pamphlets.”
And an “Army source” said, “It scares me to think that these are people involved in gender integration,” according to Politico.
Interesting! Though I do understand how the comments about “breaking a nail” would rub some people the wrong way, and I, personally, take exception to the word “ugly,” aren’t we supposed to be mad that ads always feature unrealistically perfect women? Haven’t companies like Dove been working hard to (sell soap by making a big show of trying to) change the way we perceive women, by featuring regular looking women in ads? One might think we’d celebrate the idea of featuring “real” women in ads. One might be wrong, I guess.
For our purposes as a career site, however, what stands out is the statement: “In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead.”
Do you agree?
It’s true that attractive people are probably luckier on the job market.
The Daily Mail reported this month that research out of the University of Essex found that good looking people do better in their careers “even after their youthful good looks have begun to fade.
“At each career stage studied, pretty people held more prestigious jobs than plain Janes.”
Though it’s not clear whether employers penalized plainer people or whether the more comely were just more confident, more attractive people had better jobs than less attractive people, “despite other differences in socioeconomic background, parent education and even their own IQs.”
The moral of the story? Be better looking. Unless you want to be a model for the Army.