The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law


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Most could have been brought under other civil rights laws. Yet the low incidence of legal victories is not unique to appearance-related law; it is common in other areas of discrimination. Their complaints have also forced changes in policies that reinforce sex stereotypes and gender inequalities. For decades, critics have noted the physical risks that accompany life as an underweight ballerina.

Dancing on My Grave was the title of one representative memoir. In this and other contexts, the adverse publicity or legal costs of potential complaints can encourage desirable policy reforms. As previous chapters have noted, these claims both encourage preoccupation with attractiveness and delude purchasers about what will secure it.

Traditionally, resource constraints have prevented the Federal Trade Commission FTC and state consumer protection agencies from keeping up with the barrage of false or misleading advertisements involving such products. In recent years, an increasing volume of bogus promises and the medical risks of ineffectual dieting have prompted at least some initiatives. The agency has a teaser website that mimics common diet sites. Although consumer-protection law in theory provides remedies for fraudulent claims, in practice it is highly ineffective.

But the same has been true for other forms of discrimination and consumer fraud, and the last half century leaves no doubt that legal prohibitions can help reduce, remedy, and raise awareness of injustice. The gaps in existing legal frameworks suggest several directions for reform, discussed more fully in chapter 7.

One obvious strategy is to enact or amend civil rights laws to ban discrimination based on appearance. In the absence of such legislative action, courts and enforcement agencies could interpret existing statutes to provide more protection from appearance-related bias. Sex discrimination law could be read to strike down dress, grooming, and weight restrictions that enforce traditional stereotypes.

Constitutional and statutory provisions could be more broadly and consistently extended to protect expression of religious values and cultural identity.

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Disability statutes could be interpreted to ban discrimination based on weight regardless of whether it involves extreme obesity with demonstrable physiological causes. Finally, more regulation and enforcement could target fraudulent claims and unsafe products involving appearance. Government agencies need more authority to regulate cosmetics, as well as additional resources and stiffer sanctions to combat misleading claims.

BEAUTY BIAS: Estereotipos, prejuicios y discriminación.

Fraud and prejudice regarding appearance will be hard to change. But the law can do more to make us conscious of their costs, and to challenge their most unjust consequences. Strategies for Change Figure 7. On no other basis can she win and keep the admiration of the world at large. If this plan of life be immoral, then so much the worse for morality, for mere morals cannot stand against it.

As chapter 2 noted, about three-quarters of surveyed women consider appearance important to how they feel about themselves, and half are unhappy with their bodies. No one advocating change in attitudes toward appearance should be naive about all that stands in the way. The importance of attractiveness is deeply rooted, and the economic stakes in its pursuit are enormous.

But the costs of appearance discrimination are also considerable, and we have by no means reached the limit of what can be done to address them. In an ideal society, how much importance would attractiveness assume? How much diversity in body types and self-expression in grooming practices would we embrace? What further complicates these questions are our mixed experiences with appearance in this [ ] s t r at e gie s f or c h a nge society. The presentation of self can be a source of pleasure, selfexpression, and identity, but also a source of stigma and shame, and an excessive drain on time and resources.

Yet we need not have a fully developed or widely shared vision of the ideal world to agree on some of what should change in this one.


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  • The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law.
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The research summarized in preceding chapters suggests three principal objectives for reform. One should be to promote more attainable, healthy, and inclusive ideals of attractiveness.

The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law

A second goal should be to reduce discrimination and stigma based on appearance, and to combat the double standards and sexualized grooming codes that impose disproportionate costs on women. A third objective should be to encourage lifestyles that place more emphasis on health, rather than simply appearance, and to create a social environment that supports them. Laws affecting appearance can further that agenda in several respects.

One is to promote equal opportunity, and to challenge the biases based on appearance that stand in the way. Law should also ensure adequate consumer protection from unsafe products or fraudulent practices regarding appearance. A nation committed to individual liberty and equal opportunity should more actively foster those values where matters of appearance are at stake.

The focus, however, should not be simply on their personal choices. Rather, it should also center on the tolerance they show for others and their support for changes in social attitudes and policies toward appearance. One way to contribute is, of course, through leading by example. Resisting cultural pressures for cosmetic surgery or killer shoes makes it safer for others to do so as well.

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For example, parents can do more to raise children with positive body images, healthy diets, and active lifestyles. What is clear is the need for greater involvement of parents in promoting healthy life styles, both in the behavior they reinforce in their own families and in the policies that they support for their schools and communities. As subsequent discussion notes, limiting access to junk food is part of the answer, but that strategy alone is unlikely to be effective.

Deprivation can make forbidden items more attractive, and children may not develop the capacity to self-regulate if rules are too rigid and enforcement is too easily evaded. After attracting some [ ] s t r at e gie s f or c h a nge , signatures and international media coverage, the effort led to a major increase in funding for healthy options, stricter nutrition guidelines, and improved academic performance in participating schools. People can write letters, op-eds, and blogs. As earlier chapters noted, such efforts were responsible for some of the [ ] t h e be au t y bi a s local ordinances prohibiting appearance discrimination.

Santa Cruz citizens used an unsuccessful lawsuit with sympathetic facts to enlist support for a law that would help prevent such injustices in the future.

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Their testimony before the San Francisco Human Rights Commission raised awareness of the extent of weight discrimination by employers and health professionals, as well as the lack of appropriately sized public facilities and medical equipment. Activists have also enlisted others in their protests and reduced their own risks of unhealthy behavior. For example, the Body Project recruits female students to design their own plan of activism on appearance issues. Those who do so have a 60 percent lower incidence of eating disorders than others in their age group.

A European campaign to combat eating disorders by using an emaciated model turned out to have precisely the opposite result. The key target audience, anorexic adolescents, wanted to emulate her body size. Systematic evaluation of various political and media strategies should be a higher priority. One cluster of strategies should seek to promote more diverse, healthy, and realistic images of attractiveness.

Book Review - The Beauty Bias - By Deborah L. Rhode - The New York Times

Fashion, advertising, publishing, and broadcast industries could develop codes to address the issue, as proposed by the European Parliament. Employers could also do more to discourage bias based on appearance. As a threshold matter, they could give employees a greater role in developing policies on dress, grooming, and other appearance-related issues.

Involving workers could help raise awareness of the injustice of discrimination and the values of self-expression. So too, employers can do more to support workers in making healthy choices that affect appearance. The few studies available suggest that these programs generally save money by reducing insurance costs and absenteeism, and by improving [ ] s t r at e gie s f or c h a nge productivity and retention. Nor does the information available reveal the long-term impact of strategies that most concern appearance, such as those affecting weight and eating disorders.

Finally, the food and cosmetics industries could do more to promote health and reduce costs associated with appearance. At a minimum, they should supply more complete and accurate product information. They include DHA, a fatty acid that the manufacturer claims can sustain brain health. Whatever the truth to that assertion, the rest of the ingredients— sugars and fats—are anything but healthy.

One obvious priority should be to target risky or misleading cosmetic and weight-loss practices. As chapter 6 indicated, sanctions for deceptive claims should be strengthened, and enforcement and public education resources should be increased. Individuals need to become more aware of the serious risks, low probabilities of success, and dubious health-related claims of many appearancerelated purchases.

The most straightforward strategy would be to enact or amend federal, state, or local antidiscrimination rights statutes covering employment, housing, public accommodations, and related contexts. As with disability and religion, organizations should have to make reasonable accommodations for personal appearance that do not impose undue hardship. A fair and inexpensive dispute-resolution process should be available to resolve controversies, such as a human rights commission or mediation system, coupled with rights of judicial appeal. Parties should have access to compliance guidelines and to staff assistance that can help them assess and present their cases.

Requirements such as makeup, high heels, and provocative uniforms for women and prohibitions on earrings for men should be subject to challenge.

pro.bannon.ie/147-mobile-spy-for.php So too, disability law should be extended to cover weight discrimination without a showing of extreme obesity that results from physiological disorders and that impairs or is perceived to impair major life activities. These companies have also become more adept at marketing to youth and making offers that are hard to refuse, such as product discounts and scholarships for students who meet high academic achievement standards. Do they exacerbate stigma?

In short, schools need more pressure, resources, and policy evaluation in order to promote healthy lifestyles and to prevent practices that disadvantage children based on appearance. It has achieved modest success in reducing weight gain among at-risk children through measures such as replacing unhealthy school food, adding bicycle lanes and exercise opportunities, and encouraging restaurants to offer more healthy choices.

Massive agricultural subsidies for products such as corn, wheat, and soy have encouraged overconsumption of inexpensive processed products high in fat and carbohydrates. Other public policies can do the same. One possibility is labeling laws.

The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law
The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law
The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law
The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law
The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law
The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law
The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law
The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law
The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law

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