Daily Archives: August 22, 2010

The “Beauty Penalty” in Academia

Kevin Bertolin, the 7th hottest college instructor, according to that oh-so-reliable social barometer, RateMyProfessor.com. Bertolin, who looks more crunchy than crusty to me, may be smiling in this photo but is he crying on the inside due to academia's "beauty penalty"?

About a year ago, I wrote a post called, “Mind over Malls, or Does Academia Hate Fashion?”. There’s a lot I would revise about this blog post – it’s been more than a year since I wrote it, after all! – but it seems that the central point of the post is still relevant: “[D]espite the breadth of fashion scholarship and the emergence of academic fashion and style blogs, I’m not so sure that academia has reformed its surly attitude towards the sartorial arts.”

According to a recent article in the Vancouver Sun, “Sexy profs suffer career setbacks.” Some interesting quotes from the article follow:

Professors who are considered too good-looking can be cast by their peers as lightweights, known less for their productivity than for their pulchritude.

And

It’s almost better to be a little crusty-looking so people will trust you and give you more respect.

I don’t doubt – as I note in the earlier blog post – that these attitudes exist and persist. But my problem with these kinds of articles and the studies on which they’re based is how such attention to the curse of beauty (or the “beauty penalty,” as its described in the article) occludes fat phobia and of course the dimensions of race, age, and class that frame socially constructed definitions of “beauty”. The article does mention that the effects of the beauty curse are different for women and men, though.

Ultimately, the takeaway message here seems to be a cautionary one that leaves intact uncritical ideas about the disciplinary and institutional role of corporeal aesthetic evaluations.

Still, with regard to the above photo: Duuuude . . .

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