As I was on my way to work there was a segment on the radio discussing Charlize Theron’s recent comments in a magazine article. She believes that pretty women don’t get meaty roles in Hollywood. To her, it’s harder to be taken seriously than less attractive women. The radio host called it the “Meagan Good syndrome” where attractive women are typecast as the “sexy friend”, “mistress”, “ditz” or “club girl”. The radio show solicited callers to tell their stories of how their looks effected them negatively in their daily lives.
As someone generally classified as pretty, I could relate to some of their stories. I went to college for criminal justice, went on to work at a prestigious government contracting company, and then ended up landing a job as a contractor in a government headquarters. When I first started my new job I thought I had it made. I doubled my income, got paid to travel all over the country for conferences, and had the freedom to manage myself. That was until a new female manager took over.
All of a sudden I was getting called into her office for my outfit choices. (She felt that my outfits were too form fitting and I needed to cover up my shape.) She started picking apart all of my work even though it had been previously used by other employees. My workload started to decrease and mysterious complaints were erupting from the field. (Even though when I reached out to those that I worked with in the field they had nothing but compliments about my work ethic.)
I felt bullied and harassed simply because I had a nice shape and received attention from the other staff. My manager once said to me, “Think about how your outfit choices effect other people”. Instead of my performance reviews being based on how well I did my job it became about my pencil skirts and makeup choices. I always came to work fully covered in business casual clothes, there were no low cut shirts or club dresses. I couldn’t help that I had hips and long legs but it didn’t stop my manager from pointing it out. I ended up quitting because besides from wearing trash bags to work, my manager was never going to stop harassing me.
Plenty of people have said, “I’m sure you get a lot of attention because of your looks” but is it the right attention? When you approach people they assume that you’re going to be rude or stuck up. Women shun you and men are drawn to you like a kid to a fish in a bowl. Some may assume that you receive opportunities because of your looks and that you have nothing else to fall back on. How many times have we heard or used the saying, “She must have slept her way to the top”? I’ve also lost a few male friends because their girlfriends think that I’m a threat to their relationship, like I’m incapable of being around a man without trying to sleep with him.
Being taken seriously was always a concern of mine. If I wanted to talk to a man about a job or professional experience would he take me seriously or just try to get in my pants. When there is a woman in power involved, sometimes they’re rude to me before I even open my mouth. I’ve met men before who want to talk to me about “furthering my career” but then they take me out to an intimate dinner and make comments about how good I look the entire night. I’ve had a man offer me a job in his franchise but he would only contact me late at night asking if I wanted to meet up.
I’m not complaining about the way I look as if it’s a burden. However, I can’t help the way I look. My mother and father combined powers to created a beautiful young woman and I am blessed for that. However, I don’t focus on my looks. Most days I think I look like a peasant, and when people compliment me, I’m surprised. I honestly think that the uniqueness of every person makes them beautiful. Being creative is beautiful. Being well spoken is beautiful. Being a kind and generous person is beautiful. Those things move me more than someone’s facial structure.
It’s challenging in this day and age but we need to stop focusing on what someone looks like instead of how they live their lives. Looks don’t always guarantee an easy or pleasant life. Even though it seems like all of the beautiful people on social media and reality tv shows with celebrity status have it all, we see the parts of their lives they want us to see. We don’t know what struggles they’re facing behind the editing and filters. Basing success or fulfillment on appearances can turn out to be an empty experience. Looks fade so it’s vital to aspire to something else. I’d rather focus on the impact I have on other people based on who I am on the inside. What I leave behind will not be centered around the way I look but how my talents and actions have contributed to the world.