September 5th, 2009


Is chivalry sexist?

Is it sexist to insist that women should get special treatment because they are physically weaker? (Of course there are probably some exceptions.) Does this prevent women from becoming strong themselves, or is it a noble thing for a man to do? (For example I used to date someone who insisted that he walk on the side of the sidewalk closest to traffic. I was a little bit offended by that. Should I have been offended, or should I have been appreciative?)

What about the idea of 'being a man'? Is there some equivalent for women such that women can feel proud of themselves for 'being a woman'? Or should women strive to 'be a man' as well?

What do you guys think?
  • njyoder

Sexy Girls Have It Easy

Here's an interesting video produced by a viewer of Current TV (a digital cable station that has many video pods created by viewers): Sexy Girls Have It Easy, filmed in London. In this video pod, a woman dressed up (with full makeup) sexy one day and plain (with no makeup) another day. Each day, she went to stores, bars, taxi cabs, rickshaws, and so on, in order to receive free stuff. The "sexy girl" received £23.70 (USD$38.87) and "plain girl" received £3.20 (USD$5.25).

The video has embedding disabled, so click here to view it on YouTube's website.

Kind of stupid, isn't it? I think that this demonstrates a phenomenon that extends well beyond attractive girls being treated differently. Societal aesthetics (or attractiveness, if you prefer) in general dictate how you will generally be treated from the socially informal to formal situations.

Many people are unaware of this, and when confronted with the idea, will likely suggest that it has little, if any, significant impact. However, not only have all kinds of studies been performed on how people are treated based on their "aesthetic category," but anecdotal experience confirms this phenomenon.

Even the most seemingly benign manifestations of it, such as how strangers in informal situations speak to you, has an aggregate effect of lowering the person's self-esteem as a result of being talked to like you're less of a person. Then you have more serious effects, like social groups either partially or completely ostracizing and being more likely to be hired and get paid more in a job.

Normally I wouldn't reference a TV show, especially not Family Guy, but there was one episode that touches on this, albeit not for the purpose of social awareness. There is an episode where Peter gets all kinds of cosmetic surgery to make himself look better and, as a result, gets accepted into the "beautiful people's club." He gets educated by a "beautiful mentor" on how he can use it to his advantage: cutting in line, getting free service, treating non-beautiful people like crap, and taking pills (as part of a gift basket to him) to make his poo smell like fresh baked bread. While this is an exaggeration, it does illustrate the concept quite well.

It's mostly a subconscious phenomenon, making it quite insidious and hard for people to acknowledge. The only way to counter it is conscious awareness of how this phenomenon manifests and how to deal with it, including how to call others out on it, to the extent feasible (e.g. on the job it may be risky to your career).