I predict that the next front in the struggle for equality will be prejudice based on physical features: attractiveness, height, and weight.
I have never worn makeup, and I have often mocked women who do. In my mind, makeup created an artificial face, and I have been a devotee of the natural. “Why can’t women be like men,” I thought, “and live with the face they were given?”
Recently the New York Times had a forum about the use of makeup, “Does Makeup Hurt Self-Esteem,” with brief essays on both sides of the issue. One was by Nancy Etcoff, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School and a research psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. She has done research into the perception of women’s faces with and without makeup.
Her experiments showed that when a viewer first saw a face with makeup, the initial reaction was positive, but upon longer reflection, the more dramatic the makeup the less trustworthy the person was judged to be.
We asked people to rate photographs of women with and without makeup. Seen very quickly (250 milliseconds), women wearing makeup looked more attractive, likeable, competent and trustworthy to our viewers than those who went without it. On longer inspection, responses became varied and nuanced. Faces with natural makeup were seen favorably but faces with more dramatic makeup were seen as less trustworthy.
This seemed to validate my prejudice against makeup, but then I read her journal article online and changed my mind. Ms Etcoff and her associates cite four different studies showing a strong prejudice against unattractive people in the workplace. Men and women who are judged to be unattractive have a harder time getting hired, earn lower salaries, and are judged to be less intelligent and competent.