I remember one year, when I was still in graduate school, a particularly beautiful young woman applied to our program. She was extremely well-qualified, and had a strong background in neuroscience from a top university, but she looked like she had just stepped out of an issue of Marie Claire. Frankly, she was the kind of girl I was loathe to stand next to, for fear of not faring well by comparison. I'll admit that I wasn't totally thrilled at the prospect of having her around, competing for the attention of the few male graduate students who actually remembered to bathe, shave and wash their clothes regularly.But pretty or not, she was top candidate, and I was certain she'd be accepted to the program. So I was stunned when a senior professor in our department told me, quite causally in the hallway, that she had decided not to offer this young woman a position. "I don't think we want her here, do you? I think she'd make the rest of us feel like we aren't pretty enough."Her statement, coming from a respected and well-known psychologist nearly twice my age, seemed to me so ludicrous and appalling that I waited for her to start laughing or winking, but she never did. And the pretty girl never did get the offer. I doubt very much that when she later tried to figure out what went wrong, she ever considered the possibility that her good looks had been held against her.
Are we that insecure in ourselves as a society that we still judge people based on looks? Even good looks? And even more so, amazing looks? For us guys, this story can seem unusual, but I'm sure this form of cattiness is familiar to you ladies out there. But I guess the only thing that truly surprises me is that a woman in that position would also be that catty. I guess having that power, prestige, experience and intelligence, the professor at that graduate school knows that a woman with that beauty, along with intelligence, and when adding a bit of experience, she can gain that power and prestige that she currently has. She can climb that ladder much faster.
Now, over the years, we've heard stories about women who have posed for Playboy and then lost their jobs. After reading this article, it does make me think, did these women lose their jobs based on moral and ethical issues or was it because, like the professor, they can't handle a beautiful, intelligent woman around.
I think this story is more about power. If you are in that position where you can pick and choose who is around you, you can make yourself more powerful. So, can you be too beautiful? The answer seems to be yes. Being beautiful always gets a reaction, whether it be good or bad. But they always gets a reaction. So, who really has the power?