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The book ‘The Power of Looks’ by Bonnie Berry provides an insight into the social stratification of people. The author artificially places people into greater and lesser power strata by their physical appearance. The author argues the fact that attractive people can gain greater job opportunities, better friends, and prospects. The arguments are backed up with statistical analysis. To reveal the arguments, the author covers the contemporary philosophical theories, analyzes appearance values and their concentration on the current social standards.
To be more precise, the book analyzes different aspects of physical appearance including face, eyes, weight, and others as they represent inequality and social power. These all demonstrate the influence of physical appearance on changes that happen in life. The author instigates the way a person’s physical appearance influences marriage, education, employment, and other opportunities. Moreover, the author believes that a good look can persuade and attract others. To prove the suggested point of view, Berry uses observations, interviews, diaries, surveys, ethnographies, as well as archival data.
Such influence becomes a cause of the appearance-altering statistics related to cosmetic, surgical, and pharmaceutical procedures. Nonetheless, Berry suggests the idea that concepts of beauty and ugliness are socially constructed and may be changed. To prove it, she provides some cultural and historical contrasts on different social stratification systems of human appearance and characterizes the westernized tendency of appearance that presupposes white skin, blond hair, small nose, long eyelids, and many others.
It is concluded that people live in a society that provides unearned rewards to those who are attractive or have enough money to improve their look. Thus, the author argues that the values placed on personal appearance aspects are voluntary and depend on the appearance of people in power. Physical appearance has an important role in life; however, the role of appearance is often overestimated and is used as the main argument that can help to solve any problems or life issues.
One of the book’s arguments is the statement that people with attractive appearance do not have more chances to receive a better job, have more friends, or happier life (Berry 126). However, the author’s statement cannot be viewed as the only correct one. On the one hand, an attractive appearance can give many advantages to a person, but it has only a temporary effect (Tarkhanova 5). For instance, when a person searches for a job, especially if it is a position of an administrator or some other type of work, where an employee should communicate with clients much, appearance is a quite important thing. In this case, an employer tries to hire a person who has a pleasant appearance to attract potential clients (Rousseau 538). Of course, good looks do not guarantee that a person will have a good job.
However, in some cases, it still makes sense. For instance, waiters in luxury restaurants should also have pretty faces and ultra white smiles. Hence, sometimes employers prefer hiring people with good looks, though their skills are as good as the position requires (Pesonen 244). According to this fact, the statement that appearance is not very important in life is wrong. On the other hand, some jobs do not require a pretty appearance at all; for instance, workers of call centers or those professions where people have to work more with materials and data than with real people; in these cases, employers do not pay special attention to the appearance, but solely on person’s individual skills and knowledge (Ferreira, Pinto-Gouveia & Ferreira, Claudia, Pinto-Gouveia).
Indeed, some people know about their gift of a beautiful appearance and use it to manipulate others (O'Brien 456). However, it does not always work or, in some cases, even brings the opposite result. Today, an attractive appearance is often treated as a feature of selfish and mercenary people. Even though it is a social stereotype, some attractive people really behave in this way. Hence, an attractive appearance may bring more disadvantages than advantages. For instance, a pretty young woman will be treated well only because of her appearance and beauty, but not because of her inner world or personal qualities. In this case, it will be more difficult for her to prove her skills, knowledge, etc. In other words, such a woman is most likely to be perceived by people as a beautiful doll, but as a personality.
Most advantages will be available for such a woman due to her appearance only but not because people will price her personality. According to this fact, it can be said that appearance does not always give a person places and opportunities to achieve more in life. Moreover, in many cases, it has only a temporary effect or even a slippy prospect. A person tries to make friends, while others perceive him/her only as a beautiful frontispiece.
Another controversial idea of the book is that people are always perceived stereotypically (Berry 154). The author states that, for instance, tall people are perceived as more successful than short ones. Obviously, many stereotypes still exist; however, in the modern world, people do not pay too much attention to stereotypes and even try to get rid of such types of thinking. Therefore, one can say that such stereotypes will not work at applying to a job.
To sum up, it can be said that appearance has always been viewed as a gift that may bring both benefits or disappointments. People believe that a beautiful appearance can help to solve many important issues in their life; they will easier find a good job or make new friends. However, the reality is different, the role of appearance in life is as well important as its role for a person’s wellbeing. Appearance can make others perceive a person in a better light, but if the inner world of this person does not correspond to his/her appearance, the beautiful appearance loses its significance. Hence, the role of appearance in life is relative; it cannot solve all people’s problems, but it can bring certain advantages and predestine a person’s life.