Here's another article I enjoyed from last Thursday's Times:
Nice Résumé. Have You Considered Botox?
We women just can't get a break sometimes. According to this article, if you let yourself age naturally, it will cost you money because you'll be passed over for jobs. If you combat aging with surgery, lotions, injections, etc., that will cost you money too! You can also spend $25.99 (or $14.29 at Amazon) on this book by Charla Krupp called "How Not to Look Old:"
The book is the latest makeover title to treat the aging of one’s exterior as a disease whose symptoms are to be fought to the death or, at least, mightily camouflaged. But the book offers a serious rationale for such vigilant attempts at age control, arguing that trying to pass for younger is not so much a matter of sexual allure as of job security.
“Looking hip is not just about vanity anymore, it’s critical to every woman’s personal and financial survival,” according to the book jacket.
Promoted recently on Oprah Winfrey’s show and “Today,” the book clearly speaks to the fears of professional obsolescence and economic vulnerability among women over 40, at whom it is aimed. “How Not to Look Old” made its debut on the New York Times best-seller list last week at No. 8 in the advice and how-to category.
Ok, on a gut level, this is nothing new to most people, but the article mentions a study that puts it in concrete terms:
In one study on hiring practices, for example, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology applied to entry-level jobs in Boston and St. Petersburg, Fla., by sending out 4,000 résumés as a female job applicant; the résumés varied the year of high school graduation, which dated the job seeker as being from 35 to 62.
The study, published in 2005 by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, found that younger women were 40 percent more likely to receive an offer of a job interview than women over 50; a woman over 50 in Boston would have to send in 27 résumés just to get one job interview, where a younger woman would have to send in only 19, the study said.
“Seeming young can definitely help your economic status, and that pays the rent,” said Joanna N. Lahey, the author of the study, who is now an assistant professor of public policy at Texas A & M.
Given that the jobs applied to were "entry level," the age discrimination might have involved a fear that the older applicant would be more likely to want more money or not stay in the job very long. Also, the study doesn't prove anything one way or the other about how LOOKING old affects your employability since the candidates were judged on their resume and the age it implied, not their face-to-face appearance. Who knows, maybe a thin, attractive and well-dressed older woman with grey hair and a few wrinkles would be more frequently offered a job than a younger woman who was un-stylish, overweight, and ugly.
But also, you have to remember how this plays out with men: older men are just more likely to be considered "attractive" than older women, and even if they aren't considered particularly "attractive" it doesn't seem to be as big a detriment to their careers. Look at all the major political figures we see in the news lately: there's no accounting for tastes, but Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, John Edwards-- all those guys would be generally seen as "attractive," I'm sure. John McCain? Rudy Giuliani? Dennis Kucinich? Mike Huckabee (at any weight)? Now you're talking about guys who are not that cute. But what about the women who are national figures? Nancy Pelosi? Condoleezza Rice? Maybe not everyone would agree, but I would say they are much higher on the attractiveness scale, and Hillary Clinton looks pretty good these days, even if she is never going to be considered a great beauty and has been the butt of way too much criticism over her earlier fashion mistakes. It's not like attractiveness is 100% necessary to succeed in politics, but something tells me that if we ever have a woman president, she will be well above average in terms of her appearance!
The article acknowledges the notion that it might be politically uncorrect, to say the least, to play along with any of our society's prejudices about appearance instead of working to change them:
Many people would shun a book if it were titled “How Not to Look Jewish” or “How Not to Look Gay” because to cater to discrimination is to capitulate to it. But the success of “How Not to Look Old” indicates that popular culture is willing to buy into ageism as an acceptable form of prejudice, even against oneself.
Even women who would probably identify themselves as feminists put a value on appearance and youthfulness, while trying to say it shouldn't be a basis for discrimination:
[Faye] Wattleton, 64, described people’s outward aging and their decisions to ameliorate it as personal choices that others should not judge.
“Being a person who has had plastic surgery and goes to the gym five days a week to work my muscles up so they don’t look atrophied as a 6o-year-old, I don’t disparage people who want to maintain their appearance,” said Ms. Wattleton, a former director of Planned Parenthood. “But what I don’t want is a society that tells me I have to.”
Ms. Krupp argues that economic pressures require most women to adopt age-management techniques. As her book puts it: we cannot afford to let ourselves go!
“What are we going to do if we have to enter the work force at a ripe old age?” Ms. Krupp said last week. “Out of necessity, you can disguise the age you are by looking younger, hipper and fresher.”
She added that Americans of one class, religion or ethnicity have often tried on other identities if they appeared to confer some professional or economic advantage.
“There was a book on how not to look Jewish,” Ms. Krupp said. “It was called ‘The Preppy Handbook’ and it was a best seller.”
Yeow! Of course that book would not have been a best seller under a more blatant title...
But back to the age thing, frankly, I think there is a lot more to this issue than wanting to be employed, or how society discriminates. We all want to look young and feel young so we can believe we are that much further away from dying! And perhaps, further away from having to start tapping into our retirement accounts...