Highly attractive women can be perceived as dangerous?
A new study finds that attractive businesswomen are considered less trustworthy and less truthful — what researchers called the “femme fatale effect.”
“Let me tell you something — being thought of as a beautiful woman has spared me nothing in life. No heartache, no trouble.”
Beautiful women sail through life with all the advantages in the world, right? That’s what many of us have been conditioned to believe, but of course, it’s not true. And now there’s research to prove it — when it comes to the workplace, at least. According to a recent study, attractive businesswomen are in fact considered less trustworthy, less truthful and more worthy of being fired than other women.
The researchers, out of Washington State University and the University of Colorado Boulder, call this the “femme fatale effect” — femme fatale being a term for a seductive yet manipulative woman. (Think Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat” or Cersei Lannister in “Game of Thrones.”)
“Highly attractive women can be perceived as dangerous,” said Leah Sheppard, an assistant professor at W.S.U. and a lead author of a paper. “That matters when we are assessing things like how much we trust them and whether we believe that what they are saying is truthful.”
The study pushes past the more commonly accepted idea that beautiful women are underestimated at the office to focus on how bias against these women stems from more primal feelings of sexual insecurity, jealousy and fear.
“For women, there are certain contexts in which they don’t seem to benefit from their beauty,” Sheppard said, pointing to evolutionary and social factors.
As the thinking goes: Evolutionarily, women have leveraged their looks to attract mates and viewed more attractive women as competition, Sheppard said. Men, in turn, were drawn to attractive women — but worried that their beauty might make these women unfaithful.
Those deep-rooted evolutionary instincts can spill over in the workplace — prompting feelings of jealousy and also suspicion from both women and men that the attractive woman “has used her sexuality to get promotions, favorable work assignments, etc.,” Sheppard said.
Adding insult to injury, many people are often unwilling to believe that beautiful women are being stereotyped in this way, Sheppard said.
Beautiful women are “going to be challenged in terms of building trust,” she went on. “That’s not to say that they can’t do it. It’s just that trust is probably going to form a bit more slowly.”
“It’s O.K.! I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t O.K.” Amy Schumer, Ali Wong and the rise of pregnant stand-up comics. [Read the story]
“I am a very strong woman, and I’m still not recovered.” For thousands of women, working at the nation’s largest jewelry retailer meant unequal pay, harassment or worse. [Read the story]
“In men, excessive qualities can be forgiven, even admired.” Why aren’t there more redemption stories like the story of Tiger Woods among women? It’s not just because women aren’t given second chances. [Read the story]
“Little girls are allowed to be strong and wild.” For years, a subculture of teenage hobbyhorse enthusiasts flourished under the radar in Finland. Now the craze is a national export, and a celebration of girlhood. [Read the story]
“I would give my life to fly in space.” The Times obituary for Geraldyn Cobb, who was on the verge of becoming the nation's first female astronaut — but NASA wasn’t interested in women. [Read the story]
Dr. Ella Lasky tried to warn us that beautiful people don’t exactly have it made. In 1974, Dr. Lasky, a psychotherapist, told The Times that the American obsession with attractiveness can actually lead gorgeous people into an emotional trap, resulting in emotional problems.
When people rely on natural attractiveness instead of developing as a complete individual, they are setting themselves up for disappointment long-term, she said.
And, not surprisingly, women have it worse off. “The standard of beauty affects women more than men,” Dr. Lasky said, “because women have traditionally based their self‐esteem on their good looks” and “their ability to attract men,” while good-looking men base their self-esteem on “occupational prestige, power and income, as well as their physical appeal.”
Like what you read? Give a round of applause. Share it with your friends and family.
We are open for discussion. Let's keep the conversation going.
Do you have an article or story to share?