Tag Archives: school

Women’s Lives: Chapter 1

Sex: classification of individuals as female or male based on their genetic makeup, anatoy, and reproductive functions.

Gender: means that societies and individuals give to female and male categories.

Sex roles: sometimes used to refer to culturally prescribed roles for men and women. Gender roles may be more appropriate.

Similarities approach/beta bias: men and women are basically the same in intellectual and social behaviors. The only differences are due to socialization rather than biology. Has origins in work of early 20th century women psychologists.

Differences viewpoint/alpha bias: emphasizes differences between women and men. These differences have been thought to arise from essential qualities that are rooted in biology. Also known as essentialism.

Has root in Western and Eastern philosophies.

Liberal feminism: belief that women and men should have same political, legal, economic, and educational rights and opportunities. Reform.

Cultural feminism: belief that women and men are different and that more respect should be given to women’s special qualities.

Socialist feminism: attitude that gender inequality is rooted in economic equality.

Radical feminism: belief that gender inequality is based on male oppression of women

Patriarchy: male control/dominance over women

Women of color feminism: view that both racism and classism must e recognized as being as important as sexism

Racism: bias against other because of ethnicity

Classism: bias based on social class

Sexism: gender based bias


Power Play

“Our bodies are the places where our drive for perfection gets played out.” With this statement, Martin sums up the struggle that many young women face, as they’re flooded with information about effective workouts, the best ways to lose weight, and the best diets.

314510824_a9feb9407cWe like to look at pretty faces. Friends are chosen based simply on whether a potential friend is attractive or not. We want to do business with pretty faces. And we want to marry an attractive person. Gordon L. Patzer pointed this out in his book Looks, and all this stuff is supported by research, sad to say. Teachers like pretty students because they feel that the more attractive students show the most potential. Pretty babies get more love and attention first from nurses at the hospital at birth, and then at home with their mothers. Pretty people seem to have an easier time in life. Employees hire pretty people to make their firms successful. Freelancer Jenna Glatzer writes in her book You Can Make a Real Living as a Freelancer that Cosmopolitan once cut an article: a profile about a modern day wonder woman. Why? Because the “wonder woman” turned out to be overweight.

So we keep chasing after perfection Where does it lead us? Nowhere, except to pain.

Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks

Martin writes that we see beauty as the first impression of total success. She goes on to explain that we see one aspect of a person — nice hair, for example — and assume that she is wealthy and powerful. How many times have we told ourselves that if we are thin (thin = beauty), our lives will be perfect? Beauty will solve all our problems. It will get us the desired man, the desired job, and the desired home. Or perhaps all three.

Martin uses Tyra Banks as an example of a beautiful woman who build her own empire.

I find this coincidence because I stumbled on the Tyra Banks show the other day. She was running something about Botox for a medical condition in a woman’s genitals. SUpposedly it’s supposed to improve some condition so women can have sex again. Then Tyra asked a doctor in the audience, “What do you think about using Botox for this condition?”

The doctor said, “Well, it’s not FDA – approved…”

Ok, remember this post?

3035405786_aa0a472929Moving along…

We see weight as something that we can control. We thus believe that if we exercised a little more control, counting calories, strict diets, strenuous exercise, nice clothes; we would be happy. We just have to “stay strong” and “starve on.” You’re not happy? You’re not “strong” enough. You have to be stronger.

The writer gives a description of a typical “perfect girl” in a typical American town. It’s a good description, and pretty accurate. Yes, we are living contradictions. Yes, we are relentless, while judgmental towards ourselves and forgiving of other people.

We are the daughters of feminists who said, “You can be everything” and we heard, “You have to be everything.”

We grow hungrier and hungrier with no clue what we are hungry for. The holes inside of us grow bigger and bigger.

We are our own worst enemies. It’s that “starving daughter” who must be killed off.

2236055781_25b5fdba44Martin goes on to say that a “starving daughter” is at the center of every “perfect girl.” The face we show to the world is an outward mask that says to our friends that everything is going well. Inside, we’re starving for a lot of things. We’re empty and in need, and they don’t know.

She wants attention. The perfect girl says, “No, you shouldn’t want that.” She is the one that brings us down. She gets scared, nostalgic, sad. The perfect girl wants no part of that.

No one likes this part of them. They view it as a side that is too weak. Meanwhile, they don’t talk about their problems. They fill the black holes in their spirits with the forbidden fruit. Yet they continue to feel empty. We struggle with this. I know girls in my church who do, but are too confused and frightened to speak about it, let alone come face to face with a darker side of themselves. They don’t want to let go of their facade.

185980331_3e8ade3c79And our bodies take the ensuing abuse.

Some people are subtle about the abuse. They pretend to be above such trite things as calorie counting and purging. Such stuff is embarrassing.

Others talk about how horrible their body size is and how fat they are and how much they hate themselves for being so weak. And then they forget about their issues for a while. Their disordered eating is seasonal.

Then there are the diagnosed eating disorders. Go here for a list and description of the three diagnosable disorders as noted by health professionals. I also noted in the same post that several people do have a mix of both bulimia and anorexia and binge eating.

There is EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) which we haven’t talked about yet. These are the people who have an eating disorder but don’t have the required symptoms. They may purge once a week as opposed to three. Some starve but don’t lose their periods or drop in weight. Some have a partial syndrome. They obsess, and have a nagging preoccupation with their weight that they think is normal. They feel that they obsess too much but don’t work out enough.

We don’t consider that maybe we don’t have to live with the obsession.

The media is no help. They show skin-and-bones models and gasp about shrinking celebrities, making us feel that if we’re not dropping out of school, throwing up all the time, or become skeletal, then we’re fine. Our condition is fine. Never mind that we’re miserable.

3061919849_fbbf4783b7Some doctors encourage the attitude. They’re so tired of the obesity epidemic that they’d do anything to get their patients from that extreme. They forget that there is another extreme at the other end. These doctors want rigorous exercise with restraint in diet, no matter who the patient is. Martin interviewed a girl with an eating disorder. This girl saw a doctor in college. She hoped that he’d notice her weight going down and maybe help her. However, he told her to “keep up the good work!”

The author states that an eating disorder merely is a more extreme version of what girls and women face on a daily basis. There’s always some degree of obsessiveness about food and our bodies in everyone. (I don’t think all, but most. Most are still too many.)

We find comfort in being almost as screwed up as everyone else.

Physical Appeal in the Classroom

Looks: Chapter 4

We’ve now learned that parents tend to discriminate against their less attractive children. What about teachers?

325752626_69392aa6b1Yes. They expect more attractive children to perform better. As a result, the teachers devote more attention to children whom they think have greater potential. And because the teacher expects better stuff out of them, the children actually DO better.

Dr. Rosenthal of Harvard pioneered work on this. He had a fake non verbal test of intelligence done to a group of schoolchildren. Out of this group, a random group of schoolchildren were chosen as the experimental group. He told the teachers that certain scores on the test displayed that there would be a future spurt in intellect for the experimental group. However, the only real difference between the experimental group and the other group was in the teachers’ minds. All the same, the experimental group showed far more progress.

This kind of discriminating against those who are less attractive is called lookism. It has a corrosive effect on self-esteem.

Studies show that even when attractive and unattractive students earn identical records, teachers still believe that in the future, attractive students will do better than the unattractive students.

Not only that, they would punish the students who don’t look beautiful, while the attractive students get away without punishment.


Snow White from a picture book

Snow White from a picture book

Don’t forget the beautiful = good stereotype that we talked about earlier. A highly attractive person would be associated with a favorable personality and the best quality of life traits. Further studies show that children are more likely to attribute positive characteristics to better looking people than adults are.


Another trend noticed is that attractive females are more popular than attractive males. At least when they’re young. I’ve noticed this in Sunday school (@ church). The younger classes are full of an abundance of cute girls and cute boys. The cute girls get more attention than the cute boys. However, the cute boys could care less, while the cute girls seem to live for the attention.

An important factor in the development of this is parents. According to famous social psychologist Albert Bandura, social behavior is learned through observing and imitating the behaviors observed most frequently. Parents, teachers, TV are a good source for behaviors to be imitated. That means that if a child observes that the physical attractive person is good and gets treated better than the unattractive, he or she might adopt this behavior as his or her own. Because elders (along with TV) play such an important role in a child’s life, they are a possible cause.

Maybe this is why children as young as age 5 are sensitive to different body types, with a preference for normal weight bodies.

Back to my friend with two daughters. This lady is a compulsive dieter. She’s as skinny as a stick yet believes that she is too fat. (Problem?) Her oldest daughter (age 5) picked up this way of thinking. One day, she said to her mother, “I’m a princess. Daddy is a prince. Mommy, you cannot be a princess because you are too fat.”


Children who are of average size or are muscular are seen as happy, kind, smart, neat, strong, and popular. Plump children, however, are perceived as sloppy, lazy, stupid, and likely to cheat. 

It’s scary but not surprising that many eight year olds diet nowadays

ChipObesity is a national plague. Children between the ages of 6 to 11 are three times as likely to be overweight as in 1970. Obesity has come to rival smoking as a source of premature death. People who were obese when  young have a greater frequency of psychological symptoms and emotional problems than people who only became obese when older.

I have a good friend named Henry who was overweight when he was very young. Sadly, he got a lot of teasing when he was in elementary and middle school. He started running and lost it all in high school. But when Henry was in college, he got an eating disorder. Right now he’s normal weight. He’s also pretty good looking. The women tend to swoon around him. But deep down inside him, he still feels the effects of that teasing years ago. How old is Henry? 28.

Speaking of teasing, I’m sure most of my readers remember the Columbine High School incident. Whitehead and Hoover of University of North Dakota reviewed the case and did research on bullying. They found that bullying had a link to body issues. And that at any given time, 60% of American women and girls admit to dieting.

Adolescence is a critical period of development. It’s more difficult for girls than guys as girls are more concerned about attractiveness and less satisfied with their appearance to begin with. Teenage girls were found by the same researchers to be concerned that their thighs, butt, and hips were too large. Younger girls were dissatisfied with their teeth, face, and feet.

Vanderbilt University psychologists set out to find the pressures that drive young women to be happy with their body image. Is it innate sense that their bodies should look a certain way? Or does it come from feedback from other people? They did conclude that already depressed women are driven to further despair by the idealized media images.

Other studies suggest that attractiveness is risky. Pretty women college students are at a risk for an eating disorder if their perfectionism combines with anxiety and the tendency to be hypercritical. They may also be more likely to criticize thin women for their efforts to stay slim.

treadmillThere is hope for the bullied. Whitehead and Hoover found out that the most successful programs combine diet and exercise within a framework of significant behavior change. The programs should be implemented with schools, families, and doctors.

However, it is difficult to maintain these plans. Even so, PE programs that look at individual children’s needs may serve as a thread to reconnect those children with adults who care. Who knows what might have happened if my friend Henry had been in a program like that? Things may have been very different. Also remember that physical activity and exercise is more effective in treating depression.

Another way that the emphasis on physical attractiveness warps learning experience is in sexuality. Teens have a desire to attract the opposite sex. They also have a deep need for validation. A study of 280 college students showed that more attractive the sexual partner, the less inclination for students to take precautions.

How about students’ attitudes toward attractive versus ugly teachers?

empty plate Periodic student evaluations came in not a long time ago. These factor greatly into tenures and promotion. However, it seemed that looks were more important than teaching ability. I have been to ratemyprofessors.com to check the ratings of the professors I’ve had, and I saw that the ratings of a professor I loved in a class I enjoyed were very negative. A lot of the posts mentioned her rather unkempt appearance.

Several subsequent studies confirmed that students tend to rate their teacher’s performance more on the basis of superficialities like PA and clothing style than on the content of their lectures or their abilities to communicate.

So looks do matter. A lot.

Next: Physical attractiveness and careers