Deborah Carr is a professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. In an interview with Broadly, Carr affirmed what most people already intuit: physical appearance shapes the way people are socialized. "From the time people are young children, they are rewarded for being attractive," Carr said, adding that the more beautiful a child is, the more likely they are to succeed in their social and school lives which in-turn helps gorgeous young people develop superior self-esteem—an asset to them as their personalities and minds develop. "Often there is a 'self-fulfilling prophecy'—the positive treatment that attractive children receive makes them more confident, friendly, and secure which perpetuates their popularity and social desirability," Carr explained.OK, but what about the oppression that hot people endure later in life? Is there such a phenomenon? "Most research shows that attractiveness reaps rewards rather than disadvantages," Carr said, but added that research shows there are exceptions to this. "First, we're more likely to stereotype highly attractive people as self-absorbed and thus presume they may be less good at tasks like parenting. Second, a particular female body type—voluptuous women—are evaluated as 'less smart' in studies where subjects rate pictures of women along a range of personal traits," she said.
But just because beauty is, in general, "privileged," that doesn't mean physical attractiveness can not also oppress people like Theron. It's complicated; Newton-Francis explained that Theron's dual role of model-actor has made her subject to social stereotypes related to those fields of employment—models are often thought of as less intelligent or capable than other people. "While it is a stereotype—women who model are perceived as attractive but also perceived as less intelligent or lacking skill—of course, this is not true," Newton-Francis said."I see both privilege and marginalization operating on a variety of dimensions in Hollywood," she said. "In addition to the way in which attractiveness serves as both privilege and marginality, it may well be that Theron is coming up against sexism and ageism, which is unfortunate but common in Hollywood." Newton-Francis' point about ageism and sexism correlates to other statements made by Theron in her GQ profile. On these dual evils, Theron said:
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It is important to take a nuanced approach in our attempt to understand the role that physical attractiveness plays in socialization. As Newton-Francis explained, "Theron can be both privileged and marginalized on attractiveness." And it's not just limited to the world of the high-glamour millionaires. "One of the major points is to think about the ways in which attractiveness is profoundly limiting to all of us," she said.
"We live in a society where women wilt and men age like fine wine. And, for a long time, women accepted it. We were waiting for society to change, but now we're taking leadership. It would be a lie to say there is less worry for women as they get older than there is for men…It feels there's this unrealistic standard of what a woman is supposed to look like when she's over forty."