In business, beauty is in the eye of the employer

JOSH BABCOCK | Evergreen columnist

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






While it seems beauty increases the chance of a job in particular industries, what many don’t know is beauty in certain positions may be the only requirement needed.

Unfortunately, this form of discrimination has become so popular it has been classified as ‘lookism.’

Lookism is, “prejudice or discrimination based on physical appearance and especially physical appearance believed to fall short of societal notions of beauty according to The Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Although we know what lookism is, identifying it specifically still poses difficulties.

Joe Kirshner, a WSU police officer, said while discrimination is illegal, it’s tough to prove whether employees were hired based on their appearance.

There are a number of industries where lookism’s frequency is known, most notably being the retail industry.

Abercrombie & Fitch seems to be a business targeted and focused directly on looks, but there are also incidences in which discriminatory acts have taken place.

CBS News reports the company was charged for allegedly hiring only white people that matched their all-American look to sell their product.

The same report stated Jennifer Lu, an Asian-American, said she was fired after corporate officials visited the store and requested that more employees match the Caucasian models on the store’s posters.

Lu said she was not the only Asian-American fired after the corporate visit.

Anthony Ocampo was a sales representative at Abercrombie & Fitch for four years and said during his time working for the company, a majority of those working on the floor were white, while minorities were mostly working in the stockroom.

In light of the lookism accusations, Abercrombie & Fitch has found loopholes.

They now refer to the workers on the floor as models and thereby can require models to ‘maintain presentation standards.’

This way the brand can still keep its product’s all-American look, sold by all-Americans that look the way they should, when they wear the brand they’re selling.

In Las Vegas the casino industry also found a way to incorporate lookism into their business.

According to an article by the Las Vegas Sun, in the past decade casinos have been changing the description of cocktail waitresses to ‘beverage models.’

This allows casinos to use age and appearance as a reason to terminate an employee.

Karen Crawford works at the Riviera, and has held that job since 1977, but thinks her age would keep her from landing a job anywhere on the strip based on these new requirements for cocktail waitresses.

The Rio was one of the first casinos to become known for attractive cocktail waitresses and in return saw a 30 percent bump in gaming revenue, which might be a great incentive for casinos to hire a certain age and look; however, that incentive causes waitresses like Crawford to be turned away.

There are a number of jobs that come to mind when we think of beauty as an unsaid requirement, but one that cannot be forgotten is the bartender.

In an interview on lookism, Stubblefields owner DJ Goldfinger said he understands why it appears that lookism’s discrimination is common throughout the service industry.

Goldfinger said different bars advertise different things and while bar owners aren’t in search of a certain look they are in search of someone that is comfortable and can talk to a particular customer base.

There are a number of reasons that lead people to assume a business hires based on looks.

Even Stubblefields’ requirement of pictures on résumés is often misconstrued and taken as a way to use beauty as discrimination, Goldfinger said.

Although it’s likely bar owners who follow this rule use appearance to discriminate against potential employees, at Stubblefields, Goldfinger said the picture is a security measure used to weed out past customers who have violated rules at the bar.

While lookism is an unethical concept, it’s something we often don’t recognize, despite the fact there are numerous examples from different business across the country.

Lookism is a difficult form of discrimination to identify, but from its popularity in the service industry and clothing companies like Abercrombie & Fitch, lookism is no longer unseen.

– Josh Babcock is a senior communication major from Pullman. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.