Yet Another Study Says Sarah Palin Failed Because She's Hot

Posted by Siobhan O'Connor

Sorry to bring her up again, folks, but headlines about a new study prompt a little discussion. Or perhaps a little rant. Because yes, one more study has come out to prove once and for all that pretty women aren't seen as competent in the workplace. Yes, one more study that overlooks factors like being a moron, or a yahoo, or not being qualified for a job, and blames a woman's failure on, yup, her sex appeal. Attractive = You can't succeed. Got that, ladies?This kind of discourse irks for a few reasons-the most obvious of which is that it does nothing but encourage the focus we can't seem to resist placing on women's looks, no matter how accomplished and powerful she happens to be. Further, studies like this are self-fulfilling. When you're asking people to, in one breath, rate a woman's attractiveness, then rate your impression of her as a person, you're setting up a correlation from jump. And the result, of course, is the reinforcement of this idea that to be successful, women need to meet a certain baseline level of attractiveness, and yet they better not dare exceed it.Women in business-hell, in the workplace in general-are constantly negotiating the fine line between being appealing and nonthreatening, and being smart or type-A enough to be taken seriously. It's archaic thinking, and while it still holds true to an extent-I'm absolutely certain of that, and concede we have a shamefully long way to go when it comes to certain things-studies like this get us squarely nowhere.What would get us somewhere? We can start by changing the way we talk about these things. And as a note to sociologists and psychologists everywhere: The next time you get a pile research grant money, or your university asks you to add something meaningful to a national discourse, maybe you can ask better questions.(The actual study costs a bunch of money, but it's summarized rather thoroughly here.)