Professor Deborah Rhode Discusses Appearance-Based Discrimination
New York, November 5, 2009 – While many people are familiar with the cliché "it hurts to be beautiful," Professor Deborah L. Rhode wants to spread a different message: How much it hurts not to be beautiful.
In a discussion hosted by the Reading Group of the Columbia Law Women's Association (CLWA), Rhode, a visiting professor and leading scholar in legal ethics and gender, talked about the prevalence of appearance-based discrimination in the workforce and its uglier consequences.
"In one representative survey, over half of young women report they would prefer to be hit by a truck than be fat," Rhode told a startled audience.
Psychological issues, eating disorders, and costly but ineffective treatments are growing problems in a culture that not only obsesses over specific ideas of beauty, but rewards them, Rhode said.
Elaborating on her article "The Injustice of Appearance," which appeared in the Stanford Law Review this year, and referring to her upcoming book The Beauty Bias, Rhode argued that when organizations hire and fire on the basis of looks, the decisions are often irrelevant to a position's qualifications and “compromise principles of equal opportunity and individual dignity.”
Rhode has written 20 books and is the nation's most frequently cited scholar in legal ethics. She has received several awards for her outstanding scholarship and work, including the American Bar Foundation’s W. M. Keck Foundation Award for distinguished scholarship on legal ethics.
The discussion is one of a series of reading group events sponsored by the Columbia Law Women's Association designed to engage with scholars in gender and sexuality law. "A lot of students who come are interested in the issues and are looking for a meaningful but accessible way outside of class to engage with professors of gender and sexuality law," says CLWA board member Nazneen Mehta.
Later this month, Professor Elizabeth F. Emens will lead a discussion among CLWA members about her article: "Changing Name Changing: Framing Rules and the Future of Marital Names."
Written by Christopher Gomes.
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