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Eva Fernandes thinks trying to link women's employment choices to the availability of eligible bachelors and her ‘plainness’ is reductive and simplistic.
April 15, 2012 3:31 by Eva Fernandes
A recent study carried out by US and Dutch researchers makes me think attitudes to women in the working world haven’t changed as dramatically as I’d hoped. The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found “the real reason women pursue careers is because they fear they are too unattractive to get married.”
According to the study, in areas in which there are less eligible men, women are more likely to choose for a professional career. What is more, the study claims, ‘the plainer a woman is, the more she is driven to succeed in the work place.’
Researcher Kristina Durante, from the University of Texas at San Antonio, said: “Does the ratio of men to women in a local population influence women’s career aspirations? Real-world archival data and a series of laboratory experiments suggest the answer is yes.”
As far as I am concerned, a study of this nature seems to have its focus skewed from the get-go. How exactly does one scientifically quantify or describe degrees of ‘plainness.’ Either way, these kinds of studies just discredit and trivialize the accomplishments women have achieved in the working world. Trying to link women’s employment choices to the availability of eligible bachelors and her ‘plainness’ is reductive and simplistic.
And what is more, claiming that women only work because they are too plain to secure a husband is just ‘plain’ insulting. In fact, it seems odly reminiscent of HBO’s hit series Mad Men.
I am a fan of TV series Mad Men. The show, which began airing episodes of its fifth season earlier this month, revolves around the life of the employees of an American ad agency in the 1950s and ‘60s. When I first started watching the show, I was struck by three things: the fabulous fashion, the never-ending smoking, and the unbelievable and almost cruel chauvinism at the workplace.
During the first season of Mad Men viewers are introduced to a working world where women aspire to be no more than secretaries and personal assistants. It isn’t uncommon for women to be addressed as ‘sweet heart’ or ‘darling’ at work. And the best way for women to advance at the work place? Get married to the boss.
As a woman, Mad Men’s misogynistic theme made watching the show almost unbearable at times. Every now and then I found myself flinching with anger or irritably tsk-tsk-ing aloud—much to the annoyance of my fellow viewers. I could not believe that there was ever a time that it was acceptable to belittle another equally capable person at the work place just because of their gender. My only comfort was the thought that things have at least changed…but this recent study on ‘plain’ women, makes me think maybe attitudes haven’t changed all that much.