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The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law Paperback – July 14, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0199794447 ISBN-10: 0199794448 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199794448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199794447
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 0.8 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #697,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Beauty is in the eye of the job-holder, evidently. Referencing Plessy v. Ferguson (the 1896 Supreme Court decision affirming "separate but equal" racial policies) is proven more than apropos in Rhodes' riveting overview of the ways in which appearance impacts hiring practices and job qualifications, in both overt and subtle ways. Legal or illegal is often beside the point when it comes to cases like those she surveys, though there are civil rights issues that immediately spring to mind for scholars in this field. The author's own experience with appearance expectations in the seemingly egalitarian world of academia notwithstanding, most of the cases and examples she provides are unfortunately not surprising. Covering a range of social classes, and tackling issues ranging from weight bias to the legality of forcing a college professor to change hairstyles, the book raises issues that will be debated for years to come. Rhodes argues that in jurisdictions with provisions protecting individuals from appearance-related discrimination in the workplace, the courts are not clogged with cases, contrary to the assumption of critics. Rhodes' analysis includes many new cases for the edification of students and readers interested in law, sociology, or business.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review


"The book is illuminating and important: it explores the often unacknowledged, yet pervasive, discrimination against people, particularly women, who don t conform to mainstream notions of beauty and appearance [Rhode] is the one of the country's leading scholars in legal ethics and gender Rhode is incredibly prolific."--Danielle Citron, Concurring Opinions


"[Rhode] is convincing in her arguments that laws punishing appearance discrimination might be a logical step in exactly the right direction it's hard to deny the validity of the problem that she confronts. And it's even harder to ignore the extent to which concerns about appearance shape our daily lives. Rhode so clearly enumerates the costs to society incurred by appearance discrimination that readers judges and lawmakers included will find themselves unsettled."--Christian Science Monitor


"Provocative Rhode is at her most persuasive when arguing that in the United States, the penchant to discriminate against unattractive women (and also short men) is as pernicious and widespread as bias based on race, sex, age, ethnicity, religion, and disability. She provides overwhelming evidence of bias against the overweight, the unattractive, and the aging. And while some of these cases may be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act or race discrimination law, most are not."--Dahlia Lithwick, Slate.com


"This book is extremely well written. There are plenty of everyday examples of appearance discrimination and the book is written with a passion and enthusiasm that sweeps the reader along...a call to arms...No doubt it will create a considerable body of literature and much debate."--Legal Studies


"Rhode writes clearly and thinks deeply. I found her case convincing morally and legally."--Dallas Morning News


"This is a well-researched and thoughtful exploration of beauty ideals in legal, professional and other hard-hitting real-life spheres. A serious contribution to the literature of the politics of appearance."--Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth


"Rhode's insightful analysis and lively writing style brilliantly lays out the ways in which prescriptions about appearance, whether mandated by the law, influenced by the billion dollar cosmetics industry, or the leaders of social movements, affect people's opportunities and their everyday lives."--Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Past President, American Sociological Association; Professor of Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center


"When the fastest-growing medical specialty is cosmetic surgery, we should all be concerned. Deborah Rhode's analysis offers real insight into what compels our 'beauty behavior,' the economic consequences, and what we can-and must-do about it. This book should be on every woman's bookshelf."--Kim Gandy, Former President, National Organization for Women


"Deborah Rhode uncovers 'beauty bias' as an obstacle for women every bit as disabling as sex or gender discrimination, but more damaging because it is virtually immune to legal challenge. Her discourse and strategies for ending appearance discrimination speak to every woman and should be supported by all people concerned with social justice."--Herma Hill Kay, University of California, Berkeley School of Law


Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Davis on July 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Beauty Bias is a powerful attack on what the author, with some justification, considers a superficial society that values appearance, especially in women, over almost everything else. Most of us who have taken Psych 101 have heard of the halo effect, the tendency to consider attractive people smarter and kinder than less attractive people. Although she doesn't use that term, Professor Rhode shows how much harm it is causing people. My favorite example of absurdity (and sexism)was that of Sarah Palin's campaign, who spent more on her makeup expert than on her foreign policy consultant.

No free market absolutist, Rhode argues persuasively that businesses should not have the right to discriminate against someone because of their appearance. She makes a case that people discriminated against because of appearance have every much as legal and moral right to sue in court as did the civil rights movement or any other cause. The Beauty Bias is an important, well-reasoned book that should be read by anyone concerned about these issues.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Zorro on July 17, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title notwithstanding, the book isn't really about "the beauty bias" as either a psychological or social phenomenon (Rhode is a lawyer, not a social scientist). It is rather about appearance discrimination in general, focusing mostly on discrimination based on race, disability, and obesity. I have no trouble believing such bias exists; sadly, though, Rhode does very little to prove it.

Rarely have I seen a valid point so poorly argued. Rhode's argument is ill-supported, faulty in logic, frequently off-topic, and repetitious. I'm not sure how one manages to continuously repeat oneself in only 161 pages of text, but Rhode accomplishes it. Overall, the book gives the impression of having been an over-long law review article that the law students at most major universities justifiably declined to publish.

The major problem with the book is that Rhode does not seem capable of formulating a coherent argument starting from a well-supported premise to a logical conclusion. Instead, she starts with some irrelevant personal anecdotes, throws around a number of disorganized facts gathered and claims made by others, impugns appearance-based discrimination with only minimal and unsatisfactory refutation of counterarguments, and makes some mostly arbitrary policy recommendations unsupported by any evidence of their effectiveness. By the end, the impression is that you have been the victim of a peroration rather than a scholarly work, and been made to pay for it in the bargain.

One irony here is that I believe the problem Rhode discusses, identified by psychologists long ago (taking one incarnation as the "Halo Effect"), is perfectly real and deserves serious consideration.
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By Dan on May 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good: This book addresses a very important topic, raises a lot of relevant issues, makes some important points, and is pretty short

Bad: The arguments are often pretty fast - Rhode prefers to skim over a lot of the key issues in feminism by glossing over things and deciding to focus on "refocusing the feminist critique" (pg 88) which is really just code for 'I'm going to ignore a lot of the deeper challenges to my work that come from various strands of feminism and instead make fairly uncontroversial points.' For a topic this interesting it would be good to have a more detailed, strenuously defended argument.

As it stands, sympathetic readers are going to wish there was more substance, and hostile readers are going to find plenty of holes to poke. The book also contains a few factual mistakes and hasty over-generalizations, which it could certainly have done without.

Overall: Worth reading if you're interested in the topic and want to get some of the issues out onto the table, but not so great for digging really deep and figuring stuff out for good.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting, but too technical for "in bed reading". I didn't finish reading it. I usually find that books by journalists are fun and easy to read and books by professors are not.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ... on September 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book puts alot into perspetive and makes you think about "beauty" in a different context. The legal angle was a new one for me and I really enjoyed the writing.
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More About the Author

Deborah L. Rhode is the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law and the Director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford University. She has a Yale BA and JD, and is a former law clerk of Justice Thurgood Marshall, a former president of the Association of American Law Schools, a former chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession, and a former director of both Stanford's Center on Ethics and its Institute for Research on Women and Gender. She is the author or coauthor of twenty books and over 200 articles, and is the nation's most cited scholar on professional responsibility.

Author Photo by David Weintraub, photographer.


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