Trying to write a blog post in a coffee shop on a rainy Sunday afternoon is a serious test of my focus powers.
Two women are speaking emphatically about something and the only word I keep picking up is, “lesbians.” For some reason, I keep smelling cocktail olives. Like, really overwhelming vinegar and I’m pretty sure my mocha shouldn’t contain either of those ingredients. And espresso machines are really loud.
And finally, two men have been sitting on the comfy coffee house chairs interviewing a series of women. I have no idea what the interview is for, but their body language is fascinating and, if I’m not careful, I get caught staring at them.
Both men are probably in their 30s, dressed casually, and not overwhelmingly attractive or unattractive. And the first woman they interviewed was a twenty-something, smiley, long-haired blonde. I have no idea what they were discussing but, boy were those men leaning into whatever she had to say. Lots of agreement, smiles, and hand gestures and the men were dominating the conversation. As I watched the interaction, I found myself wincing and thinking about how hard it is for attractive women to be taken seriously. I agree with all of the studies (and have seen it happen in real life) stating that attractive people have it easier in life – they tend to succeed more naturally because their looks become an unfair (and hopefully subconscious) advantage. But, having things handed to you because you’re pretty is not the same as being taken seriously. Women can be pretty and smart. Beautiful and boss material. And those two traits shouldn’t influence each other. But when a room full of men deciding someone’s professional fate just smile and turn off their ears, it marginalizes their abilities, their brains, their accomplishments.
I know that the plight of attractive women is about as popular as the argument that young, white males are unfairly pressured to succeed. Poor, beautiful girls. Life is so easy and all you want is to prove yourself with brains in this world. I don’t expect everyone to get it, or care, but watching these coffee shop interviews unfold is just too interesting not to provide commentary.
The next interviewee is equally smiley. She’s using lots of hand gestures and gives no hesitation after the questions. This time, the men are leaned back in their leather chairs. Both with hands on their faces – stroking a goatee or resting their head on their hands – and legs crossed. They smile and talk less than in the previous interview but are taking notes this time while the woman answers their questions. It looks more like an interview and less like a date – and the woman looks less like a high school cheerleader (sorry for the stereotype in a post about how unfair female stereotypes are…).
There’s a third woman in the hot seat now and I’m so preoccupied with large-scale physical biases in society that I can’t watch anymore. Reflecting on my own professional journey, I realize I’ve benefited from unfair advantage. I’m pretty sure I’ve been hired, promoted, and mentored before because I reminded the male decision makers of their daughters. Since before I was a teenager, I learned to play to non-verbal communication and that my smile would work faster than my words (which is disheartening because I sure love words). It’s knowledge that I’ve been working to unlearn as I progress in the workforce and try to let my accomplishments and ambition speak for themselves. A smile should go a long way in this world, but it should go the same length no matter who’s face it’s on.