4 Search results

For the term "rhode beauty bias".
10

BRIGHT IDEAS: Deborah Rhode’s The Beauty Bias

Oxford University Press has just published Professor Deborah L. Rhode’s newest book, The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law. I got my copy from Amazon on Friday and enjoyed every moment reading it over the weekend.  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.   Professor Deborah Rhode is the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.   She is the one of the country’s leading scholars in legal ethics and gender.  Professor Rhode is incredibly prolific: she has written over 20 books and countless articles.  She is the director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession and a columnist for the National Law Journal.  Before joining the Stanford Law faculty, she was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Lucky for CoOp readers, I had a chance to interview Professor Rhode about The Beauty Bias.  I reproduce our conversation below:

DC:  What prompted you to write this book?

DR:  It partly started with shoes.  I have always viewed women’s footwear design as a haven for closet misogynists;  so much of what they produce is so dysfunctional for its primary purpose—comfortable walking.  Yet in many contexts, including my years as Chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, I was struck by how often some of the nation’s most prominent,  powerful, and otherwise sensible women were hobbling about  in what we described in high school as “killer shoes.”  They were stranded in cab lines and late for meetings — held back both literally and figuratively — because of shoes.  And inconvenience is the least of the problems. High heels are a major contributor to serious back and foot problems, and four-fifths of women eventually experience such difficulties. A growing percentage are even willing to undergo foot surgery to fit into their designer footwear. I was sufficiently irritated to write an op for the New York Times and it triggered more of a response than probably anything I’ve ever published.

That experience underscored a question  I had long puzzled over.   Of all the inequities that the contemporary women’s movement has targeted, why have those related to appearance shown among the least improvement?  Half of American women report unhappiness with how they look, a figure greater than a quarter century ago. In a country where large percentages of the population can’t afford basic health care, cosmetic surgery is the fastest growing specialty. Our global investment in appearance is over  200 billion, and millions of individuals, particularly women, are paying a huge cost not just in money but in time,  physical health, and psychological well-being.  Discrimination based on appearance, especially weight, is among the most common forms of bias; it is much more frequent and equally arbitrary as many forms of discrimination that are now unlawful. But except in a few jurisdictions, bias based on appearance  is perfectly legal.

DC:  How does this fit into your broader scholarship?

DR:  As a legal academic with a particular interest in  gender equality,  I wanted a better understanding of where our preoccupation with appearance comes from, what costs it imposes, and what could we do about it from a policy perspective.  I’ve always been interested in the gap between our aspirations and achievements  involving social justice in general and women’s rights in particular.  Appearance raises those issues and provides a window on questions involving the law’s capacities and constraints in producing social change. Appearance discrimination has also attracted relatively little public or scholarly attention, and part of the problem  is that so few individuals realize that we have a serious problem.  This project offered the chance to provide the first comprehensive overview of the law in this area, and new  research on the experience  of  the few jurisdictions that explicitly prohibit some form of appearance discrimination.  And because I’m always interested in connecting research to practice,  I tried to write in a way that will be interesting and accessible to a broad public and policy audience.

DC:  Are you hopeful that we might combat this bias?

DR:  I’m optimistic about reform but not naive about what stands in the way. The importance of attractiveness is deeply rooted, and the economic stakes in its pursuit are enormous.  But the costs of  our preoccupation with appearance are also considerable and could be much more fully appreciated.   Many individuals realize that it hurts to be beautiful, but few  realize how much and how many billions are squandered in worthless or unhealthful cosmetic and weight reduction efforts. And even fewer of us realize how much it hurts not to be beautiful, or to conform to culturally prescribed norms that are much more demanding for women than men, and that compound disadvantages based on race, class and ethnicity.  Most Americans have bumped up against some aspect of the problem and might be energized to do something if they came to see this as not just an individual problem but a social injustice and cultural challenge. Read More

Industrial Policy for Big Data

If you are childless, shop for clothing online, spend a lot on cable TV, and drive a minivan, data brokers are probably going to assume you’re heavier than average. We know that drug companies may use that data to recruit research subjects.  Marketers could utilize the data to target ads for diet aids, or for types of food that research reveals to be particularly favored by people who are childless, shop for clothing online, spend a lot on cable TV, and drive a minivan.

We may also reasonably assume that the data can be put to darker purposes: for example, to offer credit on worse terms to the obese (stereotype-driven assessment of looks and abilities reigns from Silicon Valley to experimental labs).  And perhaps some day it will be put to higher purposes: for example, identifying “obesity clusters” that might be linked to overexposure to some contaminant

To summarize: let’s roughly rank these biosurveillance goals as: 

1) Curing illness or precursors to illness (identifying the obesity cluster; clinical trial recruitment)

2) Helping match those offering products to those wanting them (food marketing)

3) Promoting the classification and de facto punishment of certain groups (identifying a certain class as worse credit risks)

Read More

0

New Titles from Oxford University Press

OUPHere are some new titles from Oxford University Press.  If you’re interested in reviewing a book, please let me know and tell me a bit about your background.  If I select you as a reviewer for the book, Oxford University Press will send you a free review copy.

 

Stephanos Bibas The Machinery of Criminal Justice

 

William Patry How to Fix Copyright

 

Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic

 

Deborah L. Rhode The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law

 

Rainer Grote and Tilmann Roder Constitutionalism in Islamic Countries: Between Upheaval and Continuity

 

Jennifer Nedelsky Law’s Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy, and Law

 

Professor Brad R. Roth Sovereign Equality and Moral Disagreement

 

Ruti G. Teitel Humanity’s Law

 

Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Dina Francesca Haynes, and Naomi Cahn On the Frontlines: Gender, War, and the Post-Conflict Process
Camilla E. Watson Federal Income Taxation: Model Problems and Outstanding Answers

 

Stephen Pevar The Rights of Indians and Tribes, 4th ed.

 

Julian Ku and John Yoo Taming Globalization: International Law, the U.S. Constitution, and the New World Order

 

Michael J. Gerhardt The Power of Precedent

 

Tai-Heng Cheng When International Law Works: Realistic Idealism After 9/11 and the Global Recession

 

Disparate Impact and the Tanning Tax

I have previously blogged in favor of a vanity tax, so I was happy to see the health reform legislation included a 10% tax on tanning salons. But not everyone is so pleased to see it:

When an article about the fallout from the tax — which took effect last week — appeared on the Washington Post’s Web site Wednesday, dozens of commenters questioned the tax’s legality. The case can seem deceptively simple: Since patrons of tanning salons are almost exclusively white, the tax will be almost entirely paid by white people and, therefore, violates their constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

Randall Kennedy dismisses that claim out of hand. But I hope the angry tanners join me in endorsing a plan to address the grave injustice here: legal scrutiny of face-whitening creams. Tax tanning, tax lightening, and we may well move closer to a society that can transcend the fickle “beauty bias.”