I picked up this week’s issue of Maclean’s magazine and was drawn in by an article on boy children called How to Fix Boys. There was one quote in there while interviewing Leonard Sax that really stuck out to me on how pretty girls end up being better off.
The fact is, the coed school does not reflect the real world. It’s a very peculiar environment where what really counts is who’s cute, who likes whom, and who’s wearing nice clothes. The focus is relentlessly on how you look and who likes you, which is very different than the real world. An interesting study conducted by two American researches looked at a cohort of girls, all from the same neighbourhood in Belfast who’d been randomly assigned to single-sex or coed schools. For those at coed schools, you only needed to ask one question to know a girl’s self-esteem: “Are you pretty?” If a girl was pretty, her self-esteem was very high, even she had terrible grades or was bad at sports. At a coed school, if you’re pretty, you’re royalty: everyone’s fascinated by you, it doesn’t matter if your flunking all your classes. The dark side of that is that if you walk down the hall and some boy says, “There goes the whale! Her face looks like a pizza,” it lowers your status in front of the other girls, even if you loathe and detest that boy. At coed schools it doesn’t matter if you’re a straight-A student or good at sports, only being pretty matters. At girl’s schools the researches found this was not the case. Self-esteem was a complex product of many factors: grades, getting along with parents, being good at sports, and yes being pretty, but that wasn’t even in the top three.
It’s disheartening to know that this is the case, its even more so that I see it even in my own life. If i see a clean cut good looking child (or adult) I naturally gravitate to be impressed more than a kid who’s a little rougher with crooked teeth. I’d expect more from the better looking kid and would probably get irritated faster at the uglier one. If two people came into theStory’s building, and one was better looking and better kept than the other, I probably would have a much easier time taking seriously and engaging with the better looking one. I’m a part of a culture that somehow good looks elevates people to the top. I hate this about myself.
Maybe this can be a reminder to be a little more intentional about not choosing/judging based on outward appearances, because we all default to that. Looks drive so much of what we value and appreciate in our culture. Beauty pagents, models, magazine covers, actors, Photoshop are all part of the equation of what drives are consciousness to be more inclined to the better looking individual. Hopefully we will be able to be more like our Saviour in seeing people’s hearts and not their outside appearance; something our culture tells us everyday is inaccurate and uncool.