The Power of Looks : Social Stratification of Physical Appearance book cover
1st Edition

The Power of Looks
Social Stratification of Physical Appearance

ISBN 9780367603441
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
154 Pages

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Book Description

There is a saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, implying that beauty is subjective. But can it be said that 'better looking' people have more social power? This book provides a fascinating insight into the social stratification of people based on looks - the artificial placement of people into greater and lesser power strata based on physical appearance. The author analyzes different aspects of physical appearance such as faces, breasts, eye shapes, height and weight as they are related to social power and inequality. For example, tall people are often associated with power, with tall people being seen publicly as more capable and thus more deserving of power than shorter people. The author moreover assesses how people's physical appearance affects their chances of marriage, employment, education, and other social and economic opportunities. The book contributes to and differentiates itself from current literature by emphasizing sociological theory - including constructionism and critical theory - and research to understand the phenomenon of social aesthetics, a term coined by the author to refer to the social reaction to physical appearance.

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The Power of Looks

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Bonnie Berry is director of the Social Problems Research Group in Seattle, Washington and is engaged in research on a number of sociological topics including social inequality, social movements, animal rights, and terrorism. She is the recipient of the 2008 Herbert Bloch Award for distinguished service to the discipline of criminology and to the American Society of Criminology.


'Tackling an issue that is timely and controversial, Berry analyzes the way in which beauty and appearance affect all aspects of our lives from employment to romance, demonstrating that the very people who need procedures and products the most, the poor who suffer disproportionately from being unattractive, are the least likely to have access to them. A superb read.' Angela Hattery, Wake Forest University, USA 'This work makes a significant contribution to the sociological literature by examining the stigma, bias, and discrimination associated with social stratification and appearance. With its international scope and original review of theory and methods relevant to social aesthetics, it greatly expands our understanding of the social forces influencing power and inequality dynamics throughout society.' Denise Paquette Boots, University of Texas at Dallas, USA 'In the The Power of Looks, Bonnie Berry examines the unearned privileges enjoyed by people considered attractive by contemporary social standards. Her book is a very approachable, clear, and concise text that is suitable for both a non-academic audience and first-year university students in the disciplines of sociology, psychology, gender studies and cultural studies...[Berry] convincingly argues that the values placed on aspects of a person's appearance are arbitrary and rely on a reflection of the appearance of the people currently in power.' Culture and the Media '... The Power of Looks is a very interesting contribution to the sociology of the body and also to women’s studies, domains in which Berry is a central player. ... The Power of Looks brings an array of original con­cepts like ’appearance stratification’ which could even be adapted in other research related to the sociology of body and fashion (p. 119). ... this concise book could as well be of interest for graduates in gender studies, cultural studies, disability studies, and sociology.' Sociology