Beauty and The Engineer: A LinkedIn Fairy Tale

I read a rather interesting article the other day, you’ve probably read it too, or one similar. It’s about LinkedIn. There we go – I can see the spark of recognition right there in your eyes. You’re looking stunning today, by the way. You must be an engineer.

For those of you who have not yet read anything about this, I shall briefly explain before I begin the nonsensical ramblings that usually dictate my blog posts. LinkedIn have got themselves caught up in a bit of a situation with an engineering firm. Now, the firm in question posted a job advertisement and, presumably to make the whole thing look a bit more attractive to all of those engineers out there, they used a picture of one of their female engineers. A very beautiful female engineer. Don’t worry, she did have clothes on, this isn’t taking a turn for the pornographic or anything. I mean, I let my mother read these.

It was because she was very beautiful that the users of LinkedIn decided that she couldn’t possibly be an engineer. I mean, we know full well that ALL engineers are men, and they wear glasses. Don’t they?

So. LinkedIn actually take down the advertisement featuring the beautiful engineering lady, and now they’re being accused of sexism. I’m not necessarily sure I think that’s what they should be being accused of. Pandering, that’s one thing they could definitely be accused of. Social stereotyping, too. But sexism? If the users had decided that a man in an advertisement for a nurse’s job had too much facial hair to possibly be a nurse, would that have been classified as sexism and caused such a fuss? Probably not. In all honesty, it’s probable no one would have even said anything about the fact that they were using a male to represent the nursing industry. They may even have encouraged it.

This is my point, dear blog readers. We stereotype people socially all the time, and we all hold certain notions about the world and its people. One of my favourite responses so far has been from this article as it shows just what a state we’ve managed to get ourselves into. Society seems to say: “You’re a woman in the 21st Century, the world is yours – go grab it by… something.” (I need to remember my mother reads these, and she has all the delicate sensibilities of a porcelain teacup in an industrial carwash). We are desperately trying to get girls into science, into maths, to engage in traditionally masculine areas, and to excel in them. Take a look at this Guardian blog, which suggests that at some Universities in Britain there are twice the number of full time female undergraduates over male ones.

However, we have still not reconciled the idea that a clever woman in the 21st Century can also be a beautiful one. A large number of people still assume that when brains go up, beauty goes down, and this is irritating to many, many people – men included. We are judged on just about every aspect of our personal appearance, I am still asked which bar I work in when people are trying to find out what I do – and I figure that must have something to do with the fact that I’m 23, and I don’t exactly wear trouser suits on a daily basis. In other words, I’m a bit scruffy around the edges on occasion. How well the social world manages to stereotype us because of our jobs, but also decide what our jobs are based on what we look like. That, my friends, is an interesting concept. Well, it is to me anyway.

To sum up, then. LinkedIn shouldn’t be accused of sexism, because that wasn’t sexism – we all know that there are many female engineers in the world, some people just have trouble believing that they wear mascara while they work. However, they could be told off a bit for social stereotyping or some form of ‘beauty discrimination’. I don’t work in a bar. (Anymore).


About delightfulinconsistency

Anthropology Graduate with a head full of nonsense and comic books.
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