A recent article in the New York Times explores the scientific and anecdotal reality of the effects of beauty on getting hired and advancing in jobs. In what may come as no surprise, it seems that beautiful people with nice hair/teeth/eyes/hands/bodies/smiles/etc., get better jobs and promotions than the rest of us.
While it seems like a superficial consideration, I am intrigued by how this notion affects youth voice. Which young people consistently trend “above” the rest of their peers? Who do we give more chances and provide more supports for? It might be fast and easy to say, “I don’t do that,” but take a moment and mentally scan through the young people you work with or hang around. In my experience I have seen that the beautiful ones, with symmetrical faces or nice hair or whatever, are also the ones who often stand at the front of the crowd.
Who are these youth and how do they get there? Since they appear more self-confident, surely they’re just born to it, right? Probably not. If we accept the notion that the beautiful wheel gets oiled first, then it may be easy to see how these children and youth are nurtured towards the leadership roles that are so frequently associated with youth voice.
A quick exploration of your own practice may lead to some insights, and frankly, I can’t offer any quit solutions, because this isn’t a problem that can be solved by those. We have a society that is bound up in superficial markers that allow and encourage us to choose class presidents, gang leaders and camp counselors based on beauty. While I do believe that “you must be the change you wish to see in the world,” I am not willing to foist this on the shoulders of youth voice alone. But I do believe every person reading this can do something. So what are you going to do?