Wednesday 7 May 2014

Hot Topic: Lookism When Searching for a Job

Discrimination in TEFL is very common. I've previously written about racism and discussed ageism (how being too old or too young can work against you), name discrimination, sexual orientation, and sexism. Your appearance can also work for or against you. It's no secret that good looking people are more likely to get jobs than unattractive people. Research has actually shown that better looking people are more successful in life.

Lookism recently played a part in the missing Malaysian plane."Malaysia's Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi criticised the border officials late on Sunday for failing to notice that the two passengers who used stolen passports of an Austrian and Italian actually looked like Asians, Straits Times reported. 'I am still perturbed. Can't these immigration officials think? Italian and Austrian but with Asian faces,' he was quoted by state news agency Bernama as saying."

I am perturbed at his statement. There are many explanations for why a person with Asian features may have an Italian or Austrian passport. What about: adoption, marriage, one parent being Asian, or naturalisation? If a Home Minister uses lookism, don't be surprised if your boss does as well.

In Asia, your looks are very important to the point that Asians get plastic surgery and Photoshop their photos on their CV in order to get jobs. Unfair or not, you should realise what you're up against. If you are too heavy or not that attractive you may be passed over for jobs.

Is this ok?
TEFL teachers have difficulty accepting this, as they should. I've known heavy teachers who have not gotten their contracts renewed because their bosses were "too concerned about their health".

The Aryan Race?
Colour is another sticky issue as well. Some places prefer white, blond haired, blue eyed teachers. Although most of the world has accepted that the whole Arayan race thing was a nightmare to say the least, some employers seem to think that all native English speakers look like that.

I've seen non-native speakers who speak English poorly get jobs over native speakers. This is because the non-native speakers were white, blond haired, blue eyed people and the native speakers were not. Race comes in to play as well. If you're black or Asian, you may have a harder time getting a job. This is more likely to happen in Asia than elsewhere.

What does it mean?
It's not fair, it really isn't and it's going to take a while to change. Sure, you may get turned down because of your looks. But think about it. Would you really like to work for an employer like that anyways? Keep sending out your CV and interviewing and you'll get a better job than the one that turned you away because of your looks.


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