Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Physical-appearance-based bias, Beauty, Personal-Psychological aspects, Oppression (Psychology), Social conflict, Social service, Interdisciplinary research, Attractiveness, Beauty, Privilege, Oppression, Intersectionality, Conflict theory, Social work, Theoretical


In this theoretical investigation, I explore level of physical attractiveness as a characteristic that privileges people who are more attractive and oppresses those who are less attractive. I discuss the concept of privilege, societal standards of physical attractiveness, and the ways in which people who are more physically attractive are treated and perceived more positively by others. To examine this phenomenon more deeply, I introduce the theoretical perspectives of intersectionality and conflict theory. Intersectionality refers to the idea that different areas of privilege and oppression interact with each other in ways that create unique experiences of privilege and oppression for each individual. I use the theory of intersectionality to explain how attractiveness privilege overlaps with privilege or oppression in the areas of gender, race, social class, age, and disability status. Conflict theory, on the other hand, is the idea that inequality continues to exist because people who benefit from inequality have the power to create systems that perpetuate inequality. I use conflict theory to propose that inequality based on physical attractiveness exists because people involved in corporations within the beauty industry benefit economically from the existence of attractiveness privilege and reinforce this type of privilege through advertising. Finally, I discuss the implications of my findings about attractiveness privilege for social work practice, policy, and research.




iii, 81 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 67-81)

Limited Access until August 2019