Generally possessing greater status and power, men are less likely to have to use their physical attractiveness as a commodity or “bargaining tool” (Lindsey, 1997: 168) for success. For women, the perceived status of potential partners appears to be more important than physical appearance (Sweeny and Cancian, 2004; England, 2004). Townsend and Levy (1990) showed women pictures of men dressed in either a Burger King uniform and baseball cap or a shirt, tie, blazer, and Rolex watch. Some women viewed Tom and Harry clad in the Burger King regalia and Jim and Dan nattily attired, while others saw Tom and Harry nattily attired and Jim and Dan in Burger King finery. When the men’s status was thus made graphically obvious, women’s preferences were clear: they were unwilling to date, have sex with, or marry any of the men dressed as Burger King employees; however, they were willing to consider all of the men whose attire connoted income and success. In a second study, Townsend (1990) showed respondents pictures of men and women who ranged in attractiveness from “great-looking” to below-average, and who were represented as training for either low-, medium-, or high-paying professions (waiter, teacher, doctor). When respondents were asked which of the individuals they might like to have a cup of coffee with, date, have sex with, or marry, women’s first choice was the best-looking man with the most money. However, “below him, average-looking or even unattractive doctors received the same ratings as very attractive teachers. Status compensated for looks. This was not true when men evaluated women. Unattractive women were not preferred, no matter what their status” (Etcoff, 1997:79; see also Townsend, 1998, 1999).
- Adie Nelson, Genders in Canada