Saturday, May 3, 2008

"Don't hire the pretty ones"

Last week, my coworkers were lamenting a string of attractive young women that have held one of the positions at my company (it's a round-the-clock position, so there may be up to three people at one time in this job, one for each shift). The advice they wish the hiring manager would take was to find the ugliest woman possible for this job, that pretty women just caused trouble.

Now, it's true that there have been significant personnel issues that have involved most of the attractive young women who have held this position, but never the middle-aged woman who works on first shift. Everything from job duties being neglected while men find every excuse to go hang out where these women work, to outright fistfights. And I can see where the most expedient policy would be to remove attractive females from the shop floor.

But I got impression that my coworkers believed the women were the problem. It's not the women neglecting their job duties (they can paint protective coatings on while holding a conversation just fine). The supervisor should have been disciplining his employees for neglecting job duties, not joining them in fawning over these women. And to whatever extent these women enjoyed the male attention and encouraged it: attractiveness is a poor measure of the personality characteristics that lead to that behavior. Viewing attractive women as a problem in and of themselves (rather than as an unwilling part of a problem situation) is such an anti-feminist position I wish I had tried to modify this belief my coworkers apparently hold.

But it took me several days to reason out why their conversation bothered me so much; I felt it was wrong at the time, but on the spot could not articulate any objections. And even if I had been quicker to think, I'm not sure I would have had the courage to challenge my boss and two employees with decades of seniority over me. All I can do, I suppose, is store up my arguments for the next time, if it comes.

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