Casey Kitchel


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Lottery vs. "The Lottery"

In Cameron's TED talk, she roughly equates being beautiful to "winning a genetic lottery".

Most times when I listen to this talk and I hear the word "lottery", I think of the Powerball and winning it is something good.

However, there are other times when I listen to this talk and I hear the word "lottery", and I think of "The Lottery", the short story by Shirley Jackson.

Are beautiful people (those that win the genetic lottery) as fortunate as we perceive them to be?

and perhaps I should add:

Are "successful" (success within a profession) people as fortunate as we perceive them to be?

Note: we don't chose our own appearance, and also, we alone don't chose our own "success" (success within a profession).
Ex: A fashion model does not chose their appearance, and the fashion industry, not the fashion model, chooses who they, the fashion and "beauty" industry, view as "beautiful" or good "modeling material".

IMO, if everything really is"okay", then why is a woman who is intelligent and pretty, honestly admitting that she feels vulnerable, when she should arguably be one of the more confident and secure people in society?

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    May 13 2013: Winnig a genetic lottery is one thing but how to encash it determines your success.

    The knowledge that you donot have one such lottery often makes you work hard to achieve your dreams.

    I think more important thing in life is to have motivation to work hard to achieve your dreams than any thing else.
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    May 3 2013: This topic brings out some insights that tempts me to place my own experiences and look out which, I am afraid, may be a little off topic.
    All my adult life, I had no appreciation for the 'made up' woman. I always liked them, earthy, strong and raw. It felt so outrageously uncommon in the female stereotype of 'beauty' that I had to keep my thoughts very private. I revolted every time my mother used to train my sister how to sit. And surprisingly my sister never revolted. Women are mentored by women how to be femininely beautiful. And men are mentored by men how to be masculinely beautiful.
    The genetic lottery that Cameron describes to have won is misjudged. Her ticket will not open any gate in a Masai society. Her feet may be construed as too large for traditional Chinese society and her contours may seem uninterestingly flat for Indian sense of beauty.
    But we have slowly created a standard of female/male beauty, thanks to Western media, over decades. Fine tuned, that yields thin, size zero female forms and hairless six-pack abs male forms as ideals. As a result people live with guilt as long as they cannot conform to the standard.
    People who defy this meme are dabbed weird.
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    May 4 2013: This is a more dynamic phenomena than most realize. Incurring "fortune" or "misfortune" through random acts of genetics (or anything else random, for that matter) is highly subjective and often carries unforeseen downfalls or advantages that do not reveal themselves until the subject meets with various circumstances.

    Imagine a "beautiful" individual who also happens to be an introvert (to borrow from another great talk on here: Such an individual will be inundated with unsolicited attention and admiration that he or she must contend with, whether it is wanted or not. If the individual becomes overstimulated - as introverts tend to do - from the influx of demands for his or her attention, he or she will face backlash for withdrawing and may be branded as "stuck up" or a "snob". If an individual possesses two or more traits that conflict with society's expectations of how someone with these traits should be, this person may face repercussions and be at a disadvantage. Beauty and intelligence are sometimes seen as mutually exclusive, and this can serve as a disadvantage as well.

    Conversely (to use a more common example), a person who does not possess conventional good looks will be forced to earn more for himself or herself without any of the so-called "perks" that sometimes come with being good looking. As unfair as this may seem, a person who cannot find success by capitalizing on the admiration of others is forced to be more creative and/or charismatic. Unlike physical beauty, character is not guaranteed to diminish with age, and a person who is successful by way of hard work and innovation will have more options and control over his or her fate as he/she ages.
  • May 14 2013: jealousy
  • Apr 30 2013: An interesting question. I've never really bought into the western world's version of "beauty." I was raised where I didn't watch much TV, I didn't see that many movies, and I've never watched porn in my life. So the skinny, symmetrical, painted face has never had much appeal for me since I wasn't trained to view it as attractive. Our version of a woman's beauty is a product of the beauty industry, nothing more. I'm marrying a woman who's a little plus size, and I couldn't care less. What I do care about is what society has done to her perceptions of herself even though she's a moderately healthy individual that's just built a bit more curvy than most. It's tragic. I think women who buy into fake beauty do more to hurt the cause of women than any man ever did. They're shooting themselves in the foot by constantly worrying about what others think of them, their weight, and paying for the latest whatever-it-is. I don't think there is a genetic lottery. Every woman ( and man) has their own beauty. Take the time to really look into their face and you'll find it.
    • May 2 2013: Hi Scot,
      it's true - they say 'men look at women, and women look at women'. I consider myself a pretty unconventional female. I've never gone on a diet or jumped through hoops to look other than how I naturally look. I am more uncomfortable in the midst of a group of scrutinizing women than a group of men. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement, " I think women who buy into fake beauty do more to hurt the cause of women than any man ever did".

      It's saddening to hear about women (and especially young women, or even young girls) who do succumb to society's ideal... which we all know on some level to be temporary!
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        May 3 2013: "It's saddening to hear about women (and especially young women, or even young girls) who do succumb to society's ideal..."

        That's where that "statistic" about girls between the ages of 13 and 17 who don't like their bodies really hits the worst! (I'm uncomfortable using the word statistic here because I feel like I am referring to people as if they are numbers)
        • May 3 2013: I know what you mean, Casey - but using statistics is pretty much the only method we have to learn about ourselves.
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        May 3 2013: " I think women who buy into fake beauty do more to hurt the cause of women than any man ever did".

        Do you think this effects gender equality at all?
        • May 3 2013: Yes, I really do!
          I believe men are not as scrutinizing when it comes to a woman's appearance, than a woman is.

          By maintaining an unrealistic, artificial and superficial appearance, women themselves are maintaining the idea that how they naturally look, isn't good enough. It keeps fashion magazines in circulation, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries in business, plastic surgeons off the streets and inspires people to invent even more unnecessary tel-sell products...!

          Most importantly of all, by striving for the ideal outward appearance that is determined by society (read: commercialism), women themselves are keeping those stereotypical stigmas intact, like 'It hurts to be beautiful' (as opposed to, if it hurts to be beautiful, you're doing something wrong) and 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder' (as opposed to acknowledging your own natural beauty) and, 'Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybeline'... no comment.
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        May 14 2013: And would you also say this effects confidence and self esteem for women?

        I'm thinking of the example: men have trouble with finding motivation, whereas women have trouble with confidence. With the way the majority of daughters are raised and the way media tells them how if they don't look like "this" then they aren't good enough, then it should seem fairly obvious what some of the major contributing factors to women's and girl's lack of confidence are.
        • May 15 2013: Casey, I thought of this conversation when I heard this on the news:

          "CEO, Mike Jeffries, 'doesn't want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people'".
          This guy is turning into the Hitler of the fashion industry! Appalling!!!

          Although men often have the power when it comes to how a brand is represented, it is the social aspect among women that plays such a big role in this. The pressure within a group of females to look 'as good' or be 'as pretty' is incredible, especially when women are young and vulnerable.
          I would argue, for men, it is often just as bad. More muscles, a better '6-pack', a good head of hair, ... don't these things play as much a role in acceptance for men, as for women?
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        May 15 2013: "CEO, Mike Jeffries, 'doesn't want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people'". Woah. That's disturbing. Really disturbing.

        "I would argue, for men, it is often just as bad. More muscles, a better '6-pack', a good head of hair, ... don't these things play as much a role in acceptance for men, as for women?"

        I don't know if "more muscles, a better '6-pack', a good head of hair play, and those kinds of things" play as big of a role in having "acceptance" by other guys. Certainly it does within certain social groups of men, and the same can be said for women, that there are groups where women will only be friends with other women if they look a certain way.
        I agree that men face the same kinds of "pressures" as women do to look a certain way. It certainly seems to effect how men think women view men? And what about gays and lesbians? But, I think there is a key difference between men and women and how they view themselves and others. I think men aren't as scrutinizing about themselves and other guys as women can be of themselves and of each other when its about appearance. But when it comes down to how men and women view members of the opposite gender, I think both sides can be awful.
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  • Apr 24 2013: Wow, Casey,
    I have so much to say on this topic, I started three different comments and erased them all.
    I am going to sleep in this and get back to you!
    Thank you for starting this topic!
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      • Apr 29 2013: Thank you ZX Style!!

        Did anyone see the "Real Beauty Sketches" experiment by Dove?
        A forensic illustrator drew a portrait based on someone's own description of him/herself, and then another based on a description of the same person by someone else. The differences are painfully clear and definitely makes one question, is beauty indeed only in the eye of the beholder?

        I have known beautiful men and women in my life, who were anything but pleased with how they looked. One girl I went to school with never had a date for a single dance, even though she was just stunningly beautiful and everyone thought so. Because of her 'legacy', the boys assumed she already had a date, so no one bothered to ask her. She was admired and lonely.

        I really admired Cameron for her candid, honest talk. A lot of what she said, I had figured to be true. Someone like her, who 'won the genetic lottery', really tend to have only one option - utilize their looks to earn a living. Seems a sort of sad thing to me. She said, to people why say they want to become models, "Why?! You can be anything!"

        Society sends the message that being 'beautiful' (read: symmetrical) will automatically lead to being 'successful' (also according to society, not to the individual) through the media and sadly, we all believe it to be true.
  • Apr 24 2013: Casey,

    Great post. I don't think anybody is "gifted" because they look good. That disappears around a certain age anyways. All you are left you. So I think the "gifted" people are the ones who realize how capable they are with or without a "pretty face".

    Intelligent people with passion succeed...period. I have the face of a caveman. That will not hold me back. I could care less how pretty the next guy is. I will succeed because I want it and will make it happen.

    Henry J. Woeltjen
    B.S. Criminal Justice Administration
    MBA Student
    Blogger/Business Management Consultant
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    Apr 24 2013: I don't think beautiful people are as fortunate as we perceive them to be. Physical features like shape and look do not offer a person real beauty unless the person earns intelligence, character and well defined values of the society. I know some extremely good looking people suffered because at times good looks (particularly for women) can be a disadvantage also.

    Do you know that certain professional examinations have two rounds, like prelims and finals? If one won a genetic lottery, it can be of help to get past the prelims. There still remain the finals.
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    Apr 24 2013: The old line "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" comes to mind.
    By beautiful I assume you mean what we see in ads because that seems to be a social standard for "what beauty is".
    Genetically I think it depends on where you've come from. The odds of having certain features is kind of hit of miss when it comes to humans. A mans eye color or nose shape isn't guaranteed to show up in it's offspring.
    Unlike breeding animals where people have selected only certain features and exploited them, people don't. In that sense, yes genetic features are like a lottery though what the odds are is anyone's guess.
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    May 23 2013: Real beauty is very close to vulnerability - when we appreciate beauty we open up our hearts and minds. It is creative.
    And in existence nothing is created without it´s opposite, it seems.
    The ugliness, the strength, the urge to attack and destroy.
    When you grow older you might accept this play of opposites and feel more happy, just letting it happen.
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    May 13 2013: I was just looking at that wikipedia article because I saw the movie The Hunger Games and it reminded me of Jackson's story.

    I've had the privilege of knowing very well a women who had dramatic weight loss surgery, and became more classically beautiful according to our society. I think such people are in a rare position to truly see both sides of this issue from having lived both sides. Men pay more attention to her now, they will hold the door open for her now, and people generally treat her better.

    A curse of a beautiful (model) woman I know, is that she feels the attention she gets is hard to trust, that people do not see the real her, and that she comes to rely on the attention she gets as a measure of self worth. If the attention wanes on a bad day, that is why she would not feel confident and secure.

    You ask if beautiful or successful people are as fortunate as we perceive them to be.

    Here is a recent study showing beautiful people are happier than plainer looking people, essentially because they are able to earn more money: And you have another study showing that lottery winners are happier: I am sure you can find studies showing no difference too.
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        May 14 2013: I hear you about lottery winners wasting their money. The "lottery curse" strikes many a lottery winner. The problem there, I think, has to do with the sudden change in fortunes.

        I think winning the lottery is different from someone born beautiful, although you could argue going from the awkward teen phase to beautiful can happen pretty quickly.

        I find fascinating the study comparing the happiness of lottery winners and accident victims: Much of our happiness, I think , is due to comparing our present situation to something else: other people, or our past selves
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      May 2 2013: I think everyone at some point in their life is a victim of being judged by how they look. But, I think the people that are considered least good looking, and those that are considered to look the best, get the most attention.

      Who has loot?
      • May 3 2013: The loot is opportunity, money, success... All the things that Cameron was not completely honest about when asked directly.

        A better question is indeed, were the ugly victims?
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          May 22 2013: Where the loot resides...

          After doing some research, it appears that a majority of the major European "beauty" industry brands are run by OLD WHITE MEN. Needless to say, its no wonder the demographics within the industry are so lopsided and disproportionate. Change isn't likely if THAT trend stays the same.
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      May 14 2013: Why do we call some people "ugly"? Isn't that really harsh and unfair?
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      May 14 2013: Yes. The "ugly" are most definitely victims too.
  • Apr 26 2013: Just ask the question would I be better off if I had much better looking features. Clearly most people would say yes. I would be interested in hearing the nay sayers opinion.
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      Apr 27 2013: Brian,

      Hearing the "nay sayers" opinions would be interesting. However, I think it would be just as interesting to understand WHY most people say "yes" to the question. Assuming that most of the people who answer "yes" don't know from experience what it is like to be a person with "good looking" features, then HOW is it they are arriving at such a conclusion, maybe even assumption, and from what basis of knowledge do they get it from?
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      Apr 28 2013: Perhaps more importantly would be to understand why so many people think they aren't "good looking".

      And interestingly, some people that are "pretty", don't consider themselves to be "good looking" enough.
      • Apr 29 2013: I think everyone does the comparison game. I may be beating some in looks but feel envious of other people's features. Would you agree that people constantly judge one another?
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          Apr 30 2013: I would agree that people constantly judge one another.

          Do you think it does anyone any good?

          Making judgments of ourselves and others doesn't change the way we look. But, it does change how we think and feel, and depending on which end we're on can make us feel "better" or "worse". Again, I would come back to the purpose of it all. It seems to me that a "better or worse mentality" does more harm than it does good.
      • Apr 30 2013: Probably not. Maybe this is why the Amish and other religious sects make an effort to keep everyone's attire as plain and not revealing as possible.
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    Apr 25 2013: Unless I am severely mistaken, it seems to me there is a connection between women that are "beautiful" (in the broadest sense) that have success in their professional life, and women that are "beautiful" (in the broadest sense) that have problems in their personal life.
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    Apr 24 2013: Specificity in communication the issue here. Definition of terms is necessary when words are imprecise. In this case we have a nearly meaningless word. . . "beautiful". The word has been used to describe everything from physical attractiveness to devastating victories in battle. There are 7-billion beholders on Earth who use their eyes to determine what is beautiful. Even though her fame and fortune is entirely the result of her physical appearance, or beauty, Ms. Russell speaks of a different beauty. We need more than one word to make sense of it all. Are you using the word beauty to indicate physical appearance as defined within a society?