Feature

Issue of the week: Is allure a working woman’s best asset?

A new book by a London School of Economics research fellow says that women should not be afraid to use their looks and feminine charm to get ahead in the working world.

It’s not every day you hear a self-described feminist telling women to use their sex appeal to get ahead at work, said Jessica Bennett in TheDailyBeast​.com. But that’s the provocative thesis of Erotic Capital, a new book by London School of Economics research fellow Catherine Hakim. (The book was published in the U.K. with the title Honey Money.) Women, Hakim says, have had it drilled into their heads by feminism that they must repress their feminine charms for fear of looking like the office bimbo. But a woman’s “erotic capital,” as Hakim calls it, is a potent asset—just as important as intelligence or professional skills. A little charisma, good dress sense, dieting, and even plastic surgery are simply “necessary evils” women can use to help them reach the corner office.

“I’m sorry. Did I fall asleep and wake up in the 1950s?” said Elizabeth Day in the London Observer. If Hakim had her way, I’d spend my day thinking about slimming my muffin top and spray tanning rather than focusing on all that “education or career nonsense” our mothers and grandmothers fought so hard for. Hakim’s premise—that good looks can help one succeed—“is unlikely to come as a surprise to almost anyone with a pulse.” But her “cavalier pronouncements” that imply that a woman’s style trumps her substance are downright offensive.

Don’t miss her point, said Bryony Gordon in the London Telegraph. Hakim is “absolutely right” about a beauty premium, and what she’s really saying is that “you can be strong and independent and clever, and you can wear a nice frock and high heels while you do this.” Frenchwomen know how to put their best foot forward and not feel conflicted, but American and British women ridiculously refuse to embrace their feminine appeal for fear “it is a betrayal of the sisterhood.” I’m no catwalk model. But “what I’ve got I will flaunt, and I am damned if anybody is going to make me feel bad about it.”

Spare me, said Jenni Russell in the London Times. Do everyone a favor and take a pass on Erotic Capital. Good-looking people get ahead? Men want sex more than women do? “If this is what counts as intellectual discovery” at the LSE, “I fear for the future both of universities and of serious books.”

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