My friend, a postgraduate student who studied human resources at a prestigious university, recently told me the tragic story of 'E', a classmate of hers.
This woman never had a boyfriend and, according to my friend, no men ever showed any interest in dating her simply because she was not goodlooking. Boys in her class secretly made fun of her behind her back. She studied under a professor together with a beautiful woman. Each time they showed up together, the extraordinary contrast between them just made "E" the focus of malicious remarks.
Now she is discovering a whole new kind of trouble. A German company rejected her application for a summer internship, where my friend also happens to work as an intern. My friend is convinced "E" failed due to her looks. A female specialist actually thought "E" was well suited for the job but the male manager declined her immediately after the job interview.
She already had so much difficulty at school, now it seems like that's going to carry over to the professional world, said my friend, full of sympathy.
The story of "E" reminded me of a job interview in which I worked as recruiter together with two other female colleagues and the male department manager.
A woman who spoke excellent French and English impressed us a lot, but the manager insisted he couldn't accept her because "she looks like a fat aunt".
I tried to argue with this superficial and judgmental man, "you are looking for a sales person, not a girlfriend. This woman fulfills all the qualities needed for this job."
"No, she would scare away my clients," he said.
We didn't recruit this girl since the man had the final say.
Later I realized he was not the only man acts this way. A research and development manager once told me a candidate's appearance accounts for 50 percent in his decision about whether or not to recruit a woman. He also said he doesn't care what a male job candidate looks like.
"If I can't even get used to her looks in an interview, how will I be able work with her later? Don't forget I'll face her every day if she works for me," he boldly said.
I couldn't help but wonder exactly how much trouble physically unattractive women must go through in life and how much of the blame for their difficulties lies with males in positions of authority above them.
No wonder plastic surgery is booming in China. A top surgeon has reportedly said that students come to him in groups after the college entrance examination. I am not surprised, since our whole society seems to worship physical appearance these days.
And there seems to be many good reasons to try and become as beautiful as possible: a fabulous relationship, an awesome job and maybe a better life.
But such surgery may come at more than just a monetary price. A photographer shot photos of a patient who just finished cheek augmentation surgery and told me that the woman looked horrible.
Her whole face swelled like a pile of lifeless flesh, said the photographer.
For a while I wondered if physically unattractive women get any breaks at all. I thought I had eventually found some who do. A friend who works in the information technology industry told me his human resources manager was a "hideous old woman" and that she never recruited any women better looking than her.
But it seems these women may soon face the same troubles as "E". My friend told me a couple of days ago that his company fired the human resources manager because the company's new general manager, a man in his 30s, said he was angry to find the company's receptionist "too horrible to look at".
As long as this world is dominated by men this kind of abhorrent situation will not improve.