Why Do We Like Her (and Not Her)?!

Why are some fa­mous women uni­ver­sally adored while oth­ers get the mean-girl treat­ment? And how im­por­tant is it for women to be liked any­way? Emma Rosenblum in­ves­ti­gates.

Cosmopolitan (India) - - YOU, YOU, YOU -

Re­cently, a friend men­tioned she’d fi­nally watched Les Misérables. “Anne Hath­away was ac­tu­ally pretty good,” she said. Ac­tu­ally? Hath­away won an Os­car for her per­for­mance, I pointed out. “I re­mem­ber... ‘It came true!’” my friend replied with a dra­matic heart-clutch­ing mo­tion, re­fer­ring to Hath­away’s much-mocked ac­cep­tance speech. “I don’t want to hate her. It’s just so hard not to.”

Much has been writ­ten about the back­lash against Anne Hath­away, who is, by all ac­counts, gen­uine and tal­ented. An es­say in The New Yorker, In De­fense of the Happy Girl, the­o­rised: “She’s pol­ished, suc­cess­ful, and driven, and peo­ple still find this dis­taste­ful in a woman.” In other words, she’s not like­able, an amor­phous trait that Tim San­ders, author of The Like­abil­ity Fac­tor: How To Boost Your L Fac­tor, de­fines as “one’s abil­ity to con­sis­tently pro­duce pos­i­tive emo­tions in peo­ple”. San­ders points four at­tributes highly like­able peo­ple have in com­mon: friend­li­ness, rel­e­vance (“they con­nect with us”), em­pa­thy, and re­al­ness. The re­al­ness fac­tor es­pe­cially mat­ters in terms of which celebs we love or are put off by. Take this year’s other big Os­car win­ner, Jennifer Lawrence, whose can­did in­ter­view style makes it feel like she’s gab­bing with you over drinks. She jokes about her cheese­burger crav­ings and wear­ing Spanx. Vul­ture.com named her its Celebrity BFF of the Year. Same goes for self-dep­re­cat­ing charm­ers Emma Stone and Sonam Kapoor (who has been out­spo­ken about weight and con­fi­dence is­sues). Says San­ders: “Celebri­ties with high L [like­abil­ity] fac­tors all share one qual­ity—we feel like we could ask them over and en­gage them in con­ver­sa­tion.”

In her book Lean In, Face­book COO Sh­eryl Sand­berg cites re­search that found that for men, ca­reer suc­cess and like­abil­ity go hand and hand, but for women, be­ing suc­cess­ful de­creases our like­abil­ity. So what’s a girl to do? As kids, we’re taught not to seek praise for fear of seem­ing an­noy­ing. And it’s this striv­ing qual­ity that ap­pears to be Anne Hath­away’s Achilles’ heel. As women seek­ing re­spect and suc­cess, maybe we should lay off Anne, who’s just do­ing the same. In­stead, let’s take a cue from El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, whose many scan­dals made her some­times like­able, some­times not. Yet she re­mained beloved for one rea­son: “I, along with the crit­ics, have never taken my­self very se­ri­ously,” she fa­mously said. Sounds pretty like­able to me.

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