Square-Faced Man Allegedly Denied Employment: Appearance-Based Discrimination in China
It’s universally discouraging to face repeated rejections from potential employers, especially when securing a job is critical for survival.
The sting of rejection is sharp when we’re told we’re “simply” not the right fit, tempting us to believe that we’re “not good enough” for certain roles.
Consider this scenario:
You’re turned down by an employer because your face is “too square”, and because of this, you’re unable to support your family and elderly parents as the sole provider.
This is the reality for a man from Henan province in China.
“Your Face Can’t Make It, I Don’t Want You”
Prior to November, Mr Zhang journeyed over 900km from Zhumadian in Henan Province to Jiashan County in Zhejiang, fueled by hope and desperation to find a factory job that paid well enough to support his entire family, including his aged parents, as the family’s sole breadwinner.
Despite applying to over ten electronics factories, he faced a string of rejections.
And the reason? His face was deemed too square.
According to Mr Zhang, the interviewers were harsh, telling him outright, “Your face can’t make it, I don’t want you.”
Imagine enduring this rejection not just once, but repeatedly, from over ten different factories.
The experience is undoubtedly demoralising.
In the past, Mr Zhang was mockingly called “Brother Monkey” or “Square Face.” Although a square face is often considered masculine and attractive in China, some took the opportunity to belittle him.
In an interview with The Beijing News, a frustrated Mr Zhang stated, “No matter how ugly I am, I am hardworking and capable. Why won’t they let me work?”
His anguish over these discriminatory acts is palpable.
Netizens React with Indignation; Some Otherwise
After the video interview was released, some netizens expressed sympathy for Mr Zhang’s situation, noting that his face wasn’t as square as some famous celebrities like Yang Mi.
“Still okay, it doesn’t seem as square as Da Mi Mi (Yang Mi) or San Meng (an influencer).”
Others stressed that employment should not be contingent on one’s appearance. One contour plastic surgeon commented, expressing hope that beauty seekers who undergo surgery to refine their facial features can ultimately return to a normal, peaceful life without such pressures.
Conversely, many speculated that there might be undisclosed details, given the ongoing labour shortages in Chinese factories since 2012.
Some suggested that perhaps Mr Zhang was concealing the true reason for his rejections, which might have been due to his qualifications rather than his looks.
“It must be something other than his appearance because factories are desperate for workers. If someone has even minimal skills, they’re in demand. How could his looks be a factor?”
“He’s probably not skilled enough and is using his appearance as an excuse.”
Too Poor For Breakfast
Regardless of the true nature of Mr Zhang’s interviews, it is clear that he has exerted significant effort in his job search.
Currently, he finds himself in such dire straits that affording breakfast is a struggle, let alone providing for his family.
With encouragement from reporters, Mr Zhang managed to buy a few small buns for breakfast.
He resolved to continue his job search, and the journalists pledged to assist him in finding potential job opportunities.