Should The Ugly Have Special Legal Protections?

Numerous studies have shown that there are disadvantages to being ugly, including being more likely to earn less, attract a less-wealthy mate, and have eggs thrown at you on Bachelor Pad. Now an economics professor from the University of Texas is arguing that the unattractive face such huge disadvantages that they should be a protected class, like racial minorities or disabled people.

Daniel S. Hamermesh makes this provocative claim in a New York Times op-ed, which was conveniently timed to coincide with the release of his book Beauty Pays. Hamermesh says he's been studying the "disadvantages of ugliness" for 20 years, and has proven that ugly people are discriminated against. He explains:

Most of us, regardless of our professed attitudes, prefer as customers to buy from better-looking salespeople, as jurors to listen to better-looking attorneys, as voters to be led by better-looking politicians, as students to learn from better-looking professors. This is not a matter of evil employers' refusing to hire the ugly: in our roles as workers, customers and potential lovers we are all responsible for these effects.

We were wondering why politicians and professors are all so attractive! Hamermesh suggests that we should be helping frumpy, plain-looking people push out all the nubile 20-somethings in these professions and others by extending the Americans With Disabilities Act and possibly creating affirmative-action programs for the ugly.

You may think this is impossible because it would necessitate legally classifying someone as unattractive, but Hamermesh says one actually can be certifiably ugly. Supposedly, while we may disagree on who the most beautiful person in a room is, we can all easily agree on what class of attractiveness someone is in. (Yet somehow people manage to argue for hours over whether a that guy their friend hooked up with is hot or not.) Right now few of us would want to be labeled "ugly," but people will readily admit that they ain't got no alibi for their looks once they're offered the opportunity to make "extra pay and promotions amounting to $230,000 in lost lifetime earnings."

Despite what Hamermesh says, beauty is subjective. While occasionally scientists may announce that they've determined the scientific formula for facial attractiveness (with Brad Pitt's face ranking #1) we all fall somewhere on the less-than-perfectly-beautiful spectrum (and even Brad endangered his top spot with that billy goat beard). Where someone fits on that scale is determined by the way they dress, how they do their makeup, their hairstyle, their personality, how they carry themselves, our personal preferences, and many other factors. Even if there are some disadvantages for people many of us don't find attractive, that doesn't mean we need to task our legal system with determining who's a "grenade."

Ugly? You May Have a Case [NYT]

Earlier: Bachelor Pad: Let's All Throw Eggs At The Ugly Girl!
Oprah Calculates Beauty Equation Of Famous Faces

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