START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x

Should Ugly People Have Special Legal Protections?

Should Ugly People Have Special Legal Protections?

In a recent New York Times Op-ed piece, economist Daniel S. Hamermesh asked a provocative question: should ugly people be a legally protected class?

Hamermesh definitively thinks so. And he’s proposing that anti-discrimination laws be extended to more, er, homely people.

But why, exactly, should something as seemingly subjective as beauty be the subject of anti-discrimination laws? For one thing, as Hamermesh points out, extensive research has shown that attractive people have measurable advantages over unattractive people.

Unattractive people are more likely than their attractive counterparts to earn less money, recieve longer prison sentences and be poorer. Attractive people, on the other hand, are more likely to recieve more attention from their bosses, get better deals on their mortgages and find a higher-earning spouse. The list goes on.

But how could you possibly offer legal protection to unattractive people when beauty is so subjective? Hamermesh offers an important counterpoint: Individuals might have different opinions on who the most attractive person in the room is, but when it comes down to it, most people agree on who is generally considered attractive and who isn’t.

And, perhaps the supposed subjectivity of attractiveness is precisely the problem for outlawing appearance-based discrimination. As Deboarah L. Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University and author of The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law said in an interview,

Most Americans have bumped up against some aspect of the problem and might be energized to do something if they came to see this as not just an individual problem but a social injustice and cultural challenge.

****

In 2000, a bartender at Harrah’s in Las Vegas lost her job because she wouldn’t wear makeup. The Nevada Supreme Court later sided with the casino. In 2002, Jazzercise turned a fitness instructor in San Francisco down for a franchise because the company thought she was too fat.  Jazzercise ultimately reversed its decision and stopped requiring its instructors to look “trim and fit”.

What explains the different outcomes of these two cases?  Indeed, San Francisco, unlike Las Vegas, has appearance-based anti-discrimination laws on the books.

What do you think? Should unattractive people have special legal protections?

Related:
Celebrating Gloria Steinem: In Her Own Words
Do You Worship Physical Beauty?
Tax the Beautiful?

Read more: Beauty, Body Image, Career, Community, Do Good, Life, News & Issues, , ,

have you shared this story yet?

go ahead, give it a little love

Katie Waldeck

Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and women’s issues. A Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives in Oakland, California.

117 comments

+ add your own
4:26PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

If you did that, somebody would have to define "ugly". Who has the authority to do that, Nazis?
Dictators? Tea-Baggers? Old white men? Another thing, who sets the standard of beauty in this country? I think all of the above.

10:52AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I'm more concerned about the ugliness that people hold on the inside and spread to the outside via their negative actions and hateful attitudes.

10:44AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

You can't regulate the condition of a person's heart.This would be almost impossible to regulate-who is to say who is "ugly" and who is not?Too bad pettyness and shallowness are not outlawed.I do not see how they can enforce something so vague.Instead of laws that are impossible to enforce,what about educating people,especially school children,about what is and is not important,and counteracting the media and other sources of wrong information.

6:31PM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

My sentiments reflect those opinions already mentioned.
This legislation in & of itself is prejudicial. To imply that
someone is ugly in the first place is discrimination.

12:56PM PDT on Nov 4, 2011

There are no ugly people. A person's personality should count for more than someone's face or body in my eyes. People's attitudes in society need to change.

6:55AM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

Why would a fat fitness instructor believe anyone would enroll in her class???
Would you visit a dentist who flashes a mouth full of cavities?
There are times when discrimination/profiling is the correct way to go but who really cares how an accountant looks as long as he can balance books.
If discrimination exists in professions like these, then I say put your court clothes on and litigate.

4:56AM PDT on Oct 11, 2011

How preposterous! Who would decide whether or not someone qualifies? There's a lot more involved to perceiving someone as attractive than the configuration of their features. As Alamzeb said someone who might otherwise be seen as "ugly" might not be because they are a good person. In my experience whether a person is attractive or not has a lot more to do with their attitude than their physical appearance.

7:33AM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

Beauty and ugliness is depend on individual's mental attitude.Sometimes' ugly people become more attractive to people due to their good deeds as faithfulness,honesty and straight forwardness.But always even beautiful people seem ugliest creature due to their negative attitude towards people and friends.

8:44AM PDT on Sep 30, 2011

What?!?!?!?!???????????????

6:46AM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

How will they do it? Will they send us a letter saying 'You have been deemed unattractive, as your features no not measure up to the classical ideal of beauty, we will assure you are protected from discrimination and lookism'.

I know I'm ugly, but I really don't know what I would do if it was officially confirmed.

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

CONTACT THE EDITORS



Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.