Find me online!

twittergoogle plusemail

September 2, 2011

Should Ugly People Get Legal Protection?

A better question would be: who would actually sign up for this?

"Yeah, I'm ugly. I want help."

It sounds insane, but this is an actual proposal in the New York Times by Daniel S. Hamermesh (h/t: Hot Air).

Ok, statistics show that, in our increasingly shallow and looks-oriented society, "beautiful" people seem to have more success, though that can certainly be overcome by other things. I've done posts about them before.

Does this boil down to something that should be quantified for legal issues, though?

My mind is completely blown.

Here's an excerpt from the article:
The effects are not small: one study showed that an American worker who was among the bottom one-seventh in looks, as assessed by randomly chosen observers, earned 10 to 15 percent less per year than a similar worker whose looks were assessed in the top one-third — a lifetime difference, in a typical case, of about $230,000.
Hidden in there is the first problem with any kind of proposal like this: "assessed by randomly chosen observers."

In other words, if you're going to start making this a legal issue, who's going to judge?

Evidently, Hamermesh doesn't think it would be that hard:
The mechanics of legislating this kind of protection are not as difficult as you might think. You might argue that people can’t be classified by their looks — that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That aphorism is correct in one sense: if asked who is the most beautiful person in a group of beautiful people, you and I might well have different answers. But when it comes to differentiating classes of attractiveness, we all view beauty similarly: someone whom you consider good-looking will be viewed similarly by most others; someone you consider ugly will be viewed as ugly by most others. In one study, more than half of a group of people were assessed identically by each of two observers using a five-point scale; and very few assessments differed by more than one point.
"More than half." "Very few." In a country of over 300 million people, do you want that kind of error to creep into the legal system? Even if you agreed that it would be that easy to begin with?

Hamermesh goes on to say that it shouldn't be very hard to classify the top 1-2% of ugly people, with little more difficulty than to figure out who should qualify for disability by obesity.

As for the statement I opened this post with? Hamermesh doesn't see much trouble with this. He thinks that the possibility of obtaining $230,000 more over your lifetime (which really isn't *that* much when you think about it) will convince the truly ugly to admit that they are truly ugly.

Oh, well. I know I'm convinced.

Where do I sign up?

He seems to have an answer for everything. Evidently, some local jurisdictions actually have this law in place, where you can't discriminate against somebody in a job due to appearance. He doesn't go into detail, but I hope that's limited to physical appearance. Do you really want to be forced to hire somebody who comes in to the interview in faded blue jeans with holes in them, a t-shirt, and unwashed hair?

But even if it is limited to physical appearance, how do you prove that? In a court of law, I mean? Yeah, in these hard economic times, let's tie up more money in the legal system instead of actually creating jobs and all that.

One thing Hamermesh doesn't address, however. What if it's an ugly African-American woman who gets turned down for the job? Which way should she go in the legal system?

I guess if they hired a good-looking African-American, she can sue under the "Ugly Act." If they hired an ugly white person, she can sue under the racial discrimination act.

But what if they hire a good-looking white person? If it was a good-looking white guy, she can sue under gender discrimination. But what if it's a good-looking white woman? How would she decide which one to use?

It's a puzzler.

I'm being absurd, of course. But I think that illustrates the absurdity of this suggestion. And if society is moving toward this, as Hamermesh seems to think, then I'm not sure it's worth saving anymore.

(Google appears to be having comment issues right now. If you can't leave a comment, you can either email it to me or feel free to leave it wherever else you found this post to begin with, Facebook, NetworkedBlogs, or whatever).


  1. Wow... just when I thought I'd heard it all.

  2. You've never heard it all. That's the first rule in life. :)

  3. wow this is ridiculous.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.