The past few weeks have been wild, haven’t they? An earthquake, a hurricane, the president and John Boehner maneuvering for the upper hand over a speaking date for the president, two zeroes – zero job growth and zero military deaths in Iraq, the Redskins winning 3 of their 4 pre-season games, area schools beginning a new year, and more. So much happening, so little time to ponder it all.
One ‘news’ story of the past week, though, has really been gnawing at me. It’s the one about how since physically beautiful people have so much more success in life, physically unattractive (ugly) people may need to be the next protected class. According to Daniel Hamermesh, professor of economics at UT Austin and author of the recent book Beauty Pays, ugly people earn less money, have less-earning spouses, and have more trouble getting loans. I expect Professor Hamermesh’s book delves deeper into other problems faced by ugly people. I admit I haven’t read the book.
Now, the ugly people he is talking about are not just unattractive. He is talking about people who cannot be sufficiently helped with makeovers and/or plastic surgery. Because these actions do not remedy the problem the ugly are facing in everyday life, the professor suggests a more radical approach in his recent opinion piece in the New York Times – ‘why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?’
When asked by an interviewer on FoxNews who would decide who is ugly enough for protection, Professor Hamermesh replied with something like if he himself sees someone as ugly, most likely others will, too. He doesn’t see the standard for ugly being a problem to be agreed about. In the NYT opinion piece he said, ‘For purposes of administering a law, we surely could agree on who is truly ugly, perhaps the worst-looking 1 or 2 percent of the population.’ Sounds like he talking a serious level of ugly here – sugly, a word I just made up for the seriously ugly.
This got me thinking. How many sugly people have I ever seen, people so ugly that I almost had to turn away and not look at them? See, for me that would be the level of ugly he is talking about. For others, though, just ‘less attractive’ people might be labled as sugly. Think about it yourself. How ugly does someone have to be for you to say they are sugly? And have you ever actually met anyone that was really that ugly? I’m not sure I ever have.
With the groups we protect now, we have objective measurements like skin color, sex, disabilities, etc. I don’t see how we can reasonably or objectively measure ugliness. Of course, there will be nothing reasonable about it if the government decides to run with the idea. I envision some committee studying and researching the topic. After spending many tax dollars, they will follow up with guidelines about what traits and parameters to use when classify someone as either sugly, ugly or merely less attractive – things like nose size and shape, space between the eyes, width of the mouth, size of the lips, and on and on. This will lead to legislation, regulation, paperwork, more federal employees, more court cases and more tax dollars being spent to even-up the playing field.
Professor Hamermesh says, ‘There are other possible objections. “Ugliness” is not a personal trait that many people choose to embrace; those whom we classify as protected might not be willing to admit that they are ugly. But with the chance of obtaining extra pay and promotions amounting to $230,000 in lost lifetime earnings, there’s a large incentive to do so.’ I guess if everyone really does have a price, this could be it for the sugly people.
The professor goes on to say it would be costly for individuals to bring the lawsuits, but attorneys could organize class action lawsuits, like they already do in other areas of discrimination. I can see it now splashed all over the headlines – Suglys Sue XYZ Corporation Over Charges of Discrimination. Of course, the faces of the plantiffs would be blocked out of any pictures because if they are so sugly they can sue, they are also so sugly their faces would offend readers and viewers. Also, I would like to meet the poor sap of a junior attorney who is saddled with the job of rounding up the sugly people for these lawsuits. Imagine having the job of telling people they are so seriously ugly that they can sue over it.
In this blog, I haven’t touched on the error of judging people by their looks. I haven’t offered any opinions on why the professor is promoting this. I haven’t talked about the fallout for sugly people once their lawsuit is over. And I haven’t referenced the bible verses concerning this topic. I could go on for a few more pages, but I won’t. I will close with the professor’s prediction, ‘you shouldn’t be surprised to see the
heading toward this new legal frontier.’ Sigh. United States