Monday, February 24, 2014

Affirmative Action for the Ugly

Over the weekend I listened to a Freakonomic podcast interview of Texas economist David Hamermesh on the economic downsides of being ugly:

(At Aeon magazine Princeton philosopher Jonny Thakkar has also just written on the issue:
Are Ugly People Oppressed?)

Common sense says that the uglier you are, the less advantages you'll be afforded, and the data seems to bear that out.  According to Hamermesh, good looking NFL quarterbacks, for instance, make roughly $300,000 more simply by being better looking.  Facial symmetry, which can be measured by a computer, goes a long way in most people's minds (though the data doesn't explain everything, including why I'm not making six figures).

Hamermesh, though, when questioned about whether there should be affirmative action for the ugly said, no way.  He's for it when it comes to women, race, and the usual politically motivated suspects but not when it comes to the unprepossessing, unappealing, or downright unsightly.  But why not? He didn't have an answer, except to say that resources are limited and that he didn't think the finite resources should be expended on the ugly.

Perhaps we should conclude, then, that Hamermesh is simply a cold-hearted ugliist.   With no reason not to include the ugly in the Affirmative Action portfolio, Hamermesh might be thought himself to have an irrational bias against the ugly in favor of these other political groups--a blatant form of ugliism at its worst, though perhaps his bias is the result of hegemonic structures of ugliization in society rather than willful hatred on his part.

For (if folks like Hamermesh are right) the data is clear that there is a strong bias against the ugly in favor of the beautiful from birth onward.  The data is far stronger than, for example, discrimination against females.  Given how well girls do in school compared to boys and how many more women are getting college degrees than men, it's arguable that the reverse is now true.  YES, there is the "pay gap," (which news outlets like NPR remind us about weekly) but I've seen no compelling evidence that anything but a small fraction of that gap is the result of unjust discrimination by employers.  Two of the biggest factors I've seen mentioned are (a) taking time off for children and (b) not being aggressive enough in contract negotiations.  At any rate it seems clear that the ugly are at least as discriminated against as women (and it seems to me much more likely that they are more discriminated against).  So why not have Affirmative Action for the ugly?  There is a huge demographic--from a historically downtrodden class--out there to be politically exploited (though if the "Fox News babes" are any indication, I think I know which political contingency will do the exploiting)!

Basically all you'd need as far as practicality goes would be a photograph and the right software.  (Perhaps the smelly will feel left out, but why should we care? It's tautologous that the smelly smell).  Nobody would need to know if you beat out the competition because of your hairy moles or your eyebrows that remind everyone of Al Lewis:

And isn't it a matter of justice that we start seeing job applications with advertisements like the following:

 Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer Statement
The College of _________is an independent college of the liberal arts and sciences with a commitment to excellence in undergraduate education. The College values diversity, strives to attract qualified women, minority candidates, and the grossly deformed and encourages individuals belonging to these groups to apply. _________ seeks to ensure diversity by its policy of employing persons without regard to age, sex, color, race, overbite, snub-nose, nose hair, scars, goiters, creed, religion, national origin, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or political affiliation. (Transsexual-Ninety year old-Native American- Muslim-Democrat-Retired Coast Guard Commanders who are Endangered Dolphins with bad smiles (due to over fishing) are especially encouraged to apply).


  1. This is beautiful. [Pardon the pun.] Nice job, Tullius. I think you should print this post as an op-ed in the student newspaper.

    I never have liked goiters, for what it's worth.

  2. If you never liked goiters, then you never liked Va. Tech! The only reason I feel mildly OK with saying that is because I think I'd take 7 figures for my own personal goiter (or benign tumor or whatever that thing is on the neck. Beards can cover a thousand sins).