Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ugliness and Protected Class Status

Daniel S. Hamermesh, economics professor at Texas-Austin, argues that ugliness should be granted protected class status under federal law. This is apparently not a joke.
why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?
We actually already do offer such protections in a few places, including in some jurisdictions in California, and in the District of Columbia, where discriminatory treatment based on looks in hiring, promotions, housing and other areas is prohibited. Ugliness could be protected generally in the United States by small extensions of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Ugly people could be allowed to seek help from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other agencies in overcoming the effects of discrimination. We could even have affirmative-action programs for the ugly.
Think about this a second.  As we move towards a post-racial society -- or pretend we are already there -- Hamermesh asks us to consider adding ugliness as a protected category.  He so argues on the basis of research showing that ugly people earn less than good looking people and are generally subject to discrimination in employment, hiring, and the like.  One thing he does not argue, because he cannot, is that ugliness is a historical disadvantage.  It thus fails as a constitutional argument, which is probably a good thing. Hamermesh asks for legislation for the ugly, not constitutional protection.

I really cannot tell whether he is serious or not.

I also don't know whether to laugh or cry.

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