Following in the footsteps of Steven D. Levitt, economist and eccentric author of Freakonomics, Daniel Hamermesh has reduced the effect of being “ugly” to its monetary cost: $230,000.00. That is supposedly the lifetime earning reduction an ugly person suffers. In the New York Times on Sunday, he hypothesizes that ugly people should have their own “protected class” – like religion, sex, race, color, etc. Seriously?
I know Mr. Hamermesh is just drumming up publicity for his new book (and being quite successful I might add), but he clearly ain’t an employment lawyer. There are at least two HUGE problems with making ugly a protected class. First, it is subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? How are we ever going to set a standard on what ugly is? Religion is concrete – methodist, baptist, catholic. Sex is too (for the most part), but there is no way to objectively quantify ugly. What is more, the discrimination against ugly people is probably unintentional. We all just gravitate to better looking people. Under an ugliness standard, do “pretty good looking” models have a right to complain against an agency that won’t take them because they only take supermodels?
The second big problem is the “slippery slope” created by making “ugly” a protected class. What is next: Smokers? Vegans? Vertically Challenged? Stupidity? At some point, we ought to have a right to choose! Of course, this opens a rather large can of worms. Some of those reading this are thinking – damn right – I ought to be able to choose not to be around _________, which are protected classes.
Even though I might benefit from the protection, I just don’t see how to make it work. Society has decided as a rule that religion, sex, age, disability, color, ethinicity, etc, deserve protection, but I don’t think ugly is quite ready for the big leagues.
P.S. “Ain’t” is in the dictionary, though it is considered a “informal” word. Contractions are not something I use in my professional lexicon, but it seemed appropriate for this informal piece. Thanks to my friends for their concern.