Did you know ugly folks make less money than the beautiful people? One study has revealed 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.” Daniel S. Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas, Austin, proposes that to compensate these folks we should have affirmative action for ugly people :
Why this disparate treatment of looks in so many areas of life? It’s a matter of simple prejudice. Most of us, regardless of our professed attitudes, prefer as customers to buy from better-looking salespeople, as jurors to listen to better-looking attorneys, as voters to be led by better-looking politicians, as students to learn from better-looking professors. This is not a matter of evil employers’ refusing to hire the ugly: in our roles as workers, customers and potential lovers we are all responsible for these effects.
How could we remedy this injustice? With all the gains to being good-looking, you would think that more people would get plastic surgery or makeovers to improve their looks. Many of us do all those things, but as studies have shown, such refinements make only small differences in our beauty. All that spending may make us feel better, but it doesn’t help us much in getting a better job or a more desirable mate.
A more radical solution may be needed: why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?
Hamermesh says that for purposes of administering a law, we could agree on who is truly ugly and limit the affirmative action to the worst-looking 1 or 2 percent of the population. But what exactly is the “worst-looking” 1 or 2 percent?
Obviously, there is a broad spectrum on the ugly scale with plain being on one end and carnie worker reject being on the other. Maximally homely—where I fit in—falls somewhere in the middle. To be honest, I wish I were even uglier than I am. (Contrary to what my fellow editors say, I do think that’s possible.) The reason isn’t because I want to get special treatment, but because being ugly has distinct advantages that beautiful people miss out on:
Ugly people are appreciated for their personality — Beautiful people never know if people like them for who they are or how they look. I know a number of beautiful women (including my wife) and, to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t tell you if they have pleasant personalities or not. Actually, I couldn’t tell you if they have a personalities at all. I get so caught up in their beauty that my brain can’t comprehend what they are saying when the speak (that’s why my wife thinks I don’t listen to her). If you’re ugly, though, and someone agrees to go out with you, chances are it’s because they like you for who you are. Unless, of course, you’re rich. Then you can be sure they like you because of your money.
Ugly people are funnier — Think of all the truly funny people you know. Chances are they are unattractive. That’s because ugly people can’t take themselves too seriously. As my dad used to tell me, “Son, if you can’t laugh at yourself, then you’re obviously not looking in the mirror.”
Ugly is cheap and easy — I don’t mean that ugly people are cheap and easy, but that ugliness is low maintenance. When you’re ugly you don’t have to worry about trivialities such as make-up, face lifts, unibrow plucking, or brushing your teeth. Since nothing you do is really going to matter you can just let yourself go. You can acquire a tidy nest egg saving the cash you won’t be spending on toothpaste and tweezers.
Ugly people are more successful — Beautiful people have everything handed to them. Ugly people, on the other hand, have to work harder to get what they want. Do you think there would be a Microsoft if Bill Gates looked like George Clooney? Would we have the iPad if Steve Jobs was as handsome as Ryan Gosling? Would we have First Thoughts if I had become a male model? Great innovations, inventions, and blog posts are always produced by some ugly geek who couldn’t get a date and had nothing better to do than improve the world. Our economy is fueled on ugly.
Ugly people are the majority — Forget the Democratic and Republican parties. Someday we ugly people will unite and become the biggest voting bloc in the country, we will take over and have all the pretty people be at our beck and call. All we need to do is organize. I figure that we should just meet up and hold our first convention at the state fair since, from the looks of the crowd, we are already congregating there anyway.
Ugly is inevitable — Beauty fades but ugly is everlasting (or at least until death). If we live long enough we eventually all get ugly. Some of us fortunate ones just get there first and have time to get used to it.
Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the co-author of “How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator” (Crossway).
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