If you have the sort of face that only a mother could love, you may not be surprised by the ugly truths documented by Daniel Hamermesh.
Hamermesh, a University of Texas at Austin economist and author of “Beauty Pays,” puts forth the provocative proposition that “ugly people” deserve to be legally protected in the same way that individuals are protected on the basis of race, religion, disability, etc.
Hamermesh has 20 years’ worth of research showing that less attractive people are discriminated against in hiring, promotions, housing and more.
He calculates that a person in the bottom one-seventh of the population (based on looks), compared to someone in the top one-third, will earn an average $230,000 less over a lifetime.
I do not doubt the veracity of Hamermesh’s research, but it blows my mind that loan officers would employ appearance prejudice in setting mortgage rates. Is there a subcategory of subprime mortgages where bankers say, “I’ll trade you this bundle of buck teeth, beady eyes and lantern jaws for your bundle of humongous honkers, hunchbacks and unibrows”?
The campaign to win class protection for homely people is supposedly about human dignity, so the way it will doubtless play out is pretty ironic. I just can’t picture Clarence Darrow (or even Perry Mason) soliciting clients with the opening line “Yo’ momma is so ugly ...”
It used to be that people recognized life was unfair and used rugged individualism to rise above the circumstances. Now the philosophy seems to be, “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade — and give 50 percent of the profits to your lawyer.”
Employers will have whole new minefields to navigate. If ugly people get their protected status, we’ll soon see complaints from other groups who traditionally get short shrift from Human Resources departments.
And employers will overcompensate. (“We’d like to introduce our new bunch of vice presidents: Mr. Incessantly Hums The Barney & Friends Theme; Ms. Floats Like A Butterfly, Stings Like A Methane Cloud; and Mr. Nonchalantly Reminisces About A One-Night Stand With The Chick In The Photo On The HR Director’s Desk.”)
Expect lots of abuse on both sides if ugly people get protected status. Employers and loan officers will find more devious ways to conceal their motivations (“Uh, the bag over his head is to protect him from UV radiation”), and the undeserving will find some way to milk the system. (“All my life, I’ve felt like an ugly person trapped in a beautiful person’s body ...”)
The battle against prejudice needs to be fought inch by inch by real people, not handled by nuclear strike from a heavy-handed bureaucracy.
I hate to see the “appearance-challenged” get their hopes up, expecting a $230,000 lump sum and high-earning spouse to fall into their laps. A level playing field is nice, but it will get you only so far if you already look like you’ve run face first into a goal post.
Even Hamermesh expresses trepidations about the implementation of new rules, fearing that — with a finite number of jobs — ugly people’s gains would come at the expense of racial minorities and other groups that are already protected.
Maybe sharing is the answer. (“OK, Hispanic Guy, can do the job for a couple of hours, then Bisexual Bob can do it until lunch, then the Woman In The Wheelchair ... Gee, I wonder why long-haul trucking has gotten so expensive???”)
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate.