The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Equal Opportunity for the Ugly

When
I was about ten years old (in the 1950’s), my foster father and I drove out to
run some errands. On the way, we were stopped by a black traffic cop who was
directing traffic at an intersection. I had never seen a black man before, so I
was not a little stunned and curious. All I saw was a black man in a blue uniform blowing his
whistle. My foster father, however, stunned me even more. He muttered,
“Damn niggers are taking over the world!”
I
gave him a shocked look that must have looked to him like a reproach, because
when we got back home, he took his belt to me.
On
another occasion, when I was about the same age, the family had
“company” over for dinner. Someone asked me – because the subject
must have been race, but I don’t recall the particular details – it must have
been one of my foster folks, “What color are we, Ed?” I answered,
“Beige.”
Wrong
answer. It earned me another session with the strap after the company left.
But
this column isn’t about race or color-blindness. It’s about the new egalitarian
push to grant ugly or homely people – race optional – their “fair share”
of entitlements and a generous dollop of “social justice.” It’s about
the educational
and cultural establishment
taking their belts to human esthetics and all
measurements of value. And by “belt,” I mean government force.
The
issue of ugly people has been gathering steam since at least 2011. Stanford
Junior University law professor Deborah L. Rhode, in her
2010 book, The
Beauty Bias
, began thumping the war drums about the “injustice of
appearance in life and law.” I quote from the synopsis of her book, in
which Rhode or her publisher’s copywriter noted, after claiming that the annual
global investment in appearance is in the neighborhood of $200 billion:
Many individuals experience stigma, discrimination,
and related difficulties, such as eating disorders, depression, and risky
dieting and cosmetic procedures. Women bear a vastly disproportionate share of
those costs, in part because they face standards more exacting than those for
men, and pay greater penalties for falling short.
That
was Rhode’s liberal/left call-to-arms. Next, she gets to the totalitarian nub
of her opus:
The Beauty
Bias
explores the social, biological,
market, and media forces that have contributed to appearance-related problems,
as well as feminism’s difficulties in confronting them…. Appearance-related
bias infringes fundamental rights, compromises merit principles, reinforces
debilitating stereotypes, and compounds the disadvantages of race, class, and
gender….The Beauty Bias provides the
first systematic survey of how [existing] appearance laws work in practice, and
a compelling argument for extending their reach….
Rhode’s
book was published by the Oxford University Press in May 2010. It was favorably
received by Publishers Weekly, the Christian Science Monitor, Slate.com, and a
passel of notorious distaff gender studies entities. I was surprised not to see
the Huffington Post and other liberal/left blog sites endorse the book. In the
reviews, she is cited as “the nation’s most cited scholar on professional
responsibility.”
Responsibility
to whom? Or to what? You fill in the blanks. If individuals aren’t permitted to
establish their own esthetic values – even if they enter an employer’s
calculations of what he finds suitable for employment, or for a wife, or for a
work of art, then who or what will establish them for him?
In
April 2013, Daniel Hamermesh’s book, Beauty
Pays
, appeared from Princeton University Press to the acclaim of
Publishers Weekly, the New Yorker, the New York Journal of Books, Forbes, the
Daily Mail, and an audience of obedient critics responding to
liberal/collectivist autosuggestion. Hamermesh is a
professor of economics at the University of Texas-Austin and a research
associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His work has been
subsidized by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies, and he
has written on the economic aspects of “beauty, sleep and suicide.”
He
missed one major realm of research: the economic impact of picking lint from one’s
belly button.
From
his book synopsis:
Most of us know there is a payoff to looking good, and
in the quest for beauty we spend countless hours and billions of dollars on
personal grooming, cosmetics, and plastic surgery….
Including
former Speaker of the House Nancy “Let’s see what’s in it” Pelosi, a
soul-mate of Hamermesh, who has spent a fortune on plastic surgery and/or Botox
injections to present to the American public a mask of motherly and despotic benevolence.
The first book to seriously measure the advantages of
beauty, Beauty Pays demonstrates how
society favors the beautiful and how better-looking people experience startling
but undeniable benefits in all aspects of life….
What
happened to Rhode’s book? Wasn’t it
the first one to seriously measure the advantages of beauty? But, we quibble.
In a Huffington Post interview
of September 2nd, 2011, Hamermesh reveals his premises.
To me the crucial question is whether we should think
of beauty as productive, or as reflecting discrimination. This is a very tough
question, since there’s no doubt that hiring a beautiful person raises a
company’s sales. I would argue that beauty’s effects reflect societal
discrimination, and that is not inherently productive.
It
isn’t often that one sees a glaring contradiction in the space of one short
paragraph. On one hand, Hamermesh says, a “beautiful person”
undoubtedly raises a company’s sales. On the other hand, because of
“societal discrimination,” raising a company’s sales isn’t
productive. Go figure.
He
was asked to define beautiful and ugly persons.
I wouldn’t and can’t. It’s like pornography – I know
it when I see it.
No,
Hamermesh wouldn’t dream of revealing his personal measure of beauty and
ugliness. These measures, he contends, are a consequence of a societal
consensus.
In
his August 27th New
York Times op-ed
, “Ugly? You May Have a Case,” Hamermesh reveals
his true agenda, which is to correct society’s “consensus” with fiat
law.
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?
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.
Hamermesh
looks like a jolly
old fellow
with a beard who wouldn’t hurt a fly. He might have even
chuckled at a relevant “Seinfeld” scene. But
he didn’t write his op-ed tongue-in-cheek or as a suggestion for a Saturday
Night Live skit. He is serious. He is proposing that the government employ
force to “aid” the ugly.
For purposes of administering a law, we surely could
agree on who is truly ugly, perhaps the worst-looking 1 or 2 percent of the
population. The difficulties in classification are little greater than those
faced in deciding who qualifies for protection on grounds of disabilities that
limit the activities of daily life, as shown by conflicting decisions in
numerous legal cases involving obesity….
Economic arguments for protecting the ugly are as
strong as those for protecting some groups currently covered by legislation. So
why not go ahead and expand protection to the looks-challenged?….
You might reasonably disagree and argue for protecting
all deserving groups. Either way, you shouldn’t be surprised to see the United
States heading toward this new legal frontier.
No,
we shouldn’t be surprised, especially when entities like Stanford law professor
Deborah Rhode are all for anti-discrimination laws that would protect
(“promote”?) the ugly and penalize the beautiful, and when there are
countless individuals who would readily and shamelessly claim that they were
discriminated against because of their looks. And who might be the
“we” who would “agree” on who is ugly? An “Ugliness
Panel” convened under the aegis of an ObamaLooks law? Perhaps the panel
would recommend that people be sent to hospitals to have their looks corrected,
to give them a better chance at jobs and life in general.
Rod
Serling’s Twilight Zone episode, “The
Eye of the Beholder
,” is a classic tale of what our government wardens
would have in mind. 
Ruth
Graham, in her August 23rd Boston Globe column, “Who
will fight the beauty bias
?”, natters on about the beauty-vs.-ugly
issue without committing herself to any legal or “social” remedies.
The galloping injustice of “lookism” has not
escaped psychologists, economists, sociologists, and legal scholars. Stanford
law professor Deborah L. Rhode’s book, The
Beauty Bias
, lamented “the injustice of appearance in life and
law,” while University of Texas, Austin economist Daniel Hamermesh’s 2011 Beauty Pays…traced the concrete benefits
of attractiveness, including a $230,000 lifetime earnings advantage over the
unattractive.
So,
now we will add “lookism” to the list of ism’s and phobias that have
sanctioned curative legislation: ageism, heightism, sexism, homophobia, deafism,
mutism, Islamophobia, racism, weightism. Have I left anything out? Oh, yes.
Speech-impedimentism.
In
all the articles I have read while researching this column, I did not encounter
a single definition of beauty or ugly regarding the human visage. The writers
wrote from their own vague, woozy notions of what those terms mean, yet they
are willing to legislate politically correct esthetics based on their
approximations of what the terms mean.
However,
Ayn Rand wrote
clearly on the subject.
Beauty is a sense of harmony. Whether it’s an image, a
human face, a body, or a sunset, take the object which you call beautiful, as a
unit [and ask yourself]: what parts is it made up of, what are its constituent
elements, and are they all harmonious? If they are, the result is beautiful. If
there are contradictions and clashes, the result is marred or positively ugly.
For instance, the simplest example would be a human
face. You know what features belong in a human face. Well, if the face is
lopsided, [with a] very indefinite jaw-line, very small eyes, beautiful mouth,
and a long nose, you would have to say that’s not a beautiful face. But
if all these features are harmoniously integrated, if they all fit your view of
the importance of all these features on a human face, then that face is
beautiful.
Here
are examples of what Rand means by harmony (John Singer
Sargent’s “Lady Agnew of Lochnaw,” and the ugly, distorted, and
disharmonious
(Chuck Close’s gallery).
Now since this is an objective definition of
beauty, there of course can be universal standards of beauty—provided you
define the terms of what objects you are going to classify as beautiful and
what you take as the ideal harmonious relationship of the elements of that
particular object. To say, “It’s in the eyes of the beholder”—that, of course,
would be pure subjectivism, if taken literally. It isn’t [a matter of] what
you, for unknown reasons, decide to regard as beautiful. It is true, of course,
that if there were no valuers, then nothing could be valued as beautiful or
ugly, because values are created by the observing consciousness—but they are
created by a standard based on reality. So here the issue is: values, including
beauty, have to be judged as objective, not subjective or intrinsic.
The
attack on beauty is an attack on values – on values for being values. It is an assault
on the good for being the good. The nihilistic nature of this renewed attack is
disguised by a profession of relativism. “What’s ugly to you is beautiful
to me,” is the defensive cop-out response by anyone whose sordid tastes in
art and literature are questioned.
“There
is no lobby for the homely,” writes Graham. “How do you change a
discriminatory behavior that, even though unfair, is obviously deep, hard to
pin down, and largely unconscious…?”
Tentatively, experts are beginning to float possible
solutions. Some have proposed legal remedies including designating unattractive
people as a protected class, creating affirmative action programs for the
homely, or compensating disfigured but otherwise healthy people in
personal-injury courts….
Other
solutions would require the systemic and systematic lobotomization of men’s
minds so they are “bias-free” or value-free. This is what is
occurring in the nation’s schools in esthetics, in history, in politics, in
science, to produce a generation of manqués conditioned to have their minds
programmed to respond to the state’s or the race’s or collective’s values of
servitude and self-sacrifice.
Graham
writes:
How to fix this problem depends on what kind of
problem, exactly, you think it is. A number of scholars see it as fundamentally
a civil-rights issue, with the unattractive a class of people who are provably
and consistently discriminated against. It’s an idea that seems poised to
resonate beyond the academy….
 Where it resonates the most beyond the academy
is in the envious, malignant souls of those who are itching to elevate the ugly
to the same value level of the beautiful, in order to destroy the beautiful and
all beauty.
Ellsworth
Toohey, the arch villain of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, articulated the
principal method behind the assault on beauty: 
“Don’t set out to raze all shrines – you’ll frighten men. Enshrine
mediocrity – and the shrines are razed.”

It is in the name of the mediocre, the
nondescript, the ugly, and the average that the nihilists
in and out of the academy have declared war on beauty. 

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5 Comments

  1. Tim C

    Close's bio reads remarkably like Rand's descriptions of various zeroes in TF and AS.

  2. Edward Cline

    Tim C: That's one reason I chose to feature him over other artists who specialize in ugly.

  3. Elisheva Hannah Levin

    Who is going to allow themselves to be defined as ugly?
    And does this mean that people who see themselves as deficient in some way will not be allowed to take corrective measures? How mean and nasty is that?

    I am of average looks, I suppose, and have never contemplated plastic surgery. However, I like make-up, good hair cuts, and color. For most people, looking good is a matter of a little self-care, pressing clothes, and taking care of hygiene.

    With respect to beauty having some economic advantage, my beautiful daughter gets tired of that. She would be where she is today, beautiful as she is, without that college education in chemistry. One must have brains and use them.

  4. Elisheva Hannah Levin

    I destestvauto-correct: my daughter would NOT be where she is today, without her education, despite her beauty. It takes some combination of both.

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