Though to a surprising degree, we agree on who is attractive and who isn’t, differences in looks remain largely unmentionable, unlike divisions of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation. There is no lobby for the homely. How do you change a discriminatory behavior that, even though unfair, is obviously deep, hard to pin down, and largely unconscious—and affects people who would be hurt even to admit they’re in the stigmatized category?
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. Others have suggested using technology to help fight the bias, through methods like blind interviews that take attraction out of job selection. There’s promising evidence from psychology that good old-fashioned consciousness-raising has a role to play, too.
…Other ideas, based on traditional legal and economic remedies for unfairness, can seem a bit utopian (or Orwellian): Hamermesh has proposed “affirmative-action programs for the ugly,” or extending the Americans with Disabilities Act to include the unattractive. But without a broad public understanding of the concrete disadvantages of unattractiveness, these ideas sound to many critics like social engineering run amok.
Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s what it sounds like regardless. Oh, if only people could be purely rational, like robots…