Monday, December 19, 2011

Discrimination . . .

UGLY PEOPLE ARE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST; the human mind has a hard-wired appreciation for facial symmetry, for example (and the reason I don't draw caricatures anymore). Like the old joke goes, she was so ugly, they had to tie a pork-chop around her neck to get the dog to play with her. . . cruel? Yes, life is hard, then you die.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a thoughtful appraisal of this part of the human condition, with an article by Rachel Shteir, "Taking Beauty's Measure"

Once upon a time, long, long ago, a man I worked for said to me, "You're beautiful." Then he quickly added, as if he regretted paying me such an expansive compliment, "in your category."

Had I read the new crop of scholarly books on beauty, I would have considered legal action. Or I would have contemplated a makeover. Either I had been a victim of "lookism"—a form of discrimination as toxic as racism, sexism, or classism—or I needed to spend more time applying mascara.

It says much about the 21st century that these books—aka "beauty studies"—regard beauty less as a noble, an aspirational, or even a sentimental ideal than as either an injustice that can be handled only by the law or something that women must slyly turn to their own advantage. After the waves of 20th-century feminism, we seem to have circled back to the notion that beauty hurts. But what is new about these books is their reliance on social-science methods to expand that point of view: Now beauty is often viewed through economics, particularly, to calculate its harm to anyone—not just women—who is not a perfect 10.

Please park the knee-jerk, and check out what Rachel has to say. 

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