Should there be a campaign for equality for ugly people? I ask because a new paper has found that, in Italy, discrimination against ugly women might be even greater than racial discrimination. This is not an isolated finding. The wage gap between good-looking and ugly people (table 4 of this pdf) is comparable to that between men and women.
This poses the question: why do we find discrimination on grounds of looks acceptable, when discrimination on grounds of gender, sexual orientation and race are abhorrent? Why don't ugly people campaign for equality? A march for "rights for munters" would at least be one in which SWP members would blend in well. There are some obvious possible answers. But the thing is, they apply to other victims of inequality too, for example:
"Ugliness isn't a binary feature, but rather an imprecisely defined range of a spectrum." True again. But so is class, sexual orientation (many men are gay for Olivier Giroud) and race (I once worked with a bloke for 18 months before realizing he was black.)
"Discrimination against mingers is inevitable, because it's human nature to shun ugliness and favour beauty." Maybe, but an appeal to nature was for years used to justify racial and sexual discrimination; it was no less a man than David Hume who wrote (pdf) that "I am apt to suspect the negroes to be naturally inferior to the whites." The purpose of being human is to try and overcome brute nature; that's why we invented central heating.
"Discrimination against uglies might be efficient, as ugly people tend to be less productive; they do less well as school and are more likely to commit crime (pdf)." Again, though, this isn't good enough. Statistical discrimination is inadmissible against women - imagine if an employer refused to hire 20-something women because "they'd probably get pregnant" - so why should it be permissible against uglies? And anyway, statistical discrimination isn't the whole story; there also seems to be pure taste discrimination too.
So, we're left with a puzzle: why is discrimination against ugly folk (or for that matter the mentally unwell) acceptable when other discriminations aren't?
Simple. It's because of something Corey says. People get equality not because of airy-fairy ideals of fairness, but because they organize and fight for it. And these fights cause public attitudes to inequalities to change - eventually. Ugly people suffer discrimination for the same reasons blacks, gays, workers and women once did, and still do - because they aren't organized or powerful enough to resist it.