We all know our culture puts a premium on good looks – does that mean that the ugly are oppressed?

Jonny Thakkar in Aeon:

ScreenHunter_489 Feb. 14 16.44The faces and forms of oppression are many, but nearly all of them flow from injustice, the treatment of people otherwise than they deserve. It’s hard to say what exactly any one person deserves, of course, but in the modern world we tend to think that desert is somehow related to what people can control. The colour of your skin is not up to you, for example, so treating you badly on its basis is oppressive. The treatment in question doesn’t have to be explicit: a society that marginalises homosexuals might not be as oppressive as one that imprisons them, but it is oppressive nonetheless. Sexuality and race are fairly obvious fault lines for oppression, as are class and gender. But if oppression is treating people otherwise than they deserve, there’s another category that tends to slip under our radar, namely the oppression of the ugly.

We don’t choose the configuration of our facial features any more than we choose our skin colour, yet people discriminate based on looks all the time. As the psychologist Comila Shahani-Denning put it, summarising research on the topic in Hofstra Horizons in 2003: ‘Attractiveness biases have been demonstrated in such different areas as teacher judgments of students, voter preferences for political candidates and jury judgments in simulated trials … attractiveness also influences interviewers’ judgments of job applicants.’ From the toddler gazing up at the adult to the adult gazing down at the toddler, we ruthlessly privilege the beautiful. The ugly get screwed.

More here.