A bit of an oldie, but interesting nonetheless: Economist Daniel S. Hamermesh, author of Beauty Pays, makes the argument in an Op-Ed for the New York Times that ugliness should be considered as a form of disability, with compensation available to the very ugliest people of society. He makes the case that being ugly results in significant social impairment; that is, the ugliest people tend to make less money and be less successful due, primarily, to their looks. As a result, people should either be compensated, or legislation should be put in place which, in effect, would represent affirmative action for the ugliest people of society.
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? There’s one legitimate concern. With increasingly tight limits on government resources, expanding rights to yet another protected group would reduce protection for groups that have commanded our legislative and other attention for over 50 years.
Is ugliness really a disability? If it is, what does this mean about the concept “disability”? Is it primarily a social construction — a result of social stigma?