nti-discrimination law hasn’t been controversial for years, but recently it has returned to the public debate.
In Kentucky, GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul touched a nerve by suggesting that the government shouldn’t have forced southern businesses to desegregate.
They also impose grooming requirements that restrict self-expression and sometimes hold men and women to different standards.
These practices are largely a result of our natural tendency to prefer the beautiful over the ugly — a fact that Rhode, to her great credit, concedes, noting that some elements of attractiveness (symmetry, unblemished skin, hourglass figures for women) are human universals.
But our tolerance of appearance discrimination compounds that tendency and encourages a variety of unhealthy behaviors and trends.
Rhode rounds up the usual suspects to document our appearance obsession: Women’s anxieties about their looks often lead them into plastic surgery; those same anxieties make them easy prey for marketers of useless beauty products and weight-loss aids; women’s sports don’t get enough attention, and much of the attention they do get sexualizes the athletes; we focus way too much on female politicians’ fashion choices; the dolls we give little girls have physically impossible figures and are often dressed like whores; and so on.One could just as easily argue that since racism has declined to the point where it’s comparable to appearance bias, we should back off on anti-racism measures — especially ones, such as affirmative action, that themselves Rhode offers many potential legal remedies for the problems she depicts.Some are relatively commonsensical, such as a requirement that people be given better information about plastic surgery and beauty products.You’re fired.”), there’s really no way for people to tell why they’ve been treated badly.These surveys might be measuring people’s willingness to attribute their failures to other people’s bigotry as much as they measure actual discrimination.But in thinking about As Rhode demonstrates, the social science is quite clear: Appearance, especially height in men and beauty in women, matters.Studies of all kinds have come to the conclusion that good-looking people fare better than ugly people, even in situations where appearance is completely unrelated to the task at hand.Hubert Humphrey promised he would eat the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if it ever created racial preferences, but lo and behold, it did.And now we forbid not only actual discrimination based on race, but also “ of the federal government that if different racial groups pass an employment test at different rates, the starting presumption is that the test is racist, and it’s up to the business to prove otherwise.(It is of course problematic that blacks didn’t enter the pageant until 1970, but there’s no reason to think this has anything to do with our standards of beauty, as opposed to our troubled racial history.) She also thinks it telling that a Hispanic winner had to attend classes to tone down her Spanish accent — while providing no evidence that a white contestant with a strong accent wouldn’t have been sent to such classes.In addition to being inherently racist in some cases, Rhode argues, appearance bias is equal to racism in its severity.