Physical appearance as a category of discrimination | INFJ Forum

Physical appearance as a category of discrimination

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It has always seemed patently obvious to me that physical attractiveness has a huge influence on how you move through the world and what kinds of opportunities you get.

Yes, attractive people have a much larger dating pool, but it's more than that: They are less likely to be judged as having an ulterior motive when approaching someone for a professional connection, they have more platonic friends (who want to look hot by association), they are the beneficiaries of all sorts of cognitive biases adjacent to the "halo effect" that make people judge them as smarter, more confident, more loving (Google it). For these same reasons, they can get away with a marginally higher propensity for casual cruelty, narcissism, etc. than someone who is less attractive. (That's how I got to be such an asshole! /sarcasm)

Attractiveness is multidimensional, of course, but we know what we're talking about, right? People who are tall, thin, muscular, good skin. There are interactions that occur with particular races/genders/disability, but (I am claiming that) attractiveness is an important factor over and above these things.

The weird thing is that ... nobody seems particularly enraged about this? I think everyone just takes it for granted, or perhaps they assume that when someone brings up "attractiveness discrimination" they are only speaking about how ugly people have a hard time finding sexual partners, which is a bad reason to dismiss the argument because

1. As above, ugliness causes all sorts of social disadvantages that have nothing to do with finding sexual partners, and
2. Having a wider pool of sexual partners is a privilege, and sexual partners can become financial supporters, caretakers, business partners, and share expenses by cohabiting, and
3. (most importantly, IMO) There is nothing morally wrong with wanting and pursuing sex, and to dismiss the sexual desires of ugly people as superficial is a basic failure of empathy.
 
First off, I agree with your premise—the multitude of studies are clear—as is our lived experience, to whatever degree.

The weird thing is that ... nobody seems particularly enraged about this?

I don’t think people get enraged about fundamental truths which they have little, or no power to change. Either the culture they are born into, or their fundamental physical features.

Also, most people we ever meet are—all other things being equal—average. And for those same people, the right kind of average is more than enough. The survival of the species depends on that truth!

1. As above, ugliness causes all sorts of social disadvantages that have nothing to do with finding sexual partner

Agreed.

2. Having a wider pool of sexual partners is a privilege, and sexual partners can become financial supporters, caretakers, business partners, and share expenses by cohabiting

Potential partners, but agreed.

3. (most importantly, IMO) There is nothing morally wrong with wanting and pursuing sex, and to dismiss the sexual desires of ugly people as superficial is a basic failure of empathy.

Very much agreed.

-------

That all said, despite everyone’s pleasure in looking at pretty people, I think that which is considered attractive widens given time and experience for no reason other than the addition of other valued criteria.

Yes, some will chase looks to the last, and their lives seem a kind of hell to me.

Most people are looking for more than that. Most want to find a partner they personally find attractive, yes, but they want so much more, none of which can be discerned by appearance.

I’m not sure where I was going with this. I think most people don’t get angry, but instead get busy. They play the hand they were dealt and make the best of it.

Plus, I’m old enough now to know how much looks are worth. Even though I think and feel my girlfriend cute, I really love her for her golden heart. I really mean that. I don’t think there’s a mean bone in her body. That’s insanely attractive to me. Of course, we’re both warped in ways that each other appreciates, and we like the way each other smells.

Plus, we both think the other has mad technique.

Looks don’t mean shit. Mad skills are everything. And nobody talks about that.

Best,
Ian
 
ugly people
If you looked beyond its superficial definition, beauty is far more nuanced than the standards fed to us by society. To me, "attractiveness" and most particularly its instagrammable measures are nothing but societal projections. You may think tiktok likes or the amount of it are quantitative measures of such attractiveness, but the qualitative motivators behind each like are probably far more complex. In that sense, who can rightfully qualify what makes anything beautiful at all? By your OP, it seems like that would be beauty pageant judges when there are probably far more varied standards. In that sense, the narcissism of the self-proclaimed attractive can be argued fueled by a set of standards created among similar tastes which makes it nothing but a huge circle jerk.

Yes, beauty discrimination does exist which makes it about as sad as when people are discriminated for their gender. There are far too many different forms of humans to be so engrossed in the perceived superiority of perfect skin and perky boobs. Nonetheless, certain societies do abide by them which in my opinion only adds to the demise of humans as soulful beings. In my view, anyone who discriminates by measure of physical attraction is a soul that lacks the ability to look beyond what is there at face value. Sadly, life sucks and people are never trustworthy in their judgment.

The weird thing is that ... nobody seems particularly enraged about this?
My reply above is testament to this statement being untrue. I am repulsed by discrimination via physical attraction, and am possibly repulsed by any form of discrimination at all.
 
If you looked beyond its superficial definition, beauty is far more nuanced than the standards fed to us by society. To me, "attractiveness" and most particularly its instagrammable measures are nothing but societal projections. You may think tiktok likes or the amount of it are quantitative measures of such attractiveness, but the qualitative motivators behind each like are probably far more complex. In that sense, who can rightfully qualify what makes anything beautiful at all? By your OP, it seems like that would be beauty pageant judges when there are probably far more varied standards.
Not at all! This is the sort of reaction I was trying to anticipate when I wrote
Attractiveness is multidimensional, of course, but we know what we're talking about, right? People who are tall, thin, muscular, good skin.
I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that someone who is not attractive by conventional/Instagram/beauty pageant standards may still be attractive in their own way, or to a certain person. I myself have quirks in what I consider attractive that others do not agree with. But I think it's intellectually dishonest to pretend that there are not broad correlations in people's perceptions of beauty: All other things being equal, most people are drawn to people with good physique, good skin, tall, etc.—what is sometimes referred to as "conventionally attractive."

The keyword here is "correlation." My argument does not require the preference for conventional attractiveness to be universal, only to be more common that not. People who are "ugly" according to the average person's standard of beauty are not ugly in all situations or to everyone, but they are nonetheless systematically disadvantaged relative to people who meet the conventional standard.

(Based on your second paragraph
Yes, beauty discrimination does exist which makes it about as sad as when people are discriminated for their gender. There are far too many different forms of humans to be so engrossed in the perceived superiority of perfect skin and perky boobs. Nonetheless, certain societies do abide by them which in my opinion only adds to the demise of humans as soulful beings. In my view, anyone who discriminates by measure of physical attraction is a soul that lacks the ability to look beyond what is there at face value. Sadly, life sucks and people are never trustworthy in their judgment.
I think that you, @mintoots, and I are actually on the same page, but I wanted to spell out the "correlation" argument above for posterity.)
 
systematically disadvantaged relative to people who meet the conventional standard.
Because the system was rigged in the first place. This is why I referred to it as a circle jerk. It's like mean girls thinking the world revolves around them when it really doesn't. They just think it is. You live in your world where this matters because that's what you subscribed to. Elsewhere, it's irrelevant. The world is not one uniform sheet of paper. These standards you've described are not perceived as acceptable to others, say ethnolinguistic communities with a different definition of beauty but because you all like to think it is and we've let our minds conform to the sales pitch of the world, then it became so. The system is flawed. It is non-inclusive and must be dismantled.

I'm saying that the definition of "beauty" here is so unilateral that it is an overly simplified purview not befitting to reality. I think the high and mighty superiority of "attractive" people are misplaced because it is often self-centric. If they're actually honest with themselves, they would also see that they're not all that. Although to be fair, nearly everybody thinks they revolve around themselves. Unfortunately for them, the world is much bigger than their respective beauty-defined egos.

Preferences about physical appearance are as legitimate as preferences about personality traits.

I don't like loud or obnoxious people, nor do I like obese people.
I don't like false, misplaced sense of superiority either.
 
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Preferences about physical appearance are as legitimate as preferences about personality traits.

I don't like loud or obnoxious people, nor do I like obese people.
The word "legitimate" is carrying a lot of weight here. I share your preference against obnoxious people and obese people, but I think that my preference against obese people is heavily influenced by a received standard of beauty. I feel a little guilty about it. I think that a better version of me would not care about weight.

The preference is "legitimate" in the sense that I have it, but it's "illegitimate" in the sense that it is a superficial preference that I would change if I could.
 
Forgive the agitation so let me try and write a more lucid take. Primarily, the notion of these "broad benefits" culled through attractiveness is discomforting. I acknowledge it. I've utilized it shamelessly so (not as myself but as a tactical move). It is accepted as fact to the extent that mothers hover on their daughters so as to make them pliable enough for marriageability. It exists and has been capitalized for show business and other similar industries.

I've always thought that this broad acceptance is because beauty is one of the most easily understood values. The aesthetic can be uniform in the way it draws awe from the viewer. Rather than the scalar measurement of beauty as it were applied in pageants, I think the foundation of beauty is in the experience of being at awe or stunned over something aesthetically pleasing. When people are drunk in that, they become easily manipulated. Good warriors of have used it for certain leverages. In any case, it is the experience of awe that beauty elicits that makes the mark. It is what all the beauty-defined industries seek to remunerate.

I think its perceive advantage to the dating pool is fake. Too many people date because they look good together and not because they actually are good for each other. People become at awe of one another and usually just try to go from there.

Ah. Frustratingly so, sometimes I think each and every human has their own version of a Hitler within. Even preferential discrimination at a personal level is absolutely mind boggling.
 
It is very fashionable to speak of one's preferences as immutable and non-negotiable, and I agree that we should respect the preferences of others even when we disagree personally. But I think there is merit in looking inward and questioning why I prefer the kinds of women I do (even purely with respect to physical attractiveness). My visceral reactions that say "she's hot" and "she's not" feel very immediate and instinctual, but the truth is that they have been shaped by my own experiences, cultural notions about attractiveness, and my own sense of confidence about where I rank. For example, despite my admitted preference for skinny women, I know that I don't find fat women unattractive, because I have had sex with them and enjoyed it. But I feel a sense of shame around the idea of being in a relationship with a woman who is not at my level on the conventional attractiveness scale—and this shame gets in the way of me continuing the relationship.

I feel guilty about this sense of shame, and in my opinion, recategorizing this shame as a "preference"—in order to assuage my guilt or make "legitimate" the fact that I treat fat and skinny women different in a romantic context—is a cheap trick. My actions are right (or wrong) regardless of what words I use to justify them.

I suspect that many people who have a "preference" for e.g. muscular or tall or wealthy partners will find, upon introspection, that this preference is driven at least in part by shame and external pressure to date "someone at my level" rather than raw instinct.
 
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@mintoots Ahh, we are of similar mind! Yes, the "Hitler within" is real, and I wish for a start that people would be more self-aware with respect to their preferences rather than assuming that they are just, you know, immutable.
Whoever said that about you or whoever it was that was perceived immutable by you is not worth your time. Let them be. The world is big enough for both of you, I assume.
 
I'm still gonna discriminate against the uggos
 
Whoever said that about you or whoever it was that was perceived immutable by you is not worth your time. Let them be. The world is big enough for both of you, I assume.
This is also a popular idea—that if you meet someone who rubs you the wrong way, you should just "shake the dust" and move on. But I wrestle with this because if I took the union of all the sets of people whom I've been told I should just not waste my time with, then the number of people left for me to actually hang out with is small indeed.

I know that I will probably not be able to convince someone to like me by arguing that their preferences are unethical. But I still think there's merit in my larger "mission" of encouraging people to reflect on whether their preferences are really immutable aspects of their person, or actually just "habits" shaped by social forces and experience.

I also think that if I succeed in this "mission," then I will be a net beneficiary of people having more open preferences, as opposed to people who are conventionally attractive and have been slacking off on their personality, who will be net losers, for example.

"Mission" is in scare quotes because I'm not dedicated to this full-time, but this is one of the two or three ideas I have that I really want to convince other people is correct.
 
Even preferential discrimination at a personal level is absolutely mind boggling.

Because you don’t understand it, or because you judge it as wrong?

I know I have a preferential discrimination against women with blonde hair.

Do I acknowledge the world is almost certainly host to uncountable blonde women I would think and feel were remarkable people? Sure, of course.

But in general, I don’t see blonde women as attractive. It’s difficult even if I try.

I think this is because when I was a young child, a blonde woman (a teacher) molested me.

On a sensory-emotional level, my ability to find blonde women attractive has been effectively shut off.

On a mental level, I realize this, and both understand it and think it silly. That said, I know just how real it is, and accept it.

I wish I understood the underlying mechanisms for those things I find attractive. I can think of various characteristics, or certain presentations, and know instantly yea, or nay, but not necessarily a moderately-granular reason why.

Cheers,
Ian
 

What I mean is-
People all discriminate against whatever they (mostly ignorantly) don't fully understand.

I find some relative beauty in mostly all people and things.
Beauty/attraction in scientific terms, which is largely just symmetry and pheromones, will only get a person so far by chasing it.
Life is more complicated than the one dimensionality thinking or gravitation towards such things.
But the subconscious pull can be strong for the plethora of weak minded in the world.
 
What I mean is-
People all discriminate against whatever they (mostly ignorantly) don't fully understand.

I find some relative beauty in mostly all people and things.
Beauty/attraction in scientific terms, which is largely just symmetry and pheromones, will only get a person so far by chasing it.
Life is more complicated than the one dimensionality thinking or gravitation towards such things.
But the subconscious pull can be strong for the plethora of weak minded in the world.
The idea of abbreviating all this to
I'm still gonna discriminate against the uggos
is either genius or madness.