Friday, March 19, 2010

Ugly Acceptance.

I've joked about it before, but this time I'm serious: we need an ugly acceptance movement. I'm not really qualified to be the standard-bearer, for obvious reasons, but I see the societal need.

Some principles of this movement:

-There's no such thing as ugly. No one has "ugly molecules" physically in their skin; it's all in the eye of the beholders and beholders vary a lot more than you guessed. All those weird porn sites with 600-pound women, 80-year-old women, hairy women, bodybuilder women, ad nauseum? They exist because someone is paying money for them, and they're not forking out $30/month ($99/6 months, BEST VALUE) just for laughs. So to call a person "ugly" really only means "ugly to me;" it's nothing intrinsic to them. This isn't a value judgement but a philosophical statement; ugliness can never be an intrinsic quality.

-The fact that perceptions of beauty are not evenly distributed among all possible traits does not prove that beauty is objective. Everyone on Earth could agree that Alyson Hannigan is more beautiful than Carrot Top, and she still wouldn't be more beautiful.

-Most people (self included) need to get a serious human-decency adjustment in the way they deal with people who are ugly to them.

-Note from the examples that came to me that ugly-hatred is bound up with a lot of other, less acceptable hatreds: ageism, sizeism, ableism, often racism. Thinking that a person is ugly because they're old is ageist; thinking that they're ugly because they're old and therefore it's okay to be a jerk to them is what ugly acceptance aims to fight.

-Sexism is also an ENORMOUS factor here; the idea that a woman's beauty is her worth is tremendously sexist and tremendously pervasive. A woman's beauty (to you) may be her fuckability (to you), but there's a whole lot women can do besides get fucked. Ugly women are so often treated like less valuable women, without anyone even asking how good they are at baking or hockey or civil engineering.

-No, you don't have to fuck uglies. Really. That's not what it's about. Your sexual choice is absolutely inviolate, a pure example of "management reserves the right to refuse service" no matter how petty or non-PC or silly or cruel your reasoning--I would never tell anyone they had to fuck anyone and certainly not a person they weren't attracted to. You don't have to look at ugly porn either and you don't even have to proclaim sexual attraction for uglies.

-But you can accept people in a lot of non-fucking ways that still matter. Give ugly people an even shot at being your friend, your employee, your political representative, your service professional. Treat ugly people in social situations with respect and uglyblindness. Don't tolerate appearance-based joking or bullying in kids or adults. Don't use "ugly" as an insult, and call out people who rag on the ugliness of people they weren't going to fuck anyway. Don't talk or think about attractiveness as an intrinsic, objective quality; don't participate in the constant rating of everyone's attractiveness.

-Saying "but X is beautiful!" about unpopular physical features misses the point. The point is that maybe it's really not beautiful to certain people, but so what? If they're not screwing or photographing/painting the unbeautiful, these certain people have no right to care.

-As far as media representations: art and marketing both have justifications for featuring statistically-beautiful people more often, and I can accept that. However I cannot accept implications in the media that the statistically-beautiful are better people, or that beauty is a massively important quality in all walks of life.



The language usage here is super-awkward, because unlike with other acceptance movements, I don't recommend anyone self-identify as ugly. There is such a thing as "generally uglier to most people than most people are," (and that's what I meant when I casually said "ugly" above) but it's a fuzzy category, often severely mis-perceived by the subject, and not really a helpful designation.



Ugly acceptance is a tough, tough thing to conceptualize; the distinction between "ugly" and "pretty" enters our consciousness about the same time the distinction between "up" and "down" does, and we come to think of it as just as fundamental. Saying that pretty doesn't exist thus feels, viscerally, as wrong as saying "down" is a matter of opinion. But, you know... ask someone in Australia.

No one's ugly. No one's pretty. Fuck who you like, but everyone's a person. That's ugly acceptance in a nutshell.

23 comments:

  1. But you can accept people in a lot of non-fucking ways that still matter.
    You can or you should? And what if I don't want to?
    It's a reasonable request to be left alone by those whom I don't want to communicate with. That can be stupid people (those, whom I personally consider stupid, ok, ok), obnoxious people (ditto), people with the smell I don't like and yeah, those people whose faces or bodies I find alternatively attractive.
    Life is too short, why should I waste my precious hours to communicate with those whom I don't like even if it helps them to manage their self-esteem?

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  2. Anonymous - Hey, if you want to be a dickhole, I guess you're going to be a dickhole. I suppose I was only speaking to non-dickholes here and thus being exclusionary of other life choices. My bad.

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  3. ...those _you were considering non-dickoles_, you mean? Why whould you want to limit your audience?

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  4. I chose to call you a dickhole. Life is short, I'm not altering my choices for anyone. Why shouldn't I call you a dickhole, I want to and I can't think any deeper than my own knee-jerk impulses ever. DIIIICKKKHOOOOLLLLE. Whee.

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  5. Well, now you know how it is :)

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  6. (This is a different anonymous.)

    I agree with almost everything except one thing. I don't want to say no one's pretty, or that there's no such thing as ugly. "Beauty/ugliness is subjective" and "beauty/ugliness does not exist" are two completely different claims, and only the former is true.

    Why? Because subjective things are real things. My opinion that I'm pretty is completely valid and true and real, because that's how I feel. If you think I'm ugly, that's also completely valid, because that's how you feel. You just have to be polite about where and how and if you express your opinion. :)

    So, um, if you don't want to alienate overanalytic nitpickers like myself, stick to "beauty is in the eye of beholder" and then I'll be with your movement.

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  7. Non-dickhole anon - I understand your point, and I guess I was using a different meaning of "exist." (It all depends what "is" is.)

    But I do think it's important to create the distinction between perception and reality--your perception is really a perception, it has worth and meaning, but your prettiness happens in your head when you look in a mirror, not in your skin everywhere you go.

    And I think the problem is when people can't keep this in mind, when they start thinking a person is ugly and should be treated accordingly, and that's why I think the distinction matters.

    So yeah, basically the same thing as "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," just differently phrased.



    ...Ugh, this is getting so frickin' postmodern. I'm an EMT, Jim, not a semiotics analyst.

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  8. It seems -- as with fat acceptance -- that "acceptance" means different things to different people. Ugly acceptance seems to analogize better, though imperfectly, to the school of fat acceptance that focuses on how not-fat you can be (as much as it's at all objective) and still be deemed "fat."

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  9. Hershele - I'd analogize more it to the school of fat acceptance that focuses on "maybe it DOES cause health problems, maybe it IS the result of my choices--it's still none of your beeswax."

    I don't want to be seen as pretty (or ugly) so much as I just want people not to judge my attractiveness at all when that's not the kind of situation we're in.

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  10. I would like to point out that there has already been considerable, albeit very gradual, progress on this front. In modern societies, people no longer treat ugliness as an external manifestation of an inherently sinful nature, or disfigurement as a sign that one did something to deserve it. Probably the main reason why there hasn't been more progress is because there is considerable profit in promoting a standard of beauty which is unachievable to most people, and considerable political power in promoting as much divisiveness as possible among the general population.

    (Note: I'm not saying that politicians foment "ugly hate" specifically - they'd probably be laughed out of office if they tried - just that creating an environment where people find as many ways as possible to exclude or look down on each other makes them vulnerable to political manipulation.)

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  11. Anonymous #1, you can look down on people you think are ugly all you want; but eventually you'll miss out on something not sex-related that an ugly person can provide to you. Also, if you're like me, you'll get angry to an unhealthy degree at the fact that ugly people aren't going away.

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  12. I am #1
    Even if I miss, it's a small loss, comparing. Why should I get angry? Avoiding books I don't like, movies I don't want to watch, people, I don't want to comminicate to - it's not a right or entitlement, it's just time-saving.

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  13. Okay,

    1) Morals. The Golden Rule. Sometimes to be a human being you have to do things that don't directly benefit you this minute. Unlike a movie you don't watch, a person you don't interact with is acutely aware of it.

    2) A given ugly person might turn out to be better for a job or a better friend than a given pretty person, and you'd never know. Or they might turn out to be your boss's sister, and you will know.

    3) A pretty person might see you being a dickhole to an ugly person, and that pretty person will decide to deny you all the benefits of their association.

    4) You're ugly to some people; would you really (really, you don't have to do some hilarious "Oh, I would totally understand and respect their time!" bluff here) like it if they just acted like you were invisible?

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  14. 1. Yes, the person I snubbed was aware of it - it's still my right to snub him, and I disagree to accept _the other person's_ problems as my own. It's his self-esteem, he has to handle it.

    2. I am not selling out. No job is worth sucking up to not only the boss, but also his sister. And his dog may be? No. Way.

    3. Actually, I'd be surprised. So far it has seemed just the opposite: boys, cordial to alternatively pretty girls definitely lost their points with the conventionally pretty ones. Sad, but that how it was - may be now it will be different.

    4. I will be saving not theirs but my own time and effort. The first minute of eye contact you can ether feel the mutual acceptance or not. In case of my being ugly to some people, avoiding them is the best policy for my own interests, there are enough people who do not see me as ugly, why should I waste my time here?

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  15. 1. Yes, you have the RIGHT to be a dick. It's in the Constitution or something. But it's still highly recommended that you not exercise that right to the fullest. There's a difference between something being possible and being a lovely way to live your life.

    2. Congratulations, person who's not selling out, very brave, I hope you like ramen and I hope nobody else depends on you to support them. Also, it's not "sucking up" to just not be a dick.

    3. Funny, because I don't like you much at all right now.

    4. Are you from Earth?

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  16. Sure, Earth is the place where the population is about 7 billion people, of which 300 million live in the USA.
    Birds of any feather have their own flock big enough to last them several lifetimes, there's no need to fight for acceptance.

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  17. I'm a different anonymous from the first two, but I agree that it's acceptable to choose only to be friends with pretty people to the same extent that it's acceptable to choose only to associate with intelligent people. There are plenty of situations in which intelligence is irrelevant, just as there are plenty of situations in which physical appearance is irrelevant, but, for the most part, people choose to spend their time with people they consider to be intelligent, just as they prefer to spend their time with people they find attractive.

    Obviously, people still sometimes become friends with people they don't find immediately attractive, but these people have to work harder to make themselves interesting to people who aren't automatically interested in them on the basis of their appearance.

    I feel like the word "attractive" is a clue. People can be attracted on the basis of personality, or they can be attracted on the basis of appearance, but the attraction has to exist in order for people to make the effort to connect.

    But if you're just saying that people shouldn't be rude to people they find unattractive, or dismiss them as having no worth, then I totally agree.

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  18. I'm #1
    I don't say you have to be rude. Being rude is a definite position, even an invitation to a communication, although a twisted one.
    No, I am all for being polite to all people, just polite enough so that they will not think it's anything personal.

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  19. It is so nice that dickholes are asserting their right to stay away from other people; I hope they will exercise that right as widely as possible.

    Holly - right on! I have a thing against the word "attractive," for the reasons in your post. "Attractive" means TO someone. It is not a word that should be permitted just hang out there on its own.

    Also, I love Shapely Prose (although I do not fit into their guidelines for "fat acceptance" because I'm still hard on *myself* and don't want to get "out of shape"). It's a great forum, and I learn a lot there. Some of the best comment threads going.

    flightless

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  20. Late to the party here, but some thoughts:

    "There's no such thing as ugly." I get what you mean, but I'm not sure that I can get behind this one. There's a difference in experience, I suspect, between the people who are conventionally attractive and the people who aren't, and pretending that it's all idiosyncratic and they just haven't met the right person yet misses the point that this can be systematic, and have concrete effects far beyond finding sexual partners. From the point of view of the perceiver, yes it's subjective, but those individual subjectivities don't average out the same way for everyone, and I think that a lot of folks use the "it's subjective" argument to dismiss the experiences of people commonly regarded as ugly.

    Dickhole Anonymous: You should, even if you don't want to. You don't have the right to have your world populated only by the people you find attractive, any more than you have the right to have it only populated by people of the race, religion, or gender you would prefer.

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  21. Late to the party here, but some thoughts:

    "There's no such thing as ugly." I get what you mean, but I'm not sure that I can get behind this one. There's a difference in experience, I suspect, between the people who are conventionally attractive and the people who aren't, and pretending that it's all idiosyncratic and they just haven't met the right person yet misses the point that this can be systematic, and have concrete effects far beyond finding sexual partners. From the point of view of the perceiver, yes it's subjective, but those individual subjectivities don't average out the same way for everyone, and I think that a lot of folks use the "it's subjective" argument to dismiss the experiences of people commonly regarded as ugly.

    Dickhole Anonymous: You should, even if you don't want to. You don't have the right to have your world populated only by the people you find attractive, any more than you have the right to have it only populated by people of the race, religion, or gender you would prefer.

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  22. take pride in being ugly!April 29, 2010 at 2:12 AM

    I agree with jfpbookworm.

    Denying the existence of ugliness does no favors for ugly people.
    I think people should be able to own their ugliness and accept their ugliness, but still have pride in themselves.

    I think this is already a reality for some men.

    Men can call themselves ugly with pride, men can call their friends ugly in an affectionate way.

    An ugly women is never allowed to admit that she is ugly, she is told, "No you're just unique! You're unconventionally beautiful! All women are beautiful!"

    Ugly women know that these are lies. You would never tell an ugly man that he is not ugly.

    you could also call fat subjective, and to some degree it is, but telling a 300 pound woman that she is not fat is a lie. Which is why the fat acceptance movement doesn't try to deny fatness, but instead tries to take away the dehumanizing power that the word "fat" has.

    I think the ugly acceptance movement should be similar.

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  23. I loved this post. Got linked by a friend. I wrote a similar post today and I just agree with everything you've said here. Nice work.

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