Sexism and racism are bad, but there's another "ism" that David Brooks is concerned about, and one for which there doesn't seem to be much legal recourse: "lookism," the term Brooks uses in his newest op-ed for the New York Times to describe "prejudice against the unattractive." In short, Brooks poses this question in the headline: "Why is it OK to be mean to the ugly?" He notes that "lookism starts, like every form of bigotry, with prejudice and stereotypes," and he offers plenty of evidence to back up his assertion that "the attractive get ... first-class treatment" while the unattractive often get the shaft. Brooks cites research suggesting that attractive people are more likely to get jobs and promotions than unattractive people, make more money, and even get hit with smaller fines after committing low-level crimes.
Yet we as a society largely ignore this "pervasive" problem, mainly because "it's very hard to buck the core values of your culture, even when you know it's the right thing to do," Brooks writes. He adds that those values our "pagan culture" has pushed include an obsession with beauty, athleticism, and intelligence, leaving unattractive people out in the cold. So where's a good place to start to remedy this? "Shift the norms and practices" in our society, per Brooks. He points out that Victoria's Secret, of all companies, is blazing a path in this regard, recently replacing its "Angels" with seven women who boast more diverse body types, including soccer star Megan Rapinoe. Still, Brooks notes, "when Victoria's Secret is on the cutting edge of the fight against lookism, the rest of us have some catching up to do." (Read his piece in its entirety here.)