Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Beauty doesn’t equal morality

It’s easy to make fun of someone’s appearance but it’s not really them we’re hurting

Have you noticed that whenever we decide we don’t like someone, we then decide that they’re ugly? It seems like whenever I go on TikTok, people who are making fun of misogynists usually include something about them being smelly and unshaven, even referring to them as “neckbeards.” People on both sides of the political spectrum portray the other side as ugly, even those who consider themselves progressives. But calling someone ugly doesn’t have anything to do with the views they have, so why are all of us so drawn to this childish insult?

Studies have shown that we inadvertently judge people we deem to be physically attractive as more socially competent, more intelligent and to have better prospects in life than those deemed unattractive. The reverse is also true. We judge people we find unattractive unfavorably and consider them to be less intelligent than people seen as more attractive. Considering this, it makes sense that internet users, even ones that consider themselves to be progressive, would resort to painting their political opponents as physically undesirable, such as the example of calling misogynists “neckbeards.” It’s physiologically easier to convince others of someone’s moral inferiority if you’ve shown examples of them looking unattractive.

But, what about people who are perfectly nice and respectful, but also possess these same traits? I regularly see people online making fun of sexist men by calling them bald or short, traits that are seen as undesirable but have nothing to do with their opinions. I know plenty of short and balding men who are good people. It most likely does not make them feel good to be generalized with a bad group of people.

Thinking about this habit of calling people we don’t like ugly also calls into question what we consider ugly at all. What exactly created these beauty standards that we judge morals by? The short answer, in most cases, is plain old bigotry. Think of any old Disney movie. Chances are the dastardly murdering or child-stealing villain has traits usually associated with Jewish people or gay people. Being overweight is also often used as a shorthand for evilness in media, like the cousin, Dudley, in “Harry Potter.” The beauty standards of our society are overwhelmingly biased towards bodies that are white, skinny and “conventional.” This causes a bias towards anyone who falls outside of this narrow range, as well as anyone who is disabled in a way that affects their appearance or choses to style themselves in a way outside the norm.

Sure, people who consider themselves to be progressive don’t usually focus on these things when they are making fun of someone politically opposed to them, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right to judge someone based on their appearance. We can’t reserve that type of bullying for people we think “deserve” it, because really, is that who we’re affecting? Do the sexist TikTokers care that we think they’re ugly and undesirable because they’re balding? No, but the people who are actually going to be hurt by these kinds of comments are the people who agree with us, who are on our side of the issue and therefore value our opinions.

Sometimes these insults targeted at “bad” people focus more on things that can technically be “controlled,” like not showering, neckbeards or, according to some people, being fat. But none of these things have any relation to morality, either. There are a plethora of valid reasons someone might not look as “put-together” as desired by the public, such as mental health, socioeconomic status or disability, but those things also shouldn’t matter. Health, genetics, personal hygiene, none of these things are affected by someone’s opinions or overall goodness.

I don’t like jokes that make fun of peoples’ appearances, even if it’s someone I don’t like or disagree with. Someone on the side of progressives, who just happens to have the physical trait that is being made fun of, is far more likely to be negatively affected by the insults than the bigoted person they are aimed at.

Grace Jungmann can be reached at [email protected]

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    JohnFeb 15, 2024 at 3:20 pm

    That photo was taken between 2009 and 2013 because the fountains were installed in 2009 and the smokestacks were taken down by 2013. LOL