Slightly Above Average Guys

How do men rate their “attractiveness,” on a scale of 1-10, after nearly two years of COVID-related curtailments on activity? According to a recent survey of men in the U.S. and the U.K., guys see themselves as similar to the children of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon: slightly above average. Specifically, the survey indicates that men rate themselves, on average, as coming in at a solid 5.9 on the 10-point attractiveness scale.

According to the survey, though, only 41.0 percent of men are “happy” with the way they look. That percentage is even lower for guys in younger age groups, where they still harbor visions of committing to serious workout regimens and getting buffed up so that they look like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III. Apparently the younger dudes feel pressure to have the “superhero stereotype” bodies exemplified by male members of the Avengers. Older fellows, who have long since thrown in the towel about their abs, tend to be a bit easier on themselves. Years of experience have taught them the virtues of personal acceptance and that if they are going to worry about body parts, they should be thinking instead along the lines of whether they are going to need knee surgery or a hip replacement.

The survey also reveals that 40 percent of men report that they experience “body insecurity” issues when they look in a mirror, and that men also think they aren’t tall enough and weigh too much. And the self-perception of male attractiveness seems to be directly correlated with weight, with heavier guys feeling less attractive than the skinny set.

There seems to be an obvious issue lurking in these survey results: if most men feel too short and too fat and hate looking at themselves in the mirror, how in the world do they get to rating themselves at an above average 5.9 on the 10-point attractiveness scale? There might be a few narcissistic dudes who wrecked the curve, of course, but I’m guessing that, when it comes to the ultimate attractiveness issue, men aren’t comparing themselves to superheroes, but just gauging themselves against the other shrimpy, tubby guys out there. In short, there’s safety and security in numbers.

Homely Discrimination

The Boston Globe recently ran an article about “beauty bias.”  The underlying concept is that people inevitably discriminate in favor of the beautiful and, in so doing, show bias against the less attractive among us.  So, what to do about it?

One of the suggestions by “experts” is that we make homely people a protected class entitled to special legal protection, or require some form of “affirmative action.”  The article makes it seems, at least, that these are serious suggestions propounded by serious people.  Apparently, they don’t realize how ludicrous it would be to implement either of these proposals — and how stigmatizing.

Imagine walking into a job interview and getting rejected, and then bringing a “homely discrimination” claim.  The first element of the claim, presumably, would be to prove that you’re not one of the beautiful people.  Even if people wanted to self-identify as ill-favored — a dubious proposition, in my view — how would you prove that element?  By comparison to a Hollywood start or supermodel?  And how would you draw the line about who could bring a claim?  Would simply plain people be eligible, or would that ability be reserved to only those who fall into the Wicked Witch of the West category?

Can’t we just take a deep breath before creating more legal “rights,” and recognize that people inevitably will look different in ways that favor some and disadvantage others?   For example, studies show that people subconsciously attribute more leadership qualities to taller individuals.  If you’re of below average height, should you get some form of compensation or the ability to make a claim if a taller man or woman is promoted rather than you?

This kind of effort is futile and, I think, ultimately counterproductive.  People would do well to stop worrying about outward appearances and start thinking about how to let their inner beauty show.