Lookism: Pushing the Frontier of Equality by Looking Beyond the Law

This Note analyzes the legal climate of lookism: discrimination or prejudice on the basis of an individual’s appearance. Appearance-based discrimination is difficult to identify in the real world and few jurisdictions protect against this form of prejudice, although it is often compartmentalized with sexism and racism which are guarded by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The District of Columbia Human Rights Act and a Santa Cruz, California City Council ordinance are some practicing examples of anti-lookism laws. Supporters of these local laws have suggested expanding Title VII to include lookism protection for immutable characteristics, such as height, weight, and natural physical qualities. This Note argues that Title VII should be amended to include such immutable traits and simultaneously attempt to create sociological change toward greater appearance acceptance. The author states that such a revision would simply require courts to apply Title VII as it currently exists, thus creating no extra burdens on the judicial system. The author further asserts that in order to minimize anti-lookism-protection backlash and the difficulties of capture, the socio-legal world would have to expose the problems of this prejudicial form in order to promote an anti-lookism mentality. Thus, this Note advocates for lookism prevention and greater appearance-based acceptance through the expansion of Title VII protection.

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