Legislating ugly
Legislating ugly
SINGKIT - Doreen G. Yu (The Philippine Star) - March 17, 2013 - 12:00am

A rather peculiar item came out in the papers the other day. In the cacophony of campaign sound and fury, one candidate said that, if elected, he would push for equal opportunity legislation in getting a job. He said applicants must not be turned away because of age or looks.

He rued that the prevailing employment landscape favors people below 30 years of age. “When you are already old, aged 30 years old and above, do you get the chance of getting hired? No, because you are overage,” he was quoted as saying. He pointed out that people over 30 who lose their jobs have a hard, if not impossible, time finding other jobs, because they are deemed too old.

Further, he rages against employers who discriminate against those who are not pretty or guapo, or who do not have a pleasing personality. “If you will show your picture toothless, ugly, are they going to hire you? The poor cannot get jobs,” he also reportedly said, adding, to show that he means business, “I will manhandle those who will treat you that way. That is why I will file a law for equal opportunity and we will bombard those who will not hire any person because of his age and unpleasant looks with charges.”

The guy, I guess, is well-meaning and his intentions noble. But this could be something like the proposed law to ban typhoons. While age can be quantified, how will ugly be measured? Does being toothless mean you’re ugly? (The statement “The poor cannot get jobs” following the toothless comment is, in itself, problematic.)

While it is right that employers should hire applicants based on ability and not on “ugliness or beauty and age,” can you really fault an employer for imposing certain standards of physical appearance for some jobs, such as frontline service or sales positions, which will affect the employee’s effectivity in carrying out his/her duties? Culture and society have set standards of beauty; these standards are, admittedly, skewed, but to legislate good looks or the lack of it is unrealistic.

And if charges are indeed filed against an employer for not hiring an applicant because he/she is pangit, he/she is going to have to prove that in court. How do you do that? Does the applicant stand up in court as exhibit A and there prove his/her pangit-ness as the basis for his/her non-employment? With what evidence, I wonder.

In the same vein, how do you define “pleasing personality?” While I wholeheartedly agree that not having a pleasing personality should not keep one from getting hired (I have often said that the reason I worked very hard to become an editor is so that I can be as grouchy as I want and still be within the purview of my position, since editors are expected to be mean and ornery), I must admit I probably would not buy a pair of shoes or a chair from somebody as grouchy as me. 

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” Matthew 18:1-5

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