Naming and Shaming: Responding to Lookism

Lookism is an endemic form of discrimination, yet it is largely unrecognised and even when it is recognised, little action is taken to end it. I suggest that this can be explained, at least in part, by the shame that lookism invokes. Shame prevents calling out lookist comments, or appealing to legislation to object to unjust treatment. To address lookism we need to name lookism, something which is in its infancy and which philosophy can contribute to. However, naming lookism is not enough, we also need to change our emotional response to lookism, so we respond not with shame but with rage. Eventually, and over time, this will shift the shame from the victim to the perpetrator. Finally, I reject claims that lookism is normal or natural and something we should learn to live with.

Biography: Prof Widdows is based in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Warwick, where she specialises in applied ethics, global ethics, bioethics, moral philosophy and feminist philosophy. She is a member of the British Philosophical Association (BPA) Executive, and was Deputy Chair of the Philosophy sub-panel for REF 2021 and a member of the 2014 sub-panel. She also served on the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2014-2020) and previously on the UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council (2007-2013).

Prof Widdows co-runs the Beauty Demands Network and Blog with Dr Fiona MacCallum and founded the #everydaylookism project.

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