Heather Widdows Talk: “Lookism, Discrimination and Shame”


Location: 131 DeBartolo Hall

Heather Widdows

Heather Widdows, Professor of Philosophy, University of Warwick

Bio: ​Heather Widdows is a moral philosopher working on the modification of bodies, the rising demands of beauty, addressing lookism and the way that visual and virtual culture is shaping what it means to be human. She has worked on global ethics, reproductive rights, and genetic ethics. Her most recent book, Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal (Princeton University Press), was described by Vogue as "ground-breaking". She co-runs the Beauty Demands blog and is the founder of the #everydaylookism campaign. She is experienced at working with policy-makers and campaigners and frequently appears in the media.

Abstract: I explore two aspects of ‘lookism’: first discrimination and second shame. Discrimination, is lookism done to us by other people in terms of how we are treated and the opportunities we are given or denied on the basis of how we look. Lookism is prevalent, and the unattractive are disadvantaged in the job market, in the classroom, in the courtroom, and appearance bullying is the most common form of bullying. Lookism also manifests in how we feel about ourselves, particularly in feelings of shame of our bodies and our selves. Feeling ashamed of how we look, or feeling like we don’t measure up, directly impacts on self-esteem and profoundly -  limits what many people do. Yet too often we don’t take lookism seriously. We largely regard lookist comments - negative comments about appearance - as trivial, ‘normal’, ‘banter’, and even ‘natural’. Lookism, like sexism and racism, needs to be called out and resisted.

Reception immediately following in the Philosophy Department Lounge, Malloy Hall, 1st floor

Sponsored by the Gender Studies Program and the Department of Philosophy