Lookism: The last acceptable discrimination?

The 2022 Royal Institute of Philosophy/Royal Society of Edinburgh Annual Lecture.

Lookism is prevalent in today’s society. For example, appearance bullying is the most common form of bullying. Lookism is harmful, it directly impacts self-esteem and profoundly limits young people’s behaviour. However, it is largely tolerated, and negative comments about appearance are treated as trivial and thought of as ‘normal’, ‘inescapable’, ‘banter’, and even ‘natural’.

During this event, our keynote speaker, Heather Widdows, Professor of Philosophy, University of Warwick, will explore the phenomenon of lookism – appearance discrimination. She will argue that the harms of lookism are so severe that we need a zero-tolerance approach, the same as we do to sexist or racist comments, irrespective of intention or context. The talk will be followed by a Q&A session chaired by Professor Edward Harcourt.

Professor Heather Widdows

Professor of Philosophy, University of Warwick

Professor Heather Widdows is a Philosopher at the University of Warwick. Her most recent book, Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal (2018), was described by Vogue as “ground-breaking” and listed by The Atlantic as one of the best books of 2018. She is author of The Connected Self: The Ethics and Governance of the Genetic Individual (2103), Global Ethics: An Introduction (2011), and The Moral Vision of Iris Murdoch (2005). She has co-edited, with Darrel Moellendorf, The Routledge Handbook of Global Ethics (2014). She co-runs the Beauty Demands Network and Blog and the #everydaylookism project.

Professor Edward Harcourt

Academic Director, The Royal Institute of Philosophy

Professor Harcourt is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford and has been a Fellow of Keble College since 2005. He has been a Mind Association Research Fellow and has held various visiting appointments including Visiting Research Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and Wittgenstein Professor at the University of Innsbruck. From 2018-22 he was Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation at the UKRI Arts and Humanities Research Council.