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Lessons from the 'World's Ugliest Woman': 'Stop Staring and Start Learning' (yahoo.com)
51 points by mikecane 1754 days ago | hide | past | web | 23 comments | favorite



If a recognizable celebrity figure (POTUS, a TV talking head, or a film star) walked into my vicinity, I'm going to stare. I'm going to stare mainly because I doubt seriously that the actual person that I think is here would come to where I am and I'm really trying to discover if that's a look-alike or a mask.

After seeing this woman's photo, I'd do the same kind of staring. Is it a mask? Is she real? When I discover she's real, now I'm curious what causes this particular look. I have large ears and at some point in my life I was curious why my ears were bigger that average. It's pretty much a genetic thing through my maternal grandfather's family. Where the trait originates I didn't particularly care.

When someone looks different enough from the other people you see every day-- ugly, attractive ... doesn't matter --you tend to stare. Apparently you can't just walk over to random people and ask things like "did you inherit those ears or are you a genetic anomaly?" and "you and your friend both have nice round rear ends, but what causes your waist to be so much wider than hers?" - it's considered rude. When our children do ask these questions of others, the child gets reprimanded (even if only by the shocked and insulted reaction by the other party) and learns not to educate themselves in this manner.

So you're out in public and you find yourself staring. Curiosity happens. Now, what's the next thing you do? Start whispering to the group you're with? Laughing? Making jokes? That's the problem. "Stop staring and start learning." Learning what exactly? That we're all humans and deserve the same respect? Yeah, your mama shoulda taught you that years ago.

How about we all just stop being assholes to each other?


That's how I deal with it:

I often try to think about it one step further, when you have a funny last name you have heard comments about it endless times already and I keep it for myself.

That also applies to famous people when they are in a casual environment, you look at them twice but that's the downside of being famous.

When it comes to visible things that are not self-explanatory I ignore them unless I want to know this person better. Then I ask directly once and then I am good.

This worked so far and I didn't offend someone so far, I think.


What amazing strength she shows. I find such strength very attractive, and I doubt I am alone. I wonder if people are born with such strength, or if we could all have it if we needed it (and perhaps with helpful guidance).


There are hordes of people who will say outrageous things because they think they are anonymous.

It's one of the many ways that the Internet has amplified character issues that already existed in society.


I bet she has to deal with pretty hostile reactions in her day to day life. Maybe not quite as horrible as "You should kill yourself", but still pretty bad.

UK TV station Channel 4 had an interesting documentary where they paired up people with facial disfigurement and people who really wanted cosmetic surgery. The comments that people with facial disfigurement had to endure in everyday life really were awful. (And there's plenty of research showing "ugly" people do less well than "pretty" people in things like job interviews and pay rises etc.)

--- (Unfortunately, most of the programmes had confrontational pairs who had little interest in understanding the other person.) The most interesting was a man who had extensive burn scars on his face, paired up with a woman who had large breasts. He went in saying that she should not have surgery at all. After a while he could see just how horrible people were to her just because of her large breasts. That's S01E01.

(http://www.channel4.com/programmes/beauty-the-beast-ugly-fac...)

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/organgrinder/2010/aug/26/bea...)


I've read somewhere that this behavior is some kind of valve for agression. Similar to laughing to specific kinds of comedy, or cursing at the other team in a stadium.

When you compare that to real violence, this is culturally very advanced.

There is the downside that some take stuff often very personal, they have to learn that these things are more about these people themselves than about the target.


I've read somewhere that this behavior is come kind of valve for agression. Similar to laughing to specific kinds of comedy, or cursing at the other team in a stadium.

I wonder if that's verifiable. Some very senseless acts of aggression have occurred among the spectators at sporting events.



Didn't know about that, thanks.


the title of the post is annoying the fuck out of me, because it perpetuates the same shallow bullshit that she has to fight against.


I totally disagree. The quote marks around the words "World's Ugliest Woman" indicate that this was an actual opinion that someone expressed but that it isn't necessarily a fact. That's really the point of the story, how she dealt with the hurtful comments of others.


Staring is how we learn. Yes, it's uncomfortable for the one being stared at, but if they truly want anyone to understand their condition they'll first have to accept that being different means being the focus of attention.


Except you don't do that to people.

If you want to truly understand someone's condition, first be their friend and earn the right to talk to them about it. Or jump on wikipedia.

But don't stare. People are not here for your edu-porn.


Yes, staring is rude, I get that. But you have to understand, our brains are hardwired to stare.

Pattern recognition is so innate that when we perceive something that breaks the expected pattern our first instinct is to keep looking at it until we understand what we're looking at. It's unconscious, and if we're lucky we'll catch ourselves doing it to a person and try to mitigate the circumstance with shifty glances elsewhere, but our eyes will always be drawn back as soon as our concentration wavers.


When I see something unexpected (And this would apply to seeing a zebra in the middle of the road as much as the person in the article) lots of things fire at once. What did I just see? Did I really see it? What is going on here?

There is a literal jolt in my brain saying "what was that" and so I am probably going to at least double take before I have even mentally engaged with what is happening and considered the feelings of the person I am looking at.

Obviously this only applies to the initial moments after which I am far more likely to avoid looking at all for fear of upsetting them. It is far easier not to look than to act normally. We [should] all know staring is rude - but stringently avoiding looking is also very isolating I would imagine.

NB. No I am not comparing the person to a Zebra, but simply using an example of seeing something completely unexpected.


I think she was talking about actual staring, not just "being the focus of attention".


"Ugliness" is always from a given perspective and usually says more about the biases of the person holding the view than about the person in question.

This woman is remarkable given the challenges she has had to face. I hope she continues to educate those with small minded opinions.


> "Ugliness" is always from a given perspective

No, humans have a pretty converging opinion on what's attractive in other humans. To the point of being quantifiable https://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/09/fashion/09skin.html?pagew...

And, really, come on, the idea of sexual selection is 150 years old. We don't need to be slaves to it but it is real.


Humans may have a converging opinion however this is more likely related to the current social norms rather than an anything else.

If you were to transport a person from 400 years ago into the present then you would find their idea of ugliness would be very different from our present opinion.

I agree that sexual selection isn't a new idea, however I would suggest it's more related to what the media and advertising tells us is optimal rather than other factors (e.g. see the changing sexual norms in teenagers due to porn).


> this is more likely related to the current social norms rather than an anything else.

Again, no

>> Studies have shown that there is surprising agreement about what makes a face attractive. Symmetry is at the core, along with youthfulness; clarity or smoothness of skin; and vivid color, say, in the eyes and hair. There is little dissent among people of different cultures, ethnicities, races, ages and gender.

Symmetry works across species. Are zebras influenced by the current social norms?

>> Female Zebra Finches Prefer Males with Symmetric Chest Plumage

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/258/1353/267....

Search for symmetry and sexual in Google Scholar and you'll find hundreds of studies showing that those preferences are obviously innate. Maybe not all of them but a lot of them.

And the resulting judgement is instantaneous — humans can judge attractiveness unconsciously, without noticing it, in 13ms! http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2012/04/how-long-does-it-take-to-d...

> If you were to transport a person from 400 years ago into the present then you would find their idea of ugliness would be very different from our present opinion.

That's not falsifiable.


"That's not falsifiable."

Besides that we have some conception of beauty ideals throughout the ages, as captured.


Sure. People find symmetric faces to be more attractive.

A person's physical appearance goes beyond the face. Body shape, fitness levels, etc are all factors in attractiveness, and those preferences have changed over the years, and vary significantly by population. The 19th century Victorian ideal didn't do much for a farm wife of the era.


As an aside, I can't read this article on my phone, I get redirected to the mobile version of the frontpage. Very frustrating.




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