Ugliness is a gatekeeper to being worthy of love
June 17, 2019 12:18 PM   Subscribe

At the first annual Ugly Conference, attendees aren't trying to "reclaim" anything. They're just trying to be seen as they are. A Vice reporter recounts their experience at Oakland's first annual Ugly Conference, which was organized by Vanessa Rochelle Lewis after her picture made the rounds on the internet when a party promoter used it in a meme. Lewis hopes the conference is the "first in a series of gatherings designed to combat image-based prejudice and abuse."

From the Vice article:
"The notion that everyone is beautiful had long seemed as stifling to me as the beauty standards which it purported to unwind. Though essentially the same in meaning, the opposite construction— we’re all ugly—seemed freeing: If everyone was ugly, no one could judge my appearance or my failure to come to terms with it.

We’re all ugly, I think when the thought of being seen is painful. We’re all ugly, I once said to myself in the mirror before a date with someone I feared would find me unattractive. We’re all ugly, I reminded myself on the morning of the conference as I tried to coax my hair into an acceptable shape.

I understand after hearing the stories of my fellow attendees that this is not true. We are not all ugly, and to declare otherwise is to erase the pain of those who are perceived as such daily—who are bumped into on sidewalks because others literally don’t see them, or else harassed on those sidewalks because their appearances offend others. The condition of being seen may be thorny, but the condition of being unseen, of being monstrified, is razor-sharp, vicious, and excruciating."
posted by the thorn bushes have roses (11 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
Meant to add this and forgot to paste it!: The conference was funded by a large grant from BGD (formerly Black Girl Dangerous), a blog amplifying the voices of queer & trans people of color and also sponsored by Oakland SOL (Supporting Ourselves Locally), a Queer and Trans* People of Color housing collective on the edges of the San Antonio and Fruitvale districts.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 12:25 PM on June 17 [7 favorites]

It's good practice to look the judgments and labels we live with in the eyes, call them what they are, and thereby rob them of (some of) their power. There is a lot in our culture we have to look past to see the whole human person.
posted by cross_impact at 12:28 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]

All together now:
“I deserve–” she calls out.
“ –to take up space!” we reply per Lewis’s instructions.
“I deserve–”
“ –to experience love and belonging!
“I deserve–”
“ –to be a whole-ass motherfucking person!
posted by Flannery Culp at 12:39 PM on June 17 [25 favorites]

Oh god, thank you for this. This is exactly what I needed today.
posted by Tiny Bungalow at 12:58 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]

I really liked that the conference had a focus on connection instead of merely a focus on viewing oneself as “not ugly.” I don’t view my own body as ugly but society does, no amount of self-love is going to give me the tools I need to navigate a world where we assign moral value to conventional attractiveness.

I hope there’s a conference next year. It sounds as exhausting and fraught as any similar conference I’ve been to around social justice but also healing, I would love to attend.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:02 PM on June 17 [22 favorites]

I have lived my entire life as a deformed ugly person. Don't try to sell me that it's OK. You normals are just trying to make yourselves feel better.
posted by SPrintF at 1:27 PM on June 17 [9 favorites]

Previously on Ask: I'm ugly, now what?. The answer from a husband about his wife remains the single most memorable thing I've read on MeFi (and has 300 favorites, so it wasn't just me). Search for "we've never talked about it".
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:29 PM on June 17 [11 favorites]

Y'know, I like this in principle, but I worry about how it'll get co-opted by a specific type of person. As in, members of the incel/femcel/forever alone communities who have a lot of intersecting challenges moving through the world yet blame everything on their looks. There is a not-insignificant faction of that groupa that acts as though non-hot people are generally incapable of staying employed or having friends, which is... no.
posted by blerghamot at 1:41 PM on June 17 [7 favorites]

I mean, incels have definitely already distorted what causes looks-based discrimination and perverted the solutions. There was an incel looks-based discussion not long ago on Metafilter and this comment by French Fry about how a queer woman started a website about involuntary celibacy "that formed a sort of support group for people of many genders and orientations struggling with love and beauty standards and dating culture and at no point did she advocate for sexual slavery, legal rape or mass murder." Incels are right that conventionally attractive people have an easier time, but they're wrong about basically everything else, in dangerous ways that truly disgust me.

In a milder vein, I read that "I'm ugly, now what?" question linked above (thanks Mr.Know-it-some!) and was bothered by the vast majority of advice being given that focused on what the OP could do to boost their self-esteem or their attractiveness in terms of grooming. Speaking for the U.S. (because I'm from here, not because I don't think this applies elsewhere), our beauty standards have deep roots in white supremacy in terms of what is seen as conventionally attractive. We gaslight people when we make this a self-esteem issue or ignore that perceived ugliness affects how easily someone moves through this world. As I said above, self-esteem can only get you so far.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:37 PM on June 17 [27 favorites]

Ugly Pride.
posted by acb at 12:59 AM on June 18

Oh good lord, the MetaTalk linked from that AskMe is killing me and I must stop. Reccos of plastic surgery for everyone who doesn't fit the accepted (by which society??) definition of beautiful keep jumping out at me. I think I might cry.
posted by wellred at 8:38 AM on June 18

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