U-g-l-y, You Ain’t Got No Alibi…

From “The History of Ugliness Shows That There is No Such Thing” by Gretchen E. Henderson:

“At opposite extremes, ugliness has become not only an endpoint dismissal but also a rallying cry. In different times and places, any one of us might have been considered ugly: from the red-haired to the blue-eyed, left-handed to hook-nosed, humpbacked to blighted. It’s easy to turn any external feature into a sign for ugliness (and much more difficult to go the other way), or to reduce the story of ugliness to a string of case studies, without considering its larger legacy”

“The word’s appropriation has helped to diffuse its negative charge. The 17th-century Chinese painter Shitao seemed to anticipate Pollock’s energetic brushstrokes when he titled his painting Ten Thousand Ugly Inkblots. An earlier tradition of medieval Arabic poetry worked to positively reframe human conditions related to disease and disability by “uglifying beauty and beautifying ugliness.” The French term jolie laide, or “beautiful ugly,” harks back to the 18th-century when “ugly clubs” emerged in Britain and the US as voluntary fraternal organizations, whose facetious members made light of their own motley crew of noses, chins and squints. Many clubs were demeaning and short-lived, but others—like Italy’s still-existing festa dei brutti, or Festival of the Ugly—survived and try to confront discriminations based on appearance.”

Read the rest here:


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