Just launched: a British Web site billing itself as the first ever dating service for ugly people. TheUglyBugBall.co.uk brings people together who've identified themselves as less than attractive (thankfully, there isn't an outside agency determining whether these people are in fact as ugly as they think they are). UglyBug's founder, Howard James, says, “It’s a sad fact that up to half of the UK is made up of ugly people, yet amazingly nobody has ever thought of providing a dating service for them.”
TheFrisky.com's Jessica Wakeman makes several good points about this dating site. First of all, can the word "ugly" really be "taken back" and redefined positively by the group the word's being used against? Isn't it always an insulting term, and if so, do we really want people using it to refer to themselves? Secondly, ugliness and beauty are extremely subjective. If two ugly people find each other attractive, are they then no longer ugly? What if you think you're ugly, so you sign up for the site, but too many UglyBug members think you're "not ugly enough" and so you're asked to leave?
The site's home page contains a panel entitled "Five Ugly Truths about Dating." TheFrisky.com's Wakeman calls these five assumptions "downright untrue - not to mention cruel." She's right. It's hard to believe the UglyBug people aren't joking when they write, "Ugly people have had a tougher life and therefore tend to be more considerate and more loyal... they try harder in bed." Another "truth" about ugly folk: "Once with an ugly partner it is unlikely that anyone will try and take them from you, meaning you can let yourself go completely once you’re together."
Not everybody finds UglyBug's concept offensive, however. One commenter on TheFrisky is fine with the whole concept. "For heaven's sake, why is this a problem?" says "Cfivecents," who identifies as a "mildly ugly person." This commenter says UglyBug lets other aesthetically challenged people "look past" their looks, which might hamper them on a conventional dating site.
Defining each other by level of ugliness provides plenty of ammunition for ganging up on one another. The not-ugly-enough might feel flattered, but they'll still feel just as rejected as they would on a conventional dating site, where they've probably been told they're not pretty enough. Those who just manage to scrape under the "ugly" wire will probably get much more attention on the site than the less-attractive members. Where's the line, and who decides? Without careful supervision and moderation, UglyBug could end up being as divisive and exclusive as traditional online-dating sites, when its intention was to be just the opposite.