Is It Fair That We are Judged by How We Look?

GothThis is a question that I have asked my college students over the years.  Inevitably, they will argue that it is absolutely “not fair!” and without my intervention, end up sharing countless examples of when they, themselves immediately judged by physical appearance.  Therefore, determining that while “unfair”, it is unequivocally, indisputably, inevitable.

Recently, my 16 year old daughter and I were swimsuit shopping for spring break.  She is a small, petite, clean cut girl with long strawberry blonde hair and a spunky spirit.  When we approached the fitting room desk, my daughter asked the 50-something female attendant how many items my daughter could bring into the room.  She cheerfully glanced at our mini mountain, totaling about 15 items, smiled, and said, “Go ahead, just bring everything out when you are done.”  My daughter entered the room, and I sat down waiting for the fashion show to begin.

Four minutes later, a youthful looking grandma along with her granddaughter, surely my daughter’s age, and also quite petite, approached the same fitting room attendant with her pile of items and held it up to the woman.  The woman curtly sniped, “you can only take in 6 at a time. How many do you have?” The young girl answered, “7”. The woman took the pile out of her hands, counted the clothes one by one out loud for all to hear, until reaching the number 8 with a huff.  Handing her back only six of the items and practically tossing the girl a fitting room tag, she announced that the rest would be held at the desk.

The woman clearly showed preferential treatment to my daughter.  Why?  Not because I was with my daughter, as the other teenager had her grandma with her.  My guess is the teen’s outer appearance.  Multiple nose and earrings, jet black dyed hair, with wide sections dyed platinum, black nail polish, a sour frown, and Goth clothing greeted the fitting room lady.

I’m honest enough to tell you that I certainly judge on one’s exterior, most often when my children are involved.  Evaluation in this depraved society is essential for our safety.  By external appearance, we can draw countless conclusions about someone.  Many will be accurate, and a few utterly wrong.  Either way, the pre-vacation shopping experience left me humbled. 

As a woman who has judged wrongfully and endured judgment, I’m still training myself to be cautious before labeling and stereotyping.  That doesn’t stop me from staring (hopefully, inconspicuously!) if someone has decided to cover themselves in ink, piercings, and adorn their clothing with a variety of clinking, shiny chains – like a toddler, I’m mesmerized.  Regardless, giving someone a chance to reveal who they really are through conversation is always my goal.

The dark-dressed girl slinked away into a fitting room, without a smile, and I couldn’t help but think that I wouldn’t want to be yet another person contributing to her already sad expression. Insecurities exist in all of us, whether or not they are concealed in neat, well-groomed packages.  If teens experience enough unfair treatment, they have a natural tendency to believe they’re not worthy of good treatment.

Photo: drprem.com

Throwback Thursday article from 5/6/2013

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You’re More Than Your Looks, My Daughter, Friend, Sister…

(Photo:aliexpress.com)

One of my daughters is a major fashionista. From the moment we said “yes” to makeup at 13, she wore it daily. Now 19, her wardrobe far surpasses anyone else in the house. I’m fine with it except for the now and then when she begins focusing too much on the “outside”. This leads me on a rant about the true value of a woman – just as I do after seeing someone as revolting as Beyonce be recognized as a role model for young women – I throw up, and then I give my girls yet another lesson in what it means to be a beautiful woman.

Important disclaimer: I’m a highlighted blonde, wear makeup, and enjoy cute clothes as much as the next girl. I enjoy all things “girl”. I offer this disclaimer because people tend to believe that only women who are makeup-less or attend parties in sweats truly believe that “you are more than your looks”.

Us girls in my house like clothes, makeup and shopping. But, genuine beauty comes from within. Period. Regardless of how old we are, we want to – and should – take care of the outside. But, our society has lost its mind telling us and our daughters that we really are only the sum of our sultry, sexy, skinny and sassy.

What about being fun? Interesting? Interested? Confident? Well-read? A person with hobbies and passion and curiosity about the world? Silly and sweet and thoughtful? These and other qualities make people truly attractive.

This societal lie transcends generations. I know a grandmother who actually suggested her granddaughter buy a shorter skirt, despite the fact that the girl felt like a princess in a flowing skirt below her knees. The grandmother would also prefer trendier clothes on the teenager. Well into her 70s, the woman remains focused upon appearances. She will leave a legacy of superficiality instead of accepting, loving and caring for others. 

Do we love? Do we hold the tongue when appropriate and tongue-lash someone when that is appropriate? Yes, taking a stand when needed is strength and that’s beautiful.

Here is what I have above my daughters’ bedroom doorway: Does a gal’s new outfit or new mascara put a spring in her step and lift her posture? Of course! Heck, we all know that when we feel like our skin and hair are a mess, we would rather hide behind the sales rack then run into someone we know. When the outside is looking good, we walk taller and hope we’ll run into someone we haven’t seen in years!

Nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is a society, celebrities, and endless trails of filth telling our girls they are only their appearance. Women who any one of us would identify as “stunning” are just as susceptible to believing they are unattractive. And, there are women who are initially stunning in our eyes who eventually become the ugliest humans we have ever met. The beauty of kindness – or not – shows up in a woman’s face.

I’m on this topic because I have two daughters. Because I am a woman living in this society – in the world though not of it – and there is pressure. While I can bemoan this as an adult, nothing matches the pressure of the American high school.

So, how do we convey this to our precious daughters bombarded by middle school and high school hallways full of rebellious, scantily-clad, hair-tossing peers?

Tell them. That their bodies are sacred. That happy girls really are so pretty in any room…at any party.

Tell them they are beautiful. The sisters, friends and daughters. Over and over and over…because they ARE.