Sunday, May 6, 2012

On stereotyping others based on looks

A couple of days ago at work, I was cleaning off the tables in the lobby when I stumbled on this month's issue of Glamour. It had been sitting in the lobby for about a week, but I had never paid attention to it because a.) I was always too busy working and b.) I don't care much for magazines. But this time when I found it, someone else had apparently been reading it because it was open up to what turned out to be a really interesting article. I didn't get to read all of it, but it didn't take two minutes to go online when I got home and find the whole thing on Glamour's website. Ah, the beauty of the internet.
Anyway, the article was about weight stereotyping and how women of all shapes and sizes, whether they're a size 2 or a size 22, are stereotyped. I'll post the link to the article, but it can basically be summed up in less than a paragraph: Women of all shapes and sizes are stereotyped. Larger women are seen as being lazy and undisciplined, while thinner women are seen as vain and bitchy. If you don't want to be stereotyped or judged by the way you look, be the change you wish to see in the world as the saying goes and don't judge others. Obviously that doesn't always work because you can be nice to someone until you want to puke up cotton candy and glitter eyeshadow and they may not budge an inch. But I guess there's some merit in being nice and mature to someone who's being an complete asshat.

Before I go on, I should say that I am, for the most part, comfortable with the way I look. As far as my figure goes, anyway. I have a really small frame and don't have to worry much about my weight (though I'm sure that will change as I get older!) I know that there's a double standard when it comes to commenting on people's weight. Obviously it's not acceptable to walk up to a bigger person and say "gosh, you're so fat!" And it shouldn't be acceptable to comment on a thinner person's weight either. But  when people do comment on my weight (and they do it very often), it doesn't bother me, even though I know it's kind of not-super-polite, because I'm comfortable with my weight/figure, so I really don't care what anyone else thinks.

BUT...(there's always a but, isn't there?) being smaller does have disadvantages. For me, the main one is that people always assume I'm younger than I really am. Everyone tries to excuse it by saying that I'll appreciate it when I'm older, but that's sort of like giving a kid beer and saying, "you might not like it now, but you'll be drinking it by the pint when you're older!" even though they can't puke the stuff up fast enough.

That was a pretty bad analogy, so here's a cool picture of beer to go along with it. (source)

The truth is, no matter what anyone says, it hurts. I'm almost 24 and anyone meeting me for the first time generally assumes I'm between the ages of 16 and 18. Not that there's anything wrong with being between 16 and 18, but when you're looking to start a career and become an independent adult, people trying to talk to you about finals and silly bandz (or whatever the heck those things are called) is pretty unsettling. In fact, the way most people react to it, it really hurts. Every time I say anything that even remotely hints at my age, the person I'm talking to usually spazzes out like they just saw a ghost or something. Or a celebrity. Hey, maybe they saw Justin Bieber and were confused as to why I didn't spazz out as well. You know, because being 16 and all, I would have to be a Bieber fan.

Though I have to admit, the kid is kind of cute. In an adorable, he's-entirely-too-young-for-me kind of way. (source)

No wonder so few people know much about me. I'm so afraid of the conversation turning to age that I generally keep my mouth shut. I did recently make an attempt at updating my wardrobe, though, and a few minutes ago I borderline sporadically chopped off several inches of my hair. Maybe that will help. 
The point is, we all have at least a small part of us that stereotypes people based on the way they look. Challenge those stereotypes. When Lily Allen first started out, people thought she was just this cute little girl singing cute-but-mindless pop songs. Then she opened her mouth and...BAM! Not only does the girl drop one f bomb after another, but she's actually a really good singer & songwriter. Don't let stereotypes, whether they appear to be negative or positive, hold you back from being the best that you can be at whatever it is you do. It's sad when people expect so little of people with so much potential...but at least you can surprise them.

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