Georgina Guedes

Suspend judgement based on appearance - because you’re wrong

2014-05-20 15:00

Suspend judgement based on appearance – because you’re wrong

This week, Georgina Guedes has read three articles about people being judged for their appearances. In every case, the person judging was in the wrong.

This week I’ve read three articles that have given me insight into how people think that they have a right to judge people by and comment on their appearances.

The first was an article published on the Huffington Post by a woman who has lost 36kg. Obviously, since she’s losing weight under the care of a doctor, she either wasn’t happy with the way she looked before, or believed that it posed her some kind of health risk.

So, she set about losing weight. And since she’s lost a vast amount in a relatively short space of time (29kg of those were in the last year), people were going to notice.

But, instead of saying simple complimentary things like: “Wow, you’re looking great.” Or even, “Gosh, that must have been hard work. Well done.” They’ve opted for arguing with her doctor-approved diet plan, complimenting her, but said they’d rather enjoy life, or telling her that they’d been worried about the “old” her.

People’s inability to distinguish between their own personal hang-ups and what it’s appropriate to say out loud never ceases to amaze me. Clearly, the one person felt he should be losing weight, but couldn’t bear the idea of deprivation. Perfectly acceptable as an internal comment. Not so great to say “I’d rather enjoy life,” to the face of someone who has obviously worked hard at weight loss.

She’d be justified in responding, “I’d rather enjoy a long life, which is why I’m doing this. But whatevs, see you on the other side.”

Do you identify as a man?

Then I read this week’s Dear Prudie - a weekly Agony Aunt column that appears on Slate.com. One reader had written in to say that he asked a “very butch” woman which gender pronoun she preferred being applied to her. The woman lost it (understandably), and yelled, “Don’t I look like a woman?” and cut their conversation short.

Now, I have a smidgen on empathy for this guy who, obviously inspired by Facebook’s introduction of a variety of gender options beyond male or female, has decided to take an open-minded view of gender. He’s completely missed the boat that telling a woman that she’s obviously butch and might therefore want to be called “him” would be seriously offensive.

While I do feel sorry for his bafflement in the face of her response, he really should have known better. Commenting on people’s butchness or effeminateness is never appropriate. It’s up there with age and weight and assumptions about ethnicity.

Awful dress!

The final article that made me think about these matters was a piece on Policymic.com in which comedian Sarah Millcan responded to criticism of her BAFTA red carpet dress. “It was like a pin to my excitable red balloon. Literally thousands of messages from people criticising my appearance. I was fat and ugly as per usual.”

So, that obviously hurt. And the thing is, Millcan is a comedian. She’d been invited there in recognition of her work. Work that had nothing to do with her appearance. And she bought a nice dress, which she wore with confidence, despite not being stick thin or six feet tall.

“I’m sorry,” she wrote. “I thought I had been invited to such an illustrious event because I’m good at my job.”

And there you have it. Despite the fact that in many cases, appearance is all we have to go on, in most cases, appearance has very little to do with the person inside. And so, society as a whole and all the individuals that make it up should suspend judgment – because your conclusions are almost always wrong, and hurtful and irrelevant to what really matters.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


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