Dara Chadwick

Dara Chadwick

You'd Be So Pretty If...

Judged on Appearance: Are You Worth Getting to Know?

We notice the characteristics of each other's appearance.

Posted Mar 12, 2010

This is a difficult topic.

I need to start by saying that we all judge -- and are judged -- on appearance. But I think there's a consciousness and, hopefully, an enlightenment that comes with time and education -- one that allows us to recognize that we're judging and move past it to the person inside.

But that initial first reaction is always there: "Wow, she's pretty." "She's fat." "He's short."

As human beings, we notice the characteristics of each other's appearance. That's OK.

But it's the judgment of a person's worth or talent or qualities based on that appearance that's not OK.

Yesterday, someone sent me a link to an audio clip of radio personality Howard Stern talking about the appearance of "Precious" actress Gabourey Sidibe. I have to confess that I never listen to Stern, but I listened to this. And I happened to be listening as my daughter walked into my office.

I could see the horror wash over her face as Stern made unkind comments not only about Sidibe's appearance, but about her chances of ever acting again. Some of his "jokes" were downright cruel and made me feel physically uncomfortable.

Typically, with someone like Stern -- whose career is based on saying shocking things to get people's attention -- I'd simply dismiss his comments as such and move on. But I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance who flat-out said to me, "I don't like fat people."

It was shocking to me to hear someone bluntly say such a thing.

I have to admit that when someone says something like that to me, my first reaction is to look quizzical in the hope that they'll say more. Because I'm truly fascinated by some of the things people think -- and why they think them.

Whenever we make a blanket statement like "I don't like fat people," we're telling the world that we automatically dismiss a person based on what they look like. We won't invest the time to get to know them -- or let them know us -- because they don't fit the mold of what a friend of ours looks like.

It's hard to hear that. And it's hard to know that there are people out there who take one look at me and -- based on something they see -- think, "I don't want to know her" or "She can't do that."

As a parent, I firmly believe that it's my job to make sure I teach my children to look beyond appearance -- not always easy in a culture that tells us we have to look a certain way to have value or be successful. I can do that by being conscious of the way I talk about my own appearance and the way others look. Again, not always easy. But trying to stay conscious of the things I say helps. And when something unkind or judgmental slips out of my mouth -- I am human, after all -- I try to quickly follow it up with "I shouldn't have said that. That wasn't fair."

As for Stern's prediction that Sidibe would never get another role, well...she's already proved him wrong. She'll appear in the upcoming movie "Yelling to the Sky" and was just cast in Showtime's new series, "The Big C."

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