Looks Are Everything (and the Permutations Thereof)


Alas, it today’s society, many have forgotten the adage not to judge a book by its cover (or for those who do not know what a “book” is, not to judge an album or movie by its cover art). Nowhere is this seen better than in our incoming President, who is the poster child for judging things based on looks. Not only do we have all the stories of how he has judged women on their looks, dismissing those who he views as ugly, but we have stories about how even his cabinet officers are judged based on looks: specifically, how he dismissed consideration of John Bolton for Secretary of State because of his mustache. In fact, looks have proven very important in how we select presidents in this country. We’ve all heard the stories about how one of the factors that gave us Kennedy over Nixon was Nixon’s “Five O’Clock Shadow” during the debates. Research has shown that voters are likely to stereotype bearded or mustachioed candidates as more masculine and less supportive of feminist policies, but less inclined to deploy force. It is also well known that you can’t have a small president in this country. Was Chris Christie’s campaign dead-on-arrival because of Christie’s shape? Could someone like William Howard Taft — who was both President and Chief Justice — get elected today (Taft weighed over 300 pounds and was bewhiskered)? Could one of the factors that sabotaged Clinton was her looks and how we judge women? Possibly.

After all, “society” often judges women much more on their looks, and this has significant impacts on women’s self-esteem, and from there, often on their mental and physical health. There is similar judging on men, but society seems to judge flaws in masculine appearance much less harshly — although such judging out there, especially with respect to physical fitness and obesity. But women have standards of beauty (often unrealistic) drilled into their heads by the media, and it is women who fight the bigger battle with self-esteem.

Perhaps this is why three articles from Ashton Kucher’s A-Plus blog caught my eye of late:

  • To Get Over Her Body Insecurities, This Plus-Size Woman Tried Nude Modeling For Art Classes. This article has some interesting observations, including the primary fact that pushing yourself to do things you’re afraid of can actually help to change the way you feel about yourself. In this case, it was nude modeling. The model discovered there was an advantage to curves and flaws, or as one artist put it, “It’s no fun to draw straight lines”. It is our imperfections that make people visually interesting. Art is what captures imperfections and allows us to see the beauty in them (as the folks behind The Nu Project know). How do we teach our children? We raise them not to love the imperfections, but to crave mass-produced images of beauty (cough, Barbie, cough).
  • Fitness Blogger Explains Why She Refuses To ‘Embrace Her Flaws’ In 2017, And Why You Shouldn’t Either. This article makes a similar point: how one refers themselves colors how the world is perceived. The title of this article makes you believe that the fitness blogger has a goal of having a flawless body. That’s true, but not in the sense you would think — this fitness blogger refuses to “embrace her flaws” because she doesn’t view what makes her body unique as “flaws”. In fact, to call them “flaws” or even “imperfections” colors one’s perceptions in a negative way, just as we view deviations from the normal as abnormal even though everyone is unique (and hence there is no normal to begin with)
  • These Curvy Women Fight Stigmas By Showing Yoga Can Be For Everybody And Every Body. But of course, perceptions just aren’t in the eye of the beholded. As we saw with Bolton and facial hair, others look at us and make assumptions as well. Often, it is that those who are larger have no will-power and do not exercise (irrespective of the fact that there are many factors that inhibit weight loss from medications prescribed to the internal microbiome to chronic inflammation). In this article, a group of women are fighting that stereotype by showing that curvy women can and do exercise. The goal is to encourage everyone — independent of shape or size — to be healthy.

I’m not trying to say that Trump should have chosen John Bolton as Secretary of State (although given his actual choice, it is scary to realize that Bolton might have been an improvement). Rather, we should not be like Trump, judging others based on their appearance. We should judge them based on what they have done and said, not how they look. More importantly, we should judge ourselves the same way, and learn to love what is in the package of our body, see that what it is that makes us unique is also what makes us special, and realize that the ultimate judge of ourself is ourselves.

(Or, for those who are religious, in the words of the Off-Broadway musical “bare: a pop opera“: “God don’t make no trash”).

My Big Fat Blonde Musical (HFF16)P.S.: I would be remiss in posting this if I didn’t mention an effort by Theresa Stroll, Co-writer/composer & performer of My Big Fat Blonde Musical. The musical tells “the story of Terri, an aspiring actress who dreams of the bright lights of Hollywood, only to learn all too quickly upon arrival that breaking into the entertainment industry is far from glamorous . . . or kind.   When it seems that all hope is lost, Terri decides to persevere and create her own opportunities, Hollywood be damned!” Terri is still persevering, this time turning My Big Fat Blonde Musical into a web series, with the goal of spreading the messages of learning to love yourself in the face of criticism and never giving up the pursuit of your dreams – no matter what tries to stop you!  She’s doing an Indiegogo to raise money for the series; she emailed me as we supported her after her Fringe, so I’m passing the information on to you.