Judging a book by its cover

Take a moment to go through the two descriptions below and think about what you read:

She carried herself well in a sleeveless, animal printed, cropped top paired with denim shorts. Her striking makeup looked great on her. The red streaks in her hair complimented her top. Her accessories were matched to be in fashion. As she walked in, she had an air of confidence. Her long strides were perfection. She could totally pull off being a model.

Across the hall, there was a woman dressed in a simple classy ball gown. Her elegant outfit was matched with beautiful pearl accessories. Her subtle makeup looked natural and enhanced her beauty. Her hairdo was in line with the overall graceful look. When she greeted her guests, her warm smile, and soft voice made her look like the perfect host.

What did you think of the two women described above? Did you figure that the fashionista was bold, confident and possibly haughty? Maybe she was heading to a party or a pub? Did you assume that she would smoke, could handle her drinks and would be comfortable flirting with any random guy to get what she wants? Did you think that the girl in the gown would be innocent, gentle and demure? Maybe you thought she was weak, naïve, sensitive and a pushover too? Maybe you are one of the open-minded people who say that one cannot assume anything about a person based on their looks! If that is the case, hats off to you because this post is all about judging people, especially women, on their appearance.

Here’s the thing about judgments based on appearance. They are mostly incorrect. I often encounter people who judge others based on how they dress up and carry themselves. One of my friends is a model and she is such a sweetheart. She is very down to earth, yet some people assume she is haughty. She hangs out with anyone who wants to be her friend and has the ability to get along with everyone, yet sometimes strangers see her as unfriendly. She wears trendy western clothes and makeup because she likes to. Guess what? Some don’t like her dressing sense and constantly tease her about it. There are people, even in this era, who think that there is something wrong with a woman who likes to dress up and wear makeup. Here are some crap said by these dinosaurs and my response to them:

1. She wants to attract men

I have a huge problem with this statement. First of all, all the women I know like to look good for themselves. When a girl dresses up and applies makeup, she does it because the process is relaxing and fun. Also, she likes the way she looks once she is done. Some women consider this art. Men are not even in the picture.

Secondly, let’s face it, men are not that great at noticing makeovers. Does it even make sense to assume that a woman would specifically buy a scarlet lipstick in order to impress a man, given that it is highly unlikely that the said man can tell apart different shades of red? Forget shades of red, most men I know can’t even differentiate red and brown!

2. She always wears makeup because she doesn’t look good without it

When you say that she always wears makeup, it means you have never seen her without it. With that being the case, how can you say that she doesn’t look good? Now, this may be quite a common comment made about women who wear makeup, but it doesn’t mean everyone should say this. While it can be brushed off as harmless teasing when said by friends, hearing it from outsiders is offensive.

3. She has too much free time in her hands. I can never spare time for this. She could focus on something more productive instead.

Trust me here, people can and do make time for things that matter to them. If you don’t dress up, you are probably not interested in it. Time has nothing to do with it. For instance, I like to dress up when I’m going to a family function or an official outing. I really do enjoy that process when done occasionally, but I cannot do that every single day. That would be boring to me and I’d be lazy to apply anything more than a lip balm. When I go barefaced to the office, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have time or interest, it just means that it’s not on my priority list that day. I’d rather spend those extra 15 minutes daydreaming. Each person has a different opinion of what is important and productive. I’m sure that you would have a daily habit that is close to your heart, which others don’t find important. How would you feel if they said that you do it only because you have lots of free time and nothing worthwhile to do?

4. What’s the point of all this? She should just stay natural. Beauty is only skin deep.

If you really think beauty is only skin deep and mock people for focusing on their skin, why are you also focusing on the said person’s appearance? Shouldn’t you have been looking into their heart and not notice their clothing and makeup? Also, to quote Jean Kerr, “I’m tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want, an adorable pancreas?”

5. Why is she wearing such clothing? She is clearly asking for it.

This is a horrific attitude which puts blame on the victims. Instead of teaching women to cover up and stay indoors, shouldn’t you teach men not to sexually harass women and that “no” does not mean “yes”? The virtue of chastity should be set common to everyone, irrespective of gender. We are truly independent only when a woman can walk alone in the middle of the night without being afraid. I hope we can make a small step by teaching boys not to treat girls like objects.

6. Only now can she wear such clothing. After her wedding, she will have to be more traditional.

I’m sorry, but since when does getting married come with a contract that the bride should hereafter wear traditional clothing, such as sarees and salwar kameez for life? Out of curiosity, if women are to stop wearing western clothes once they get married, men should also be required to wear a veshti, kurta, and other Indian attires, right? It all boils down to personal choice and outsiders like you and I should stay out of it, don’t you think?

7. She is too superficial/shallow

Yes, her focus on appearance is superficial, but your desire to grab the latest hot gadgets, buy an awesome car and decorate your house interior in a unique manner are not materialistic or superficial at all (Note the sarcasm). Think about it, aren’t the people who judge others based on their appearance and dressing sense the ones who are actually shallow?

The problem is that in some cultures, women are expected to look groomed and apply a little bit of makeup because a bare face is seen as barbaric. This is especially true in a few office settings where no makeup means non-professional. However, the makeup should not look made up. If it does, the woman is subject to the above judgments. In a conservative place like Chennai where women are supposed to look natural and don’t need to bother with grooming her looks, someone who likes to dress up stands out and has to endure the taunts of old school people.

I only mention women here because as a woman having a lot of female friends, I could only observe and empathize with the troubles faced by women. Men are also subjected to this. The prejudice may seem subtle, but it is still there. If a man dresses up well and wears trendy clothes, he is deemed as a player. If a single man happens to have a sloppy look, he has to hear comments like “No wonder you don’t have a girlfriend.” People also imply that he should get a makeover in order to get a girl. If a man focuses too much on his appearance, then he is deemed to be effeminate. As for makeup on men, it is more often than not frowned upon.

Of course, you could argue that beauty is only skin deep and we should concentrate on inner beauty. You could say that feeling the need to hide imperfections through makeup is bad. You could declare that real strength lies in embracing our so-called flaws and accepting that we all look beautiful just the way we are. I will not disagree. However, it is entirely up to each person to choose what they want to do. My only problem is with unwarranted criticism.

The point of this article is to not judge a book by its cover because all that glitters is not gold. Think before you leap into conclusions, because appearances are deceptive. Or simply, don’t judge at all. Just let people live the way they want and stop making everything your business. After all, everyone has a different scale of what is right and what is wrong. Do not expect others to stick to your standards. Live and let live. Peace out!

7 thoughts on “Judging a book by its cover

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