We live in an image-obsessed society. This has done incalculable damage to our citizenry, especially to women and girls. The reason for this is looksism, a type of prejudice that is rarely discussed but that is incredibly powerful in our society.
In a previous entry, I wrote about feminism. To me, a major part of feminism deals with body image. Another previous entry I wrote deals with weight. Weight is a major part of appearance in today’s world. The answer to combat both weightism and looksism is feminism. We need more feminism and we need to use feminism as a tool to combat appearance bias.
It doesn’t matter how we look. That is a basic feminist tenet for me. It is shocking that we are still caught up in how people look. I am a very tall, fat, crip, non-passing transfeminine person. I get stares everywhere I go. It is absolutely exhausting. I get dressed and I put very little thought into it because I don’t think the way a person dresses matters. Yes, I get that it is a mode of self expression. Some people take a lot of pride in their appearance and I don’t want to take anything away from that. But the truth of the matter is that way too much stock is put into a person’s appearance rather than on their inside. As corny and clichéd as it sounds, it’s what is on the inside that matters. But the appearance-obsessed society doesn’t see it that way.
I think my social positionality as a fat person, a tall person and a non-passing, non-binary transgender person has of course greatly impacted my views on appearance. In addition, I have a mobility challenge and sometimes limp and/or use a cane. When people comment upon my height, it drives me up a wall. I don’t think they are being malicious, but I do think they need to understand that I have been asked about my height a thousand times and it grows tiresome. Since I have doubled my weight from 200 to over 400, I have noticed the way people have treated me. Ironically I have become less visible in some ways, When you are fat you become a blob who fades into the background. When I use my cane I notice people give me a wide berth when I walk around and rush to open doors for me. But of course it is my non-binary, non-passing gender expression that gets the most attention. It is that facet of my identity which continues to provoke fear, embrassment and humiliation.
My experiences with being treated differently due to my appearance greatly affect my feelings about it. Looksims divides people into those who are physically attractive and those who are not. It labels people as “beautiful” or as “ugly.” I fall into the category of people who are deemed unattractive/ugly. This means that in addition to fatphobia, transphobia, crip-phobia, and heightism, I also face looksism. The unending emphasis on appearance and image is really sickening. Everyone is beautiful but we are not allowed to feel that way because society grades us based on external beauty rather than on internal greatness. Why can’t people see the light that burns within us?
My desire is to allow people the right to their own image but to stop placing so much emphasis on it and most especially to stop grading people on their appearance in a hierarchical fashion. The media is one of the worst culprits in this and we need to demand that everyone is beautiful, including People of Color, Trans people, People with Disabilities, Fat People and people deemed phsycally undisirable in the current system of hierarchical valuation. I ask anyone reading this [all 5 of you ;] to hold up the preceding groups as beautiful and fight back against the system that devalues some of us. Get involved with feminist groups to fight for body positivity, fat acceptance and appearance diversity. Only through concerted effort can we ever foment change in this very important area.