Monday, 9 July 2018

Overcoming Prejudice

by Claudia Bishop

What makes us human? We are all simply a combination of hair colour, eye shapes, family history, body shapes and billions of different variables put together to make us unique. Why then are we all judged separately? Surely we have limited control over how we look. I read a book earlier this year called Everyday By David Levithan. It is about a soul names A who Everyday takes on the form of someone new, always their age, never the same person twice. In the book A meets a girl called Rhiannon and falls in love.Not only does it follow a teen love story, it also tackles many issues around how we look and how therefore we are judged.

It is interesting as ‘A’ gives an insight of how human judgement changes with appearance. One day A is an attractive girl with a beyonce style body and attracts the attention of people around her. On another day A is an obese teen attracting looks of disgust from those around him. It is fascinating to speculate society from this angle and to obtain insights of judgement from a spirit who experiences all of them.

 It made me question many things. For one, Are we just the way we look? Does society focus too much on our appearance and does that change how we see the people under the skin?. Also, it left me with the question:

Should we really judge a book by it’s cover?

Judging people solely by appearance is extremely restrictive, reduces one's opportunities and produces limiting beliefs that can form the basis of prejudice. Many of us subscribe to the movie streaming website netflix, whilst scrolling through i realised that i was not choosing certain films due to how they were presented and not due to their overview. There are thousands of movies and TV programmes on netflix yet we are deterred from watching anything that doesn't have a high impact photo. This mirrors society, as appearances are of paramount importance. Think about how many people and films we miss because of our judgement.

However, I conducted a survey online in which 2 movie posters were put side by side and my followers chose the one they would most likely watch. The results were very interesting as after 4 choices of films 12% of people still believed that they did not judge a person/book by the cover. More surprisingly 87% did not believe it was right to judge a book by its cover. This was very interesting as even though majority stated they did judge a book by its cover, majority also believed this was wrong. So why do we do it?

One participant of the 13% who said it was right to judge a book by its cover had this to say “I think the way that someone looks can tell you a lot about them” To this 63% of people agreed. Makeup, clothes and hair are a few ways that people express themselves today  and people dress in the way they want to be seen. Therefore it may be true that at this century (where expressing yourself is becoming more common) that appearance stereotypes and assumptions can be made with more certainty.

In some situations, it is more favourable to go with your instinct and make assumptions of people by the way they look. I know that if i was walking down a dark road at night and I saw a man dressed in black i would most likely avoid contact because of the way he looked. In difficult situations like this I would not risk my life by attempting to overcome my initial judgement as usually gut instinct is right and as humans we have a natural instinct of fight or flight.

Linking back to “Everyday” by David Levithan at the end of the book Rhiannon and A do not end up together as Rhiannon could not love someone who changes everyday even though A was personality-wise her soulmate. This simply highlights that even though we can disagree with our natural instinct personality isn't the initial attraction.

In conclusion, whilst we all recognise that is important to invest time understanding people's personality and the plot of a book, natural instincts strongly sway our judgement. I therefore believe we all need to be conscious of the bias and work hard to overcome prejudice to enhance life both for us individually and the society as a whole.

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