Beauty of a Woman: Don’t judge us by our covers!

boaw-2013It’s long been said that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you know what? We do. Everyone does.

Sometimes, it’s reasonable–if a publisher or independent author didn’t care enough about the book to give it a decent, professional cover, how good can it be? But the fact is, plenty a wonderful book has been published with a plain, poorly-executed, or inappropriate cover.

What’s really sad is we do this with people – especially women. Yes, we do. Everyone does.

There are men in my life who, as much as I love them, are really bad about this. Every story, every incident related, if it concerns a female, begins with an assessment of her looks:

“This little girl came into the bar–she was as cute as a button, just turned eighteen–her friends left her and she needed a ride home.”

See how that worked? The first thing he focused on was her appearance. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the man in question got a female friend and the two of them drove the girl home. But still… what did her looks have to do with her plight?

It isn’t just men, either. By the time we’ve spent more than a couple decades on this earth, we figure out that the guys don’t really care that much what we wear, how our hair’s styled, or if our makeup is perfect. We dress to impress other women. How many times have you heard one say, “Oh God, I can’t believe she’s wearing that.” Or “Why doesn’t she do something about her teeth?” Or make a disparaging comment about someone’s weight?

Women in the public eye have it even worse. Sure, the appearance, clothing and polish of Hollywood personalities at awards ceremonies are analyzed to death whether they’re men or women. But the women are analyzed a lot more, and come under a lot more criticism, whether their outfit was too dowdy or too skanky, how much she’s showing her age, and oh noes, does she have a bit of a belly bulge??? Even women who are famous for something completely unrelated to looks are judged by them: “She’s a fat cow, but she’s a good golfer.” The men in my family don’t dis Hillary Clinton for her policies, but for her looks.

Stop judging us by our covers!

Stop judging us by our covers!

Well, I say it’s time to stop the madness. Stop judging us on looks!

That heavyset woman you’re making fat jokes about? May be the kindest and most generous person you’ll ever meet–and one of the most beautiful.

That homely chick at the office with the frumpy clothes may be the person who knows everything that’s going on and keeps the place organized and moving forward. She’s beautiful because she pulls everyone together and helps them all to succeed.

The mentally-challenged girl who’s socially awkward and can’t speak clearly? Probably knows more about unconditional love than most of us will learn in a lifetime.

That middle-aged woman in jeans and a sweatshirt who doesn’t bother with makeup may be developing software that will save the government millions of dollars (we can hope, right? 😀 ). That “old hag” may be the person who gives your children a lifelong love of learning, and turns them onto a path of success or serving others. That ugly-tired soccer mom is tired because she’s raising the next generation, and teaching them to be responsible adults. They’re beautiful in their passion for what they do, and what they do for others.

And Hillary Clinton? Hate her policies if you don’t agree with them, but for heaven’s sake, give the woman a break. She’s in her mid-sixties and spent four years as the United States’ Secretary of State, what has to be one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. Like her or not, she’s strong and tough, and beautiful for that.

What do you think? Do notice people judging others on appearance? Do you ever catch yourself doing the same? Please share – I’d love to hear from you! It’s something I have to work on, too.

This blog is part of the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest 2013, sponsored by August McLaughlin. Be sure to check out her site and visit other blogs celebrating all of the beauty that is a woman! Even better, get a chance to win a Kindle fire with each comment here and on other participating blogs!

Photo credit: Microsoft Office Clipart
Note: the beautiful women described above are just examples; none are meant to be anyone I know. Well, except maybe the software developer. 😀

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

23 Responses to \

  1. This topic makes me feel so tangled. I am all for inner beauty and focusing on the work I have to do to be a better person, emotionally, spiritually, etc. But then I also know I’m drawn to “pretty” things–book covers, pics on Pinterest, cool hair, etc. I guess it’s something that will always require attention, especially when it comes to people.
    Great post Jennette!

  2. Pingback: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II! | August McLaughlin's Blog

  3. I would love to say I don’t do that. NO WAY! But we have all been there, all done that at one time or another. I think we need to be more aware of doing this and maybe checking ourselves before we open our mouths. Thank you for reminding me to think before I speak.

  4. I read posts like this and feel like I’m a living, breathing miracle, because I can relate to so much in them. Seeing mentally challenged children (and adults) struggling to be accepted always gets to me. Because I was supposed to be one of them. I was born with the umbilical cord around my neck, and didn’t breathe for several minutes after birth (from what my mom has told me), and somehow I’m NOT suffering any ill effects from it almost 30 years later. Because of that, I’ve always tried to treat anyone like that exactly like I would want to be treated – a normal person. Most of the time, it’s not their mind affected in the way people think, it’s just that they can’t get their mind and their body to work together the way it was supposed to.

    I don’t hate anyone, though I will admit that I have several problems with Hillary Clinton’s policies, and when I look at her? No, there’s no hate. Just an extreme feeling of compassion. Because you don’t end up looking like that if you’ve not gone through any hardships.

  5. I think we are hardwired to notice beauty, which traditionally means symmetry of the face: the left side being similar to the right. But some of the people I think are most interesting looking are notably flawed, and yet I think these imperfections are what makes them physically beautiful.

    That said, the most lovely looking person can be such a doojie-butt. We all know this. I try to focus on people’s outsides. It isn’t so hard to do as one gets older. It just happens naturally, as our looks begin to fade, we start to look beneath the surface.

  6. Jennette, you’re so right (write) — especially as authors, we need to be more aware of how we describe our female characters and NOT fall into this trap. As for society in general, that whole thing with Hillary just disgusted me. You’ve opened my eyes and now I’m going to watch where I’m judging by looks. Thank you!

  7. I must confess that I’ve made comments about what people wear, but I do that about men and women and young and old and skinny and fat. I just plain wonder what the heck people were thinking when they got dressed. I try not to judge them by their appearance, but yes we all do it. When my boss was interviewing potential candidates for our receptionist position a few years back, I make hand written notes on their resume about what they were wearing and doing in the waiting room before she called them back to her office. Now, that situation is a little different, because one should always put their best foot forward at a job interview, but the sloppy candidates were excused rather quickly so the “judging” did have an effect.

    That said, I judge myself most harshly. But not always for how I look, but how I’ve behaved or misbehaved. I have on more than one occasion wondered if someone else was making a poor judgment call about me because of my appearance or attitude.

    I’m loving this blogfest because it makes me want to be a better woman. Thanks for sharing in the beauty.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  8. Coleen, it’s totally OK to like things that are pretty (and yes, I totally judge books by their covers!), I just hate to hear so many people judging other PEOPLE on looks alone. But I think you got that. 🙂

    Kathry, we all do it!

    Catherine, thanks!

    Rebekah, people with disabilities have so much to teach us, don’t they? And I’m not a fan of Ms. Clinton either, but I do admire her strength.

    Debra, thanks!

    Patricia, when it comes to things like peopleofwalmart.com, I am totally guilty of laughing! There’s a big difference between assigning value of a person based on the looks they were born with, and wondering (and yes, laughing) at people who are just not dressed in a socially acceptable way. Of course, even that has room for interpretation. Thanks for visiting – I’m loving the blogfest, too!

  9. Pingback: Beauty of A Woman BlogFest: Lessons from Grandma H | Kourtney Heintz's Journal

  10. Thanks for this lovely post, Jennette! While it’s natural to judge others’ appearance to some extent, and potentially helpful (perceiving whether a person looks harmful, for example, can be key), making assumptions or judging others’ self-worth and insides on their looks is often plain cruel.

    This line particularly struck me: “That heavyset woman you’re making fat jokes about? May be the kindest and most generous person you’ll ever meet–and one of the most beautiful.” Working with people with eating disorders, many of whom are overweight, and having endured one myself, I know too well the damage that can be done by weight fixation. A friend of mine once complimented a woman’s weight loss, only to find out that the woman had undergone chemo—not healthy lifestyle changes. The less we emphasize and judge our own size/shape/appearance, the less we criticize others. It’s a win-win, turning that all around.

  11. Thanks, Lynn!

    August, thanks so much for organizing this! I have read so many wonderful, empowering posts. You bring up a good point – when our intuition tells us something is wrong (a person may be dangerous), we need to listen. But otherwise, judging people so often does them so much harm, as you know better than many of us.

  12. I agree. Do we say Obama doesn’t look handsome and that somehow means he is less of a president? It’s unfortunately how often we judge women on how they look. Not on their abilities of their accomplishments. I almost wish those google glasses were commonplace just so when we looked at someone all their stats and info would appear in our head.

  13. I think most of us make judgements based on appearances but its how we carry that out that counts. Being aware of the tendency and striving for change is a big step. Off topic (but then again maybe not) – the girl screaming with the books on her head cracks me up for some reason. 🙂

  14. Kourtney, unfortunately, I have heard people pass judgement on President Obama for his looks – or to be specific, his race. I’ve heard this framed both in positive terms and negative terms. Either way, it’s wrong, I totally agree!

    Sue, you are so right, it’s what we do based on those judgments that’s the real killer! Glad you liked the photo – I thought it was funny too. 🙂

  15. I don’t care about her looks one iota, I can’t wait for Hilary to be president! And it infuriates me when people diminish her for them…or President Obama for his swag, or anyone of poise and intelligence. Leave ’em alone already!

  16. Renee, so sorry I missed your post earlier – and you are soooo right – just as the less-physically-attractive person can be the most lovely where it matters, so can the most attractive among us have beauty that is indeed only skin deep.

    Kim, so true! There are plenty of ’em I dislike, but it’s because of what they say and do, not because of how they look!

  17. Hey, Jennette, I’m still making my way through the wonderful BOAW posts (crazy weekend, long story). Loved your examples, especially the “ugly-tired soccer mom.” To me those soccer moms are more real and more beautiful than the most gorgeous movie star.

  18. Excellent post, Jennette. I wish I could say I don’t judge people, but I do. Guys like Robert Downey Jr. make me swoon. Guys like Gilbert Gotfried (sp?)…not so much. I judge most drivers on the road as… Well, we won’t even go there.

    I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to not judge others on some level, but for me…what it all boils down to is this…is someone a nice person? Because if they are, I don’t ‘see’ anything else. I don’t care how perfect, or how beautiful they are outwardly, if what’s inside is ugly, that makes the outside ugly, too.

    I’m rambling. Sorry. I should have had a nap. 🙂

  19. Oh, yes, yes I do judge – myself first and worst, and then others, albeit to a much lesser degree. Letting go of that knee-jerk judgement (or judgment) is a process, to be sure. It’s interesting, though: the other women I judge tend to be those in the spotlight, and it’s their “handlers” I judge rather than the women themselves. Hilary’s publicity team could gently steer her back to when she had a super-flattering, shorter hairstyle. Most of the Miss America Scholarship Pageant’s contestants’ advisors could use a good talking to about their charges’ gown choices. Ha! There’s me bs-ing myself into “but it’s okay because” mode. It’s not okay. It’s not my job to judge myself, or anyone else. Like I said, a process.

    Thank you for inspiring me to take another look at this problem.

  20. I wish it wasn’t true, but you’re so right. We live in a very outward society, meaning we judge each other all the time by appearance. But I think another BOAW blogger pointed out how when you do get to know someone, their appearance changes to you. Like someone may look beautiful, but say rotten things and they start to look ugly. And someone may look average, but you get to know them and they become more attractive. I think that’s why it can’t just be about looks. The best book cover in the world wouldn’t sell as much as the one everybody’s actually talking about for its content!

  21. Kassandra – so true!

    Ellen, it’s hard not to judge, isn’t it? Especially people who are in the public eye! And especially when it’s something someone chose, like a questionable wardrobe item, rather than the body they were born with.

    Kristy – there has to be some room for attraction, as we romance writers know 🙂 – and I can certainly appreciate RDJ! But you’re right, what’s beneath will eventually shine through and make or break that attraction.

    Jess, you are so right – just like I mentioned in my response to Renee, above!