War of the Words: Alternative looks and alternative viewpoints

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If you are shopping for friends, you are stereotyping

By Taylor Pitt, Contributor

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Looks can be deceiving. All that glitters is not gold.

In the English language, there are plenty of metaphorical phrases and idioms that discourage us from judging based solely on appearances. This is especially true when it comes to people. Judging based on appearances is rude to other people and bad for your own character.

This argument assumes that judging based on appearances means sense of fashion alone, as opposed to personal hygiene. Nobody’s going to argue that you should hang around that guy who constantly smells of gasoline and gunpowder, hiding his crust-covered hands on the insides of his sleeves. Additionally, I’m not going to try and disprove the effectiveness or usefulness of stereotyping, in appropriate situations. Instead, I argue that in order to grow, learn, and be as successful as possible, a person needs to overlook appearances or ignore them entirely. Especially in school or the workplace.

Nobody has a list of their skills and interests tattooed onto their arms. Or, at least, I hope nobody does. There’s no way to tell a person’s political alignment from the logos they wear on their clothing, or else we would all be right-wing capitalists. Neither is someone with stretched ear lobes automatically a member of the radical left. Assuming this information based on appearances, or worse yet, ignoring the possibility of learning something new based on superficial evidence, is simply ignorance. Following from this is inexperience with working alongside other people, which can cause problems at school, in group assignments, or at work with co-workers. Worse still would be your ability to work in a group that does not have a hierarchal power structure, such as grassroots charities or protests.

Outside of organizations and academics, stereotyping is often used to tell possible friends from people you won’t get along with. While this might seem effective, it limits the kinds of connections people can form. Strong personal friendships cannot be based on shared interests or disinterests alone, and fashion is naught but a hobby. Who would you rather be friends with, someone who puts their assumptions behind them and gets to know you, or someone who approached you like they did the shopping, picking you off the rack based on aesthetic?

Clothing, piercings, and tattoos aren’t substitutes for a person’s personality. You can’t get to know a person based only on the brands they choose to wear. In doing so, you’re limiting your own possible connections in the workplace, in your community, and at home.