All over the world and throughout all time, I’m betting, society has been creating a certain profile or image of who the perfect people are. No matter who you are or where you come from, everybody was born into this caste system. Unfortunately in this world looks do matter, and it shows. It does not matter what anyone might say, looks are the first thing they notice, and you will be judged based on that.
I’m in high school, so I know.
Personally, I say “Whatever.” Look however you want, just be yourself. Unfortunately, that philosophy — live and let live, I think they call it? — is less popular than it used to be, and is even becoming illegal in some states. The way society was built and behaves has trained people to judge others while their own behavior gets a pass.
If we look back in history, there are many examples of how this works, sometimes causing the deaths of many, many innocents. In the United States, people of African descent were seen as property at worst or naturally inferior at best for centuries due to the color of their skin. About 70 years after slavery ended in the U.S., we had the Holocaust and World War II. Jewish people were the prime target in this mass genocide, once again stemming from a racist stereotype. Propaganda about cultural differences and promoting stereotypes — appearances over action — were tools in Hitler’s mission to “… cleanse Germany of those with ‘dirty blood.’ ”
More recently, the events of 9/11 brought terrorism home, literally, and whole communities and even countries of people resembling the terrorists who attacked us were suddenly under suspicion. However, diving deeper, according to our government the greatest terrorist threat we face here at home comes from within — domestic terrorists who are often white supremacists because, I guess, the U.S. doesn’t look white enough to them.
Didn’t I just study this in my World War II class?
Self-expression, I’m told in psych class, is the singular basis of representation and identity development. For the majority of Generation Z, rather than physical appearance, the way we dress represents so much of who we are.
(OK Boomers, Generation Z — also known as Zoomers (but not to themselves) — is the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha with the mid-1990s to the 2010s as birth years, at least according to the internet, so we know it’s true. Most members of Generation Z are children of Generation X, while Generation Y begets Alphas. How’s that for appearances?)
Going more in depth into my original theme of our looks being essential in our society, and cutting to the chase, our society seems based on prejudice — and any number of them, so you should take your pick. Which unfortunately decides how one should look and act. I have already presented examples of people being outcasted or even killed due to appearance, and I’m afraid it affects more of us every day.
The scary part is how so many people react to stay safe: They accept society pressures to be cookie cutter robots. No, “robot” is not the right word because robots can’t make decisions for themselves.
What is the right word for someone who decides not to be themselves because they are afraid of what might happen to them if they are?
I know a few of them at school. I call them “friends.”
Being in high school and living that life every day does cause problems for many of us. Specifically for girls, eating disorders are unfortunately common. Society says that you have to be tall, preferably blonde, and definitely skinny to be pretty. These expectations are still all around us even in our terribly overly correct reactions to culture. I recently read an article about a fashion week with “inclusive models” and in the written parameters were all of those considered to be “plus sized,” meaning just how “plus sized” was acceptable.
I myself struggle with my appearance. Trying not to compare myself to those around me while resisting pressures to look a certain way are definitely present. For instance, I dread going to the store for new clothes because I can never find anything that will fit me right. Even just walking through the halls at school provides opportunities to find new insecurities. All because I don’t look the way society tells me I should.
To finalize my thoughts, I have observed many people being treated differently based only on how they look. And to this I would like to say, you shouldn’t have to be like anyone else. People are like snowflakes; not everyone should be alike.
Grace Nesbit is a senior at Peninsula High School. She lives in Lakebay.
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