Friday, 27 February 2015

Hard not to judge

How difficult it is to avoid judging someone's physical appear-ance, however much you tell yourself that their appearance doesn't matter and what's important is those personal qualities you can't actually see.

One writer who took part in "Fat Talk Free February" comments on how hard it was not just to ignore someone's looks but to resist appearance-based compliments, like saying how youthful, or thin, or pretty, or sexy, they were.

She says women are especially prone to comment on each other's appearance as a way of bonding and communicating.

But she points out the subtly damaging effect of being constantly complimented on your looks rather than your kindness, intelligence, loyalty or sense of humour. Women quickly learn that their value to the world seems to lie in how they look.

Like most people, I tend to form an opinion on other people's appearance, but that doesn't mean I'm oblivious to their personalities. I'm well aware that a quite ordinary appearance could be hiding a brilliant mind or enormous generosity or musical genius.

A woman once accused me of being a typical man who habitually objectified women. I'd never been accused of that before and I found it quite mystifying. Perhaps she was confusing body awareness with objectifying. Of course I'm aware of other people's bodies, but I'm always fully conscious they're a human being and not a thing.

I suppose one benefit of being male is that other men seldom comment on your appearance, so your looks aren't given an inflated importance. Nothing is said about the pot belly, the thickets of body hair, the sagging flesh or the wrinkles. And for that matter, nothing much is said even if you look impossibly fit and healthy with the skin of a twenty something.

Most men just don't care very much about other men's looks. They're far too busy judging the looks of every passing woman. But if anything, women probably judge each other far harder than men are even capable of.

I mean, thigh gaps, anyone? Cellulite? Asymmetrical tits? Nothing but nothing is spared.


  1. The difference I've found is that women pay attention to details and are aware of their surroundings, while men are oblivious. Or maybe that's just the men in my life.

  2. I don't care what people look like, unless I can't stand them, and then I must be catty.


  3. Eyes and voices are the first things I notice when I meet people for the first time. A person/voice that must fill every second with sound is very off putting to me.

    PS. I wonder if anyone else has a difficulty with the type as it appears while commenting on your blog, Nick? I actually typed my comment and then cut and pasted it here. It seems to transper to the blog properly.

  4. Bijoux: I would agree with that as a general truism, though I know men who are very aware of details and surroundings, and women who totally aren't.

    Susie: But do you make any judgment about them? Do you see some people as attractive and some as ugly, for example?

  5. Grannymar: What I tend to notice are voices and facial expressions. There's such a huge spectrum between happy, smiling faces and grim, sullen faces. And yes, non-stop talking is a total turn-off for me too.

    The type in my own comment box is very clear and easy to read. I wonder why yours is so bad? Has anyone got a solution?

  6. I found it interesting that you didn't question the woman further on why she thought you were body policing.

    If it were me I'd be asking her for examples.

    As for me I pay really close attention to the eyes.


  7. John: Susie always has an interesting take on the matter in hand!

    www: I did question her, but she wouldn't explain. We were having a big row at the time so I think she was just throwing out wild accusations for the hell of it. And I think body policing is something different from objectifying - it's telling the person how they should be dressing or behaving. I certainly would never do that.

  8. Your pictures are of young women. Once we get to a certain age (males as well as females) I think people don't notice the details so much. Mainly they think OMG, she/he is OLD! Andy and I laugh, because they usually say, "You're looking great!"

  9. Jean: I don't know about that. I bet there are people who look at an oldie and think "Goodness, what an old frump" or "What a hideous dress".

  10. With Andy, of course, they say he's still wearing the same style of clothes --- white short-sleeved shirt and navy pants. No matter how much his looks change, they still recognize him. :)

  11. An American tried to pick me up in the supermarket today (no, not from the floor). I wonder just what the blazes he was seeing!

  12. I don't believe people who say they don't notice a person's appearance. We're biologically wired to do so.

    But I'm reminded of a saying: "Women will never be equal to men until they can be fat and bald and still think they've got it going on."

  13. I notice facial expressions, for both men and women. Do they look friendly? I don't notice clothing much at all.

  14. John: So do I!

    Jean: Recognisable by his never-changing clothing style - I like it!

    Helen: Interesting. I wonder what was the unusual thing about you that caught his attention?

  15. Agent: Agreed. How can they not notice? Can they switch off their eyes?

    That saying is spot on. I'm always amazed at those men who've seriously gone to seed but still think they're God's gift to women.

    Jean: I notice basic items of clothing, like shirts or jeans, but the other details usually escape me.

  16. Hello Nick,

    We think that there is something in the opinion that,as women age, life in general makes them disappear. They no longer present programmes on television, they no longer appear on media or advertising sites. They literally become grey people who merge into every background. So, it is good when women of certain years refuse to grow old gracefully and instead make a determined stance of being seen and recognised for who they are, what they have achieved and where they intend to go in the future.

    We must all guard against jumping to conclusions about people, and we are definitely as guilty as the next person regarding this.

  17. Jane and Lance: You're right that older women are generally airbrushed out of public prominence in favour of pretty young gels. Like you, I applaud those women who refuse to accept such relegation and are determined to keep a high profile.

  18. When someone pats my pot belly they always say "When's it due then?" and laugh. Whereupon I burst into a stream of uncontrollable laughter saying "I've never heard that one before!" and stagger away still laughing, and saying "Oh boy, that's a good one".

  19. thigh gap is desirable in the young set

  20. Keith: Amazing how predictable people can be! And they probably believe you when you say you've never heard it before....

    Kylie: So I'm told. Among those who're obsessed with their appearance, at any rate. I'd like to think most women couldn't care less.

  21. I agree that it's hard not to judge others by the way they look, however much we try and tell ourselves we don't. We also know that any preconceptions we have are often wrong, as we find out if we chance to communicate with the person.
    The thing about women being more critical of each other than men are of them is interesting. Would all the bleach-blonde Barbie dolls out there be making themselves look that way if they were only be doing it to appeal to men? Doubtful, as I don't personally know any men (myself included) who particulary like that look.
    I think in some way we all would like to believe that others might find us attractive, but it would appear that middle age typically brings with it the art of invisibility...

  22. Dave: Indeed, our preconceptions about people are invariably wrong, as a few minutes' conversation will usually confirm.

    I don't know any men who go for bottle-blonde Barbies either, but then I move in circles where the natural look is generally preferred. It would be interesting to ask a few stereotype stick-thin blondes why they decided on that particular look.

  23. I am usually too busy ensuring that I do not trip and fall to look at what is happening around me other than in a very superficial way. Once I am seated however I tend to focus on the person's facial expressions and language and rarely their clothes or looks. I suppose that when people look at me, they see a guy with a cane and that makes them want to know why I use it so they skip looking at my clothes!

  24. Ramana: Glad to know you're so totally un-focused on people's clothes or looks. That must be very unusual. And yes, I would probably ask about the cane as well - an excellent talking-point!