Judging the Book
July 24, 2005

We've all heard the popular adage that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. For the most part, I wholeheartedly agree. Everyone we encounter won't come packaged the way we'd expect, so we can't just saunter through life always making surface determinations about people. Yet, even in the most literal sense, that "saying" only means so much when you browse the several hundred shelves of your local Barnes & Noble. There I challenge you to find a coverless book. Instead, you'll find aisles of glossy book jackets with specialized fonts and eye-capturing images. Why? Because despite the fact that the cover gives absolutely no indication of excellence, insight or profundity, human nature is more inclined to think so based on what we initially see. Simply put: the average buyer's attention is both gained and informed by a well-designed book cover.

As it's illustrated in the tangible, so it is with us. A recent USA Today article reported on a study into how appearance affects the size of one's paycheck. This one's a doosie:

When Jennifer Portnick wanted to be a Jazzercise franchisee, she says, she was denied. The reason: The company had a policy that required exercise instructors to appear fit. Portnick, who weighed 240 pounds, didn't pass.

So she filed a civil complaint under a San Francisco ordinance that bans discrimination based on weight and height. The company changed its policy, and she dropped her complaint.

What a waste of a discrimination complaint. Apparently it's too much to ask that an exercise instructor be in shape. As a side note, I might add that nearly every physical education instructor I had from elementary school on up was both overweight and a lesbian, how about you?

Here's an interesting case out of our nation's capitol. Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you: The Flip-Flop Scandal. No it doesn't involve John Kerry, but it does involve poor clothing choices. As I'm sure you've all heard by now, this story which is probably taking up more media time than it needs (though this shouldn't come as a surprise seeing as how Aruba is still on the map). When members of the Northwestern University women's championship lacrosse team showed up at the White House donning flip-flops, people took note. CBS News reports

After Northwestern University's national championship women's lacrosse team visited the White House, a group photo showed several players wearing flip-flop sandals along with their dresses and skirts.

A controversy quickly followed, with one front-page headline quoting an e-mail sent to a player: "YOU WORE FLIP-FLOPS TO THE WHITE HOUSE?!" Family members of other players were also dismayed, saying the footwear was too casual for a visit with the president.

Funny stuff and it doesn't surprise me in the least. Not only does the younger generation generally lack the grace and etiquette so common to our parents, we've re-written the rules. Now I'm a big fan of flip-flops, and I understand their cultural relevancy (nowadays they have sequinned flip-flops, and you can even wear them in the workplace), but when was the last time you saw Jenna & Barbara Bush wearing flip-flops to a White House event? Okay, bad examples. Point being, the lacrosse players certainly weren't breaking any rules (President Bush probably cared less), but as my mother always told me, "You never know who's watching." Dress for the occasion. To their credit, the girls turned the situation around.

MSNBC's Monica Crowley didn't mince words on the subject:

"Pardon me, but a day at the White House is not a day at the beach. You do not show up to meet the Leader of the Free World dressed as if you are about to slather on some Coppertone and catch a wave."
We often preach about how it's not good to judge, but I beg to differ. We must judge. It's a daily survival tactic and one that we employ whether we admit it or not. We live in a world where the book is constantly judged by the cover. There's a reason why accountants don't wear shorts and a t-shirt when they meet with their clients. Sometimes, people just need to play the game.

Posted by Ambra at July 24, 2005 1:31 AM in Life
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You've tapped into the very thing that Bernard Goldberg is ranting about in support of his latest book. His thesis is that the reason liberals are ruining America is, in sum, the expression, "Who am I to judge?"

Either there are standards or there are not.

Congratulations on yet again seeing where others are blinded. You rock.

We all judge. We all discriminate, on matters both great and small. I prefer mustard to catsup (or is that ketchup?), and I can't stand mayonnaise. That is discrimination in minor matters.

The problems are that people no longer consider that anything labeled as discrimination can be good, and many no longer consider that anything they do is worthy of censure, particularly if it's minor. Do your own thing, different strokes, and all that.

As you say, there used to be standards. Some were objective, and some were arbitrary, but everyone knew them. Now, too many seem unaware of them, if not actively working to undermine them.

While I believe some discrimination suites are credible, it is these types of examples that hurt the people whom are truly discriminated against.

I think it's some kind of unwritten high school law. My gym teachers were both walking stereotypes. They were not fat but they were tough as nails lesbians with buzz cuts and permanent scowls.

OT sort of:

Sunday, as you well know, is the day for the faithful to gather in the Lord's name. As you also know, it is the day to witness the great bulk of fashion atrocities for the week. I saw one this morning and thought of your "hall of shame": at Starbucks, a gentleman in a baby blue(!) suit, an orange(!!) shirt and a blue and orange tie. He was sitting down so I couldn't see his shoes (I was afraid to look too long, since I had trouble keeping a straight face as it was).

Unfortunately, I had left the camera in the car but I'll be more thoughtful next time. :-)

You make an interesting point there, but carried to its extreem the country club or university should be able to choose people who "fit the mold." Sure, in some instances case like the fat arrobics instructor or the male hooters server seem to best sorted out by the free market, but allowing folks to decide who the right people are is slime covered swimming hole. BTW. My female gym teacher as seeing one of the male teachers.

Capitalism will ultimately decide what will happen to Jennifer Portnick and her Jazzercise franchisee. I can't see how it would be successful, but I could be wrong. Sort of like when I went into a barbershop for the first time and homeboy who cutting hair had a JERRY CURL. needless to say I walled out and never returned.

As for flip flop gate, maybe they thought it would make it easier for them to search their shoes. ;-)

I wanted to drop you a line to let you know I enjoy your blog!

Only in America, huh?

" I saw one this morning and thought of your "hall of shame": at Starbucks, a gentleman in a baby blue(!) suit, an orange(!!) shirt and a blue and orange tie."

Waitaminnit! I've worn exactly that combination in the past! 'Course it's a deep Blue silk suit and dark blue shoes, but still...

I was thinking of wearing 501s and a Hawaiian shirt to Blogher. But I see I'll have to make a quick run to the drycleaner lest I end up critiqued here.

The Jazzercize policy didn't ask that their leaders be in shape. It asked that they appear to be in shape. No one questioned the woman's ability to lead the class (her students were big supporters, pun not intended.)

I took a class from a big fat aerobics instructor. To me, she was inspiring because she worked like crazy and put her all into the class. It was her spirit that counted, not her weight.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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