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"Lookism: The Unsung Prejudice" by Danielle Kim

“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” is a saying that many people know. But is beauty really subjective, and does it really not have any bearing on our day to day lives? People do not want to believe that something as superficial as looks has a noticeable influence on our lives, but it is true. Lookism influences every aspect of our daily lives.

Lookism has the most devastating consequences. Despite this, it is shockingly one of the most avoided topics in our society today. Lookism is discrimination against unattractive people, at least, unnattractive by the statdards of society. Many people, even if they won’t admit it, have deeply rooted internal biases based on looks, whether that is related to weight, facial structure, or just their own preconceptions of what is “beautiful” or what is “ugly.”

Lookism is a shallow thing, and people want to believe that they do not take part in it, but they subconsciously make judgments based on looks. Honestly, we all do, although some judgments are worse than others. Some forms of this are racism, ableism, and fatphobia. All of these are forms of lookism. When a society determines that one skin shade is more pleasing than another, enough so that everything from jobs to socioeconomic status is affected by it, physical appearance stops becoming simply just “the eye of the beholder.”

Ableism is also a form of lookism. People with physical disabilities are mocked, whispered about, and shunned. It’s as though they need to be hidden away: in the bathroom, in their homes, away from where they might soil another person’s aesthetically pleasing afternoon walk. They are not represented at all in the media, or they are just token characters. They are forgotten because they don’t fit into the world in a way that approves of them being seen.

Fatphobia is also a form of lookism. People always think that fat people are unhealthy, but this is not true. People don’t care if skinny people eat junk food or smoke a pack a day because they fit into the most attractive weight group. Although “health” is an excuse that is widely used to justify fatphobia, this is not about being healthy. It is about attractiveness. Being underweight is the beauty standard, so when people drop dangerous amounts of weight, they are applauded because they are changing themselves to fit into the beauty standard. To put it in perspective: there are countless stories of cancer patients being complimented on how much weight they are losing due to their treatments. They are applauded for their health. That is all you need to know about how wrong and pervasive these perspectives are.

One reason no one seems to want to do anything about lookism: companies make big money off of it. Marketing departments target and cultivate insecurities, belittling people into buying their products. The beauty industry in general profits the most. Although there are efforts to be inclusive, it was all because they didn’t want to get hate for not having all types of people.But even the cosmetics industry has been dwarfed by something even worse: Social Media. People use photoshop. Everyone on social media uses enhancements to look better. But young kids, who use apps like Instagram the most, can’t tell the difference between real and fake bodies.So they start to compare themselves and want to change themselves. They starve and cover their faces with makeup in a desperate attempt to achieve these impossible standards. The thing about impossible standards is that, well, they’re impossible! That is the true evil of lookism. No matter what, the standards society sets will always be unachievable.

While there have been attempts to combat lookism in recents years, such as body-inclusive ad campaigns, and most notably Victoria’s Secret doing away with their idealized “Angel” lingerie models. But it simply isn’t enough. Until everyone can feel comfortable in whatever skin, body type, disability, person they are in, it will never be enough. Until every “beholder,” every person can see their own beauty, and not be judged for it, lookism will still be with us.

Danielle Kim is a high school student who loves to read, write, and go for long walks with her family on cool spring evenings.

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