hijabs, chrissy olson
I come from a background that values appearance to a great extent, and I suppose I expect that the rest of society would have the same expectations for public appearance. For example, I had a teacher who only wore sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and winter boots to class every day. On the first day of class, I instantly judged his character, integrity, and intelligence before he even opened his mouth, upon which I learned that he held both a law degree and a PhD from an Ivy League school. He made jokes about the clothes he wore, telling us not to expect him in anything much different. Though I knew this was just a difference in culture, for some reason, I still felt uncomfortable that he was wearing sweats in a workplace setting.
I remembered back to my experiences visiting a European country. There, it was incredibly rude to eat, drink, chew gum, and wear sweatpants and/or other forms of “sloppy” clothing to class, whereas in the United States, many of these are accepted.
My culture affects the clothing I wear. Most days I am “dressed up.” This usually includes wearing leggings, tights, dresses, skirts, blouses, sweaters, and black shoes. It is rare that I wear jeans, tennis shoes, open toed shoes, or sweatshirts. The cultures that I am in affect the way I dress immensely. By being a student leader on campus I am in a culture that basically requires me to dress in a business-like manner. I could do otherwise, but I have learned through experiences that others in the business world tend to look at me in a negative way or in a less serious manner if I am not dressed appropriately to societal and cultural standards.
One area of other people’s culture that I struggle not to judge is dress. For example, I find it a type of male domination that women are forced to wear head to toe dress in some Middle East countries. Although the women of the society itself may not see it as that, I have a hard time understanding that. Growing up in a society where women may dress as they please, although dressing one way or another may illicit different responses, is all that I know and fully understand and I have a hard time comprehending why someone would let someone else tell them what is or what is not appropriate to wear.
When someone is dressed “thug/gangster.” I catch myself automatically assuming typical stereotypes, even though I realize I shouldn’t. Internally, I try to remind myself that everyone has their personal story as to what shaped them to dress or act the way that they do.
When I look at people I use resources like body language, clothing, appearance, and if available background information on a person to assess them. I treat everyone with respect. I say yes mama and no sir, I greet people with Mr. and Mrs./Ms., and I would usually wait for someone to stick their hand out when greeting them to go ahead and then shake their hand. I would love to say I don’t judge others but I do, I try not to.
I often struggle with trying not to judge the attire of Muslim women. I find it hard to understand why a woman would agree to dress so conservatively that many times her eyes are the only things others can see. Internally I react with outrage because I feel that this manner of dress is oppressive towards women. Externally I try to hide my emotions in order to avoid offending these women and their beliefs because at the end of the day their religion is none of my business.
It is hard for me not to pre-judge someone as soon as I see what they are wearing or how they talk. For example, I will see someone who appears to be very wealthy with dyed hair, perfect nails and teeth, and a Northface jacket and, internally, I assume that they are ditzy and just had the money to be going to UW-Madison. I do not respond this way on the outside however, because I know that my judgments could be completely wrong.