Is it wrong to judge people based on the things they stick on their bodies?

I’ve met and interacted with too many people with piercings/weird hair/tattoos/funky clothing who are kind, interesting, artistic, poetic, or just fun and quirky to make a snap judgment about their character. In fact, I tend to regard such people as having creative talent rather than destructive or anti-social tendencies. I am far more likely to make a character judgment based on the expression on the face of a stranger rather than the adornment of choice. Vive la difference.

(Though the OP didn’t ask my bio. I felt it relevant to the discussion.) Female/37/resident of the South with a relatively conservative habit. No piercings, no tattoos, no weird hair for myself or any of my immediate loved ones.

**-Do you ever make negative judgments towards people based on things like clothing, accessories, and styles?

**- Do you feel that this is a bad thing or something that serves a purpose?**What people choose to do to decorate their bodies isn’t just about fashion. There is a specific decision behind their reasons for wearing, piercing, tatooing etc. The why behind what they choose to do to their bodies, or wear, says something about who they are, and what they believe. They may not intend this, or realize it, but all of us make some sorts of judgments of others based upon what we can see and hear.

**-If you do admit to doing this, where do you draw the line? What separates you from an obnoxious snob?**I don’t say anything to people who are wearing or decorating themselves with ridiculous things, (though the full-poopy toddler diaper look of baggy thug pants still makes me laugh). And I have had enough acquaintances to know better than to think it has to do with intelligence. But as someone else said, when it comes to hiring someone, how they present themselves matters.

It is really hard to say. My daughter will be a senior this year in high school. She has five piercings in each ear…I don’t ask about elsewhere… She is a smart kid, so I just don’t say a thing.
Tats are another matter, I hate them, body art? fine. It is forever.

I don’t think all of you are, but I suspect that most of you either are, or have subscribed to upper middle class values of dress and body mod (ear piercings only, for women, no piercings for men) without really understanding that you have. The reason I mentioned upper middle class values is that it’s generally understood that those are the values that rule in the workplace, most of the time, because most people in middle management and higher are either upper middle class or have learned to accommodate those values.

So when someone says, “I will not hire someone who has the wrong body mods or wears the wrong clothes,” it’s just class bigotry rearing its ugly head. The fact that they announce it with such unself-conscious aplomb only makes it more revealing, hence richer in its irony.

Sure they are, but most of the time, they don’t have all that much power to affect people’s lives negatively because of their prejudices.

Of course not. But I fight it. I understand that it’s my loss if I miss out on knowing someone who’s smart or funny or interesting in some other way because my prejudices about their appearances won’t let me see that. So I’m fighting it for my own sake, not for the sake of some abstract ideal.

As someone that’s pretty heavily involved in several creative sectors, I tend to have the opposite reaction; the more tattooed, pierced, weird haired, and funkily-dressed a person is, the less legitimately creative and creatively involved they tend to be. It seems that they’re overcompensating for their lack of legitimate creative involvement and legitimate artistry by looking the part. In my experience, there tends to be an almost perfectly inverse correlation; the guy that looks like he just got off of work at an office job most often turns out to be an amazing songwriter, painter, or novelist, while the guy that looks like he’s playing the role of a “bohemian” character in a movie turns out to be mostly a poser that’s only superficially into whatever scene he’s hanging around.

It works both ways too. When I was in college, a girl I was friends with thanked me and the guys in my fraternity for not making fun of the dude she brought to our party. I guess he was didn’t have much money or something and she was worried that we would make fun of him because he wasn’t decked out with a crappy white baseball hat and an outfit straight out of the J Crew catalogue (which a subscription was litterally issued to you upon ariving on campus). Anyhow, I thought it odd that someone would immediately think that just because we dress like preppy assholes we would automatically be jerks to anyone not like us, even if they were a guest of one of our friends.

Wouldn’t you have basic standards if you were hiring someone? You’d obviously give Outsider Art Guy a chance, but what about Dirty Smelly Man or Slutty Dressing Woman? What if I show up to your office wearing absolutely nothing? Why is it so wrong to think to one’s self, “Hey, I’m not sure this person is representing my values based on their appearance.”

I’m not in a hiring position, and I’m not sure what I would do if asked to evaluate candidates based on their appearance. But it seems like judging people based on things they can help is not necessarily wrong. It can be a vehicle for class prejudice, sure, but not necessarily.

You like the artistic type (as I do too), but do you ever find yourself judging people who don’t fit the mold you described above? For instance, do you ever get negatives vibes from a guy who always wears a bow tie? Or a obese woman bulging out of a tight outfit? Or people who are dressed like bums?

I’m just having a hard time imagining even the most open-minded people not ever judging people. When I read the thread linked in the OP, I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes at all the “How DARE you judge, you jerk!” comments. The responses seemed so self-righteous and unnatural to me.

Only the ones on tv, where it seems to be a code word for “twit.”

The guy you have to keep an eye on is the one who wears a bow tie only some of the time. That’s odd.

Do you ever make negative judgements towards people based on things like clothing, accessories, and styles?
I do have immediate reactions, but I try not to let them rule me. For instance, I recently met a girl who had a couple of Japanese tattoos. I am on the don’t-get-a-tattoo-in-a-language-you-don’t-know bandwagon, but whatever, she’s a nice girl. I happen to think her tattoos are kinda lame, but not an obstacle to getting along with her.

Do you feel that this is a bad thing or something that serves a purpose?
I think it is somewhat bad. I feel guilty about it.

If you do admit to doing this, where do you draw the line? What separates you from an obnoxious snob?
That I MMOB.

What’s wrong with getting a tattoo just because you like the way it looks? I don’t have the body or skin for a tattoo, but if I did, I think I would get something like a Maori design. Who cares if I know what it means? Why is it anyone’s business? I’m getting it for me, not anyone else.

I find it fascinating that here on the Dope we are constantly told that, for example, there is no right or wrong way to say anything. It all depends on what the speaker means, and in fact no particular word has a definite meaning. And yet, somehow if I choose to decorate my body with a particular symbol, I am held to an arbitrary interpretation of said symbol.
I love the music by these guys. I have no clue what they are singing about. Am I wrong to like it?

When someone has a mohawk or has extreme piercings they are doing it for a statement and a reaction. How could you deny them that. If a person has a bunch of piercings ,I wonder why. It costs money and hurts. What made them decide it is a good idea?
Same for tattoos. You make a decision when you are young to slap a tattoo on your body that will last a lifetime ,I will wonder why. I will come up with a reason that satisfies me. It may not jibe with yours but thats life.

-Do you ever make negative judgements towards people based on things like clothing, accessories, and styles? Oh yes. Antigen, (and the rest of you judgemental people), we oughta hang out.

  • Do you feel that this is a bad thing or something that serves a purpose? Of course it could be a bad thing, but I really think it serves a purpose more often than not.

-If you do admit to doing this, where do you draw the line? What separates you from an obnoxious snob? Maybe nothing at all, but I do make an effort to examine my feelings on this every time it happens. I remember when I got my first office job, and one day the subject of tattoos came up. (I hate tattoos). Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut, because it turned out that nearly everyone else had one. I was really surprised that this group of educated, otherwise clean-cut people would get tattoos, so I try to remember that moment and look beyond my first impressions.

Body decorating is an expression of oneself, just like clothing is. When we express ourselves, we naturally align ourselves with others who express themselves similarly, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that those who aren’t in that group to be somewhat put off by that means of expression. For every person who is put off by tattoos, I will show you a person who thinks a guy in suit is a corporate stooge.

Either way, I’m screwed. :slight_smile:

I tend not to think of abstract things like “has a tattoo” or “has piercings” as sending a message. Or, at least, not a clear message. I try not to pay too much attention to messages that I can’t be sure of.

I do think that things like a t-shirt that says, “Fuck you!” send a message (saw one over the weekend).

If someone is trying to be offensive, I’m going to judge them. If someone just seems to be minding their own business, I might or might not.

One advantage of my perpetual obliviousness is that there have been times when I haven’t noticed things that other people do. I didn’t see the tattoo or the obnoxious shirt or the piercings because I wasn’t paying attention to the person. So I can end up looking more open-minded than I really am.

Too late to edit:

One thing I thought was rather fascinating about the original debate:

A number of people said that you couldn’t get a tattoo if you didn’t know, very precisely, what the tattoo meant to speakers of that language. It couldn’t just be a pretty picture.

But those same people said that they would judge others without knowing, very precisely, what the tattoo meant to the person who has it. They would see a tattoo and immediately judge.

Why is one group (the observer group) allowed to judge based on superficial attributes and the other group (the tattooed group) isn’t? The observer group says it isn’t good enough that you like the tattoo, that you find it appealing, but it is good enough that they don’t like the tattoo and don’t find it appealing, or it is good enough that they assume you don’t understand the tattoo, or it is good enough that they assume you are an exhibitionist.

Both sides might be ignorant. Only one side is attempting to use that ignorance as a weapon against the other.

I must be you. Half the time, I don’t notice the things people have done to themselves, unless we’re talking about extremes.

-Do you ever make negative judgements towards people based on things like clothing, accessories, and styles?

Yes, and anyone who says no is either lying or blind.

- Do you feel that this is a bad thing or something that serves a purpose?

It’s bad when you treat those judgements as fact and are resistant to changing them even in the face of new information. But I don’t think they’re bad if you’re not married to those judgements, they don’t affect your behavior, and you end up treating them as you’d have them treat you.

-If you do admit to doing this, where do you draw the line? What separates you from an obnoxious snob?

I think what separates a snob from a non-snob is if your judgements towards someone with a different style consistently are negative, inflexible, and narrow-minded. Just because a guy likes a little eyeliner doesn’t mean he’s a vampire wannabe. And just because a woman has a “tramp stamp” doesn’t mean she is actually a tramp. A snob, IMO, would have no problems expressing these kinds of judgements as an attempt to make themselves look superior. Since I don’t participate in that kind of haterade, I don’t consider myself a snob.

monstro, what do think of me and my tattoo? Am I a lame-o?

Despite the point I was trying to make in the previous thread, I generally agree with you on this…what I really don’t understand is people who are clearly trying to be offensive. I know you are a baseball fan, so you may appreciate this story…I was at a mall recently, and saw a t-shirt with a picture of a hand on it, middle finger extended. The extended finger had a White Sox World Series ring on it. The wording on the t-shirt said “Hey Cubs Fans…” Wonder if that guy has any idea what he is making Sox fans look like, or if he cares.

Yeah, some speech (I consider all of these things to be a form of speech) is overt and deliberately offensive. Other speech can have multiple meanings. The more abstract the speech, the less sure we can be of our judgments.