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Tag Archives: society

Policing Appearances

About a month ago, Pat Robertson said a terrible thing, and the internet was like “Whoa, Look What That Jerk Said!”

What he said is basically that it’s women’s fault when their husbands drink or cheat, because the women have gotten ugly and sloppy in their dress.

The Internet is totally right to call this guy out for saying such a terrible thing.

But you know what?

In a lot of places, I see comments about how ugly Robertson is. Check out how ugly he is, who is he to talk? For instance, here, at about 2 minutes in.

Sure, it’s an easy shot. We love hypocrisy, right? But the problem is not that an ugly dude is telling women to be pretty for their husbands (lest their husbands become alcoholics or divorce them). It wouldn’t be okay if a handsome dude was telling women to be pretty for their husbands. The problem is not who’s saying it, the problem is what’s being said.

The thing that is the problem is called “appearance policing” and it is about socially requiring people to look a certain way in order to qualify for certain social benefits, such as basic respect from a spouse. Or an employer, or a shopkeeper, or whoever. Leggings aren’t pants is the same thing (even if I passionately hate the use of leggings as pants).

When we go off and say “Yeah, what a terrible thing to say and what an ugly dude who said it!” we are doing the SAME THING AS ROBERTSON. We are saying that the problem is with what he looks like, not with what he said. We are playing into his hands, agreeing with his basic assertion that a person’s appearance determines what value they should have.

And really, what he looks like is perfectly fine old white guy. There’s nothing wrong with his appearance — not that it matters, it really doesn’t. But it just makes it worse, because the problem isn’t even that he’s some essence of ugly, it’s just that he’s old.

It’s not okay to police the appearance of old guys, calling them ugly for being old, even if they’re assholes. Even if they’re Pat Robertson, professional asshole.

Call him a sexist asshole. Call him wrong. Say how angry you are that this old fucker is going on as if he knows something about you and your marriage and how it’s all your fault that your husband is an abusive alcoholic. That’s all totally legit.

Just leave his looks out of it.