In a world whose people have physically, mentally and socially evolved over centuries, one would think that by now issues concerning physical appearance, social judgment, and identity were irrelevant. One would also think that people judged others based on their personalities or abilities. Judith Oritz Cofer, a Puerto Rican and American author, gives her firsthand experience of physical and social judgment based on her skin color in the mid-20th century. She gives this story in a piece titled The Story of My Body.
In the book, Judith gives a comprehensive overview of how society has judged her over the years by her appearance. The book gives a vivid display of how vague society can be when appreciating what beauty is and how it determines success. Race, gender, weight, community status; these are things that people are judged on every day of our waking lives, and there is nothing we can do about it. However, we are in control of how we feel and will react.
The first aspect of the discussion is a race that is based on the color of your skin. White is crisp and acceptable. They say that the lighter you are the better you look. Judith describes herself as white girl born and bred in a colored community. The black race is more prone to discrimination due to inferiority related to economic and social success. The Puerto Ricco race is not far from it seen as secondary to race discrimination. I say that color is a matter of socialization. Her first encounter with color prejudice was experienced in the simple surroundings of a supermarket, where in The United States is a place where one expects racial representation in numbers. The store owner told that her skin was dirty, and that she should not touch anything in his store because according to him, Judith was a spectacle too cheap or poor to afford anything in his store due to her color. They say that Brown is a dirty color and that people who possess that color are dirty. I say this is pure racial discrimination. The only factor preventing Judith or anyone dark skinned from acquiring items from the store would be money. Any disqualification other than that was pure discrimination. The store owner did not give Judith a chance to determine whether she could afford items or not. This kind of judgment limited him from making money in his store.
Another discriminative factor as portrayed from the text is body size. In some cultures, they say that big or fat is considered undesirable while in others they say being "skinny" is abnormal. People are mostly concerned about how they look, and society has been socialized to believe that thinner is better. In Judiths story, we see a contrast in which she was discriminated for actually being small. Her mother always told her that she was pretty, but to society, she was too skinny to fit into any social class including her fellow Latinas. I say that a womans beauty is defined by several things; her personality, talents; and their ability to juggle motherhood and remain relevant in various sectors of the society. It is unfortunate that weight is among the key characteristics that are given the highest degree of consideration. For instance, weight is not only an issue based on women but men and children have also been greatly affected. The world of super-size versus super skinny has been taken over where people are going to extreme risks and practices just to lose weight and in some cases gain weight. I say that women have so much more to offer the society other than their body weight.
Looks were and still is a discriminative factor in societies today. Women invest in makeup to look beautiful, and it is seen as a clear reflection of beauty. Makeup was created to represent the unsought features of the white community. They said that resembling a white person was the epitome of beauty. Judith was compared to the blonde, blue-eyed white girls who were said to be perfect. In college they said she was exotic due to her lovely natural Latina skin, but was still considered as being dirty due to her race. I say that beauty of a woman is skin deep; in her ability to care, show compassion, nurture others, and work hard to take care of those around them.
In a recap, socialization is at fault in every aspect of any form of discrimination. When we raise our children believing that they are beautiful irrespective, is the first step to creating a better world. Judith has based her argument on the basis that society is hypocritical in its determination and description of beauty. From dirty to exotic, she tries to cut down her confidence to halt its size so that one can feel better about themselves. I say that, if you dont know what to believe in, or how to love yourself, people will always find a way to frustrate you. However, it is up to us to decide not to care about what society thinks of how we look or do things and accept ourselves irrespective of race or any other identity crisis. Therefore, Judith is a clear indication of a successful discrimination story. We should learn from this and realize that the means do not always justify the end.
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