Don’t forget tolerance
Last week, I witnessed something on TV that made me both livid and ashamed.
After flipping through the channels one evening, I caught the last 10 minutes of “Law and Order: SVU.” In the particular episode, Detective Benson, played by Mariska Hargitay, witnessed the arrest of a young girl named Agnes.
Agnes was a tall, overweight girl in high school who was unpopular and who was being brutally harassed by the popular clique. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore and shot the most popular girl in school after discovering this girl had spray painted her locker and hung a dead baby pig from it.
Immediately after the end of this chilling episode, I caught the beginning of “That 70s Show.”
The particular episode showed the two female lead characters discussing weight and how one was going to get fat and ugly if she kept eating.
Mind you, this girl is already thin, and all she wanted was one more beef jerky.
I shut off the TV and sat there, astounded and angry. In that short 20-minute time span, I had witnessed complete polar opposites of the topic of weight image and society’s take on it.
Throughout this last week, this issue bothered me. I recalled that at the end of eighth grade, two of the girls in my class had eating disorders and had been in and out of institutions. In eighth grade!
It got me thinking about other groups of people who are viewed negatively by society. It raises the question, then, of what is the perfect person, the ideal weight, the perfect look?
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average weight in the United States for an adult female is 162.9 pounds. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that the average adult male weighs 191 pounds. It also reported that the average height for men is 5-foot-9-and-a-half inches and the average for women is 5-foot-4 inches.
So, can we please stop trying to think that every woman is going to be a size two and that all guys are going to be tall and muscular?
Now, I am not going to be hypocritical here. In the past, I have been guilty of cracking jokes at individuals or groups, but rarely for their looks, having been teased enough myself in middle school for being short and not very athletic. However, who hasn’t made fun of someone for something? Unfortunately, it’s human nature.
Who knows what is occurring for these people we talk about behind their backs and exclude from activities. Certain diseases cause excessive weight gain. Our perception of others also can be skewed by problems like speech impediments, slower learning skills and looks, to name a few.
Remember that kid in elementary school who wasn’t good at catching the football? Or how about the child who didn’t wear the right clothes and wore glasses or braces? I wonder what would happen if you ran into that person years later. And after saying some of the things that we have all said, how can we look our children in the eye one day and try to teach them morals?
While I truly believe that we are much more accepting in college than in high school and middle school, I am curious to know how many of us here have been both the perpetrator and victim.
“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” This childhood rhyme may speak in the physical sense, but psychologically, it couldn’t be more wrong. Ask the kid in elementary school who was forced to sit alone at lunch if this is true. Or the individuals in high school who were excluded because of their weight, intelligence or other such characteristics that are beyond their control.
So here goes: I am 22 years old, five foot six-and-a-half inches tall, 153 pounds and I wear glasses. Anyone want to take a shot?