Why appearance shouldn’t define capability

Shae Slaughter

We’ve all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” As a population, we are notorious for judging people based on their appearance, whether it be clothing, age, race or something even more minute. We do this in our own lives, but we also do this to people of power. The problem is that appearance has very little, if anything, to do with capability.

Not too long ago, I saw a perfect example of this in my own life. I was searching for a dress to wear to a work-related holiday party, and I could not find one that I liked. This wasn’t because I was short on dresses (trust me, I have plenty). It was because I was worried of what people might think. 

I wanted my dress to be of the cocktail variety, a dark color, professional and appropriate. I tried on dress after dress, fearing that one or all of these were a little too short or too tight or had the wrong sleeves. The list goes on and on. I explained this to my boyfriend, and as I did so, I realized what I was actually afraid of. I was afraid of not being taken seriously. I was afraid that my appearance wouldn’t translate to my intelligence and my capability within the position that I hold. From there, I realized just how silly it is to be afraid of something like that. 

Still, our world works in those ways. A dress that’s just one inch too high or an outfit that isn’t fashionable enough are grounds for being mocked and discredited. This can happen in job interviews where certain business wear is considered appropriate and the rest is just unprofessional. The difference between a blue tie or an orange tie could persuade interviewers one way or another. 

This can also be seen in politics with the constant mockery of Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits and Donald Trump’s hair. Realistically, these things don’t factor into their capability at all. I think it is safe to assume that a pantsuit doesn’t remove Clinton’s Yale Law School degree. Trump’s hair doesn’t negate his business prowess, either. Their actions should be the deciding factor in whether or not they are deserving of credibility.

First ladies are often critiqued in this way, too. These women are constantly attacked for their outfit choices. I still remember Michelle Obama being criticized for wearing a sleeveless outfit as if her arms were completely inappropriate. Melania Trump has also received criticism for wearing stiletto heels in the wrong situation. In my mind, there’s no problem with them wearing what they want if they can get the job done. If Michelle can fix school lunches with her arms showing, and if Melania can help hurricane victims in heels, more power to them. 

Yes, there are limits to this mindset, and some semblance of professionalism is required in certain aspects of life. But do these little differences make someone any less qualified? No, not really. It is useless to judge people on these little things. Peoples’ outfits and their abilities have no correlation, so don’t just judge their cover.