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Appearance discrimination is treating a person unfairly because of how they look. It has been found that the prevalence of discrimination because of physical appearance is significantly higher in girls.[i] Gender discrimination can be the real motive of appearance-based discrimination.[ii]
Appearance discrimination needs more awareness because most people do not consider discrimination based on physical appearance[iii] and yet it has a huge impact on many young people, especially today. In one study, the most prevalent was discrimination because of physical appearance.[iv]
Appearance discrimination often results in bullying for many young people, whether it is done consciously or unconsciously.[v]Unfortunately, in a study, many people that have a visible difference said that their school didn’t do anything to stop them from being bullied.[vi] Another study’s results showed that almost 20% of the adolescents questioned were exposed to discrimination, most frequently to discrimination because of physical appearance.[vii]
If the results of appearance discrimination are not addressed, it can have drastic impacts on how young people view themselves and their futures. Some studies have revealed troubling statistics of the outcomes.
- 43% of people with a visible difference said it had an impact on their ambition or aspiration in relation to college or university.[viii] More than a fifth (22.3%) of respondents said that their appearance affected their decision on moving into further or higher education.[ix]
- There are suggestions that people who face discrimination at a young age are more likely to develop behavioral and mental health problems later in life.[x]
- Appearance discrimination can result in poor body image, which can lead to unhealthy eating habits and decreased self-esteem.[xi]
How to Rectify:
More education and workshops, like Dove’s “Confident Me” lesson workshops[xii], to teach young children about appearance discrimination and empower them to make a difference and feel confident in themselves.
Educating teachers and education professionals what they can do to support children with a visible difference or dealing with these issues and create an inclusive learning environment for all pupils. This could include talking to students about visible differences, addressing appearance-related bullying, and recognizing and challenging unconscious bias.
Parents should educate themselves, as well as their children, on visible differences and helping tackle discrimination by introducing children to the idea of difference at a young age. There are books, TV shows, films, and toys that explore visible difference and disfigurements and challenge myths and stereotypes about those that look different.
Finding ways to increase the representation of those with visible differences in mainstream media. If there can be a way to change the narrative from only being what society deems as “beautiful” is “good,” while the protagonists and villains are visibly different in some way, then there could be some positive changes made when it comes to appearance discrimination.
[i] Laura Bitto Urbanova et al., Adolescents exposed to discrimination: are they more prone to excessive internet use?
[ii] Marcel Schwantes, New Research Reveals Why ‘Appearance Discrimination’ Is Making Workplace Even More Toxic
[iii] Cherea Hammer, A Look into Lookism: An Evaluation of Discrimination Based on Physical Attractiveness
[iv] Bitto Urbanova et al., Adolescents exposed to discrimination: are they more prone to excessive internet use?
[vii] Bitto Urbanova et al., Adolescents exposed to discrimination: are they more prone to excessive internet use?
[x] Joe Hernandez, A study links facing discrimination at a young age with future mental health issues
[xi] Amy Morin, How Exposure to the Media Can Harm Your Teen’s Body Image