Facial judgements aren't a thing of the past


Queering the Color Line describes instances in which individuals are judged based upon their physical experience. In this reading, most physical differences were used as a way to isolate the individual and make that person seem inferior. Some of the judgments focused on genital differences (whether true or fabricated) to pass a judgment on the individual's sexuality. Alternately, full body images were used to pass a judgment on the individual's place in society. Saartje Baartman is a prime example of the full body judgement.

It seems like a very cruel idea. There is no scientific backing to it. Judgment based on appearance is probably just a matter of opinion. Therefore, it should be removed from our society, right?

Unfortunately, this is still very prevalent. In fact, it's being advertised! Barbara Roberts is an "Expert Face Reader" who has been doing face readings for 20 years. She was recently featured on the Tyra Banks show to express her "amazing talent."

Tyra banks isn't the only person who has encouraged Barbara. She has written her own book, provides her own class, has been featured on countless morning shows, and even been used by the FBI to help profile criminals!

Profiling based on facial structures has an eerie similarity to the photo showed in class about how different faces can be grouped to create a profile that is possibly completely false! Based on the following video, a person might decide to never date a person who has a small mouth.

My biggest issue with Barbara is that she profiles based on people she already knows are good/bad (Example, it's pretty easy to figure out Hitler was a bad guy.) You don't see her profiling the average Joe that she has never met before.

So, is there any validity in Barbara's "talent"?
Would you ever judge a potential friend/loved based on facial structure?
How is facial judging now any different than facial judgment in the late 19th and 20th centuries?


Barbara's so called talent is nothing of the sort. She is reading into people's histories and so-called qualities and saying that they come from their features. Many people's qualities come from their upbringing and several other aspects. People may not even realize it, but everyone judges people every day. When walking down the mall area, people glance at others and make first impressions of them. A potential lover or friend even is judged when you first meet them. People in bars judge others. The person they choose to go up to is judged from all others in the area. Your first impressions may not be true to the person you are judging, but it does happen. Many people look at others and make quick decisions about who they are as a person. As of recently, more people have been breaking the molds of friends being all the same. People's friends are becoming more diverse with the increasing "melting pot." Before I came to Minneapolis, I only knew of the looks of people in my town. The world offers so much more, and there is such an increase of different people. How are you to judge one person when there is such a difference in people even across one race? Facial judging now, I would say, is less severe as in the 19th and 20th centuries. People judge others often but do not completely segregate groups based on facial features. The world is improving with its increased awareness of individualism. It may take forever to remove all judgments.

While it is true that a considerable amount of research has and is continuing to investigate the possible link between facial features and personality characteristics, the results of these studies have been largely inconclusive. Because of this, I believe that Barbara’s “talent” is nothing more than a scam. The physical features of the face are genetically determined, something that takes place before a person is born. Any change in features is due to the effect of environmental aging and the force of gravity on the body. Personality is shaped largely by a person’s life experiences and the people that they interact with; there is no gene that determines personality. Because someone has certain attributes at one point in their life does not mean that they will have the same characteristics later in life. Life experiences can either harden people, making them self-centered, or they can cause people to care about those around them.

Likewise, I believe that using facial judgments to identify a person is quite insulting. No one wants to be judged based on what they look like, even though it happens on a daily basis. I think it also simplifies our view of people by putting them into categories, where they can possess certain qualities, but not others. By labeling someone as a “compassionate” or a “bad” person, you are placing them into a category where they do not have the choice to be anything else. Everyone has the potential to be caring, compassionate, evil, or otherwise; they have to make the choice how they are going to perform. By making the assertion that personality can be determined through facial characteristics, Barbara is saying that we have no choice in how we act and that personality is completely genetically determined.

I was trying to find a video on YouTube that I've seen also from the Tyra show but I couldn't find it. It was an episode where the size of a woman's bottom was being discussed. There were some white women and black women asked to look at silhouettes of large butts and small or flat butts. The white women said the large butts made the women look overweight and disproportional. The black women said the large butts made those women look more powerful and gave them more of a presence. I am not saying that all white and all black women feel this way, it is just how the show went. This is just another example of how we make judgments and relate physical features to power, character, intelligence, and race.

I cannot believe this Barbara woman's correlation between facial features and character. I cannot believe that this has been accepted so easily just as in the days that Somerville discussed. Then, the features of African people were considered abnormal and related to sexual deviance and homosexuality. Are the judgments made by this Barbara woman so different? I don't think so. I think Tyra should have asked what studies backed her findings? What kind of research had she done? Were her results replicated by any other researcher? Just as this woman came up with these ideas with no scientific or psychological correlations, the people of the days of Sara Baartman made up social discourse for the features of races other than white.

I simply can't believe how easily our society buys into extreme claims like this. We hear an idea and we run with it. We don't ask questions. We don't examine where the information came from and who said it. We just absorb and go on with out day not realizing that that information had gotten into our heads and become part of our societal discourse. The "You know what I heard?"s become facts and spread. This is how stereotypes and "definitions" of race and sexuality are perpetuated and it makes me sad that we do not think more critically.

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This page contains a single entry by bradl215 published on September 30, 2010 6:28 PM.

Research ethics: competition, recognition, sabotage...democracy? was the previous entry in this blog.

Follow-up #1 from today's class is the next entry in this blog.

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