(Title Image: Telegraph)

In this series, I’ve had a look at many of the more common forms of prejudice, discrimination and equalities issues. Now it’s time to look at what are known as “acceptable targets” because they’re not covered by equalities legislation or are incredibly difficult to define or legislate to protect.

While a lot of this is tongue-in-cheek, they’re not always a laughing matter and may be far more prevalent than some of the more common forms of discrimination. I’m also willing to bet we’ve all engaged in it at some point.

Physical Appearance (aka. “Lookism”)

  • Attractiveness – Physical attractiveness is usually associated with good things while the opposite is equally true. What counts as “attractive” varies from person to person, but there are archetypes set down by culture and the media. Discrimination can cut both ways though; there’s evidence that attractive people are turned down for relatively unattractive jobs or have their abilities underestimated, while “poor” looks have been used to turn people down for jobs in customer-facing roles.
  • Weight – This probably affects women more than men and there’s some evidence that people who are overweight (not just the more extreme examples of obesity) are less likely to be employed, lower paid, are targets for bullying or have assumptions made about them (i.e. that they never exercise or only eat junk food). Considering 59% of the adult population is counted as either obese or overweight, they’re now the majority. It cuts the other way too, with young women in particular (and increasing numbers of men and boys) pressured to have a thin body which may lead to eating disorders.
  • Height – If weight and general attractiveness are more (but not entirely) women’s issues then height is the equivalent for men. There’s absolutely nothing you can do about being short or tall other than incredibly painful surgery or making dodgy fashion choices. There are stereotypes about the “Napoleon Complex“, where short men (myself included at 5’7”, I have to add) are believed to over-compensate for something. There are plenty of things you can criticise Alun Cairns for, but how many people retweeted photos of him mocking his height? And how many of those people don’t think they have a prejudiced bone in their body? It’s probably even worse for those who are medically short or tall (i.e. dwarfism and gigantism).
  • “Gingerism” – Supposedly, only 0.6% of the world’s population has red hair, though the proportion with red hair or carrying the “ginger gene” (38% in Wales – pdf) is higher in Celtic countries. As a recessive trait it marks you out, with 90% of ginger men reporting having been the victim of some sort of abuse.

Accent

There’s evidence people believe your accent gives away a lot about you and may be linked to class. If you speak in received pronunciation, you’ll likely be considered wealthy, upper/middle class, intelligent or important – and trainee teachers from the north of England were recently told to adopt “southern” accents.

South Walian, Geordie and Liverpudlian accents are associated with being working-class, “friendly, but dim” – hence why so many call centres were set up in such places. Senior politicians with regional accents have undertaken elocution lessons to boost their status, while some did the opposite to keep “a common touch”.

Celibacy (Voluntary & Involuntary) & Sexual Promiscuity

It’s perfectly acceptable in the strangely prudish yet sex-obsessed culture we live in to comment on how much or how little sex someone’s getting. By and large, the worst place to be is either a celibate man or promiscuous woman; the former being stereotyped as asocial basement-dwelling “not real men” (and now potential terrorists), the latter stereotyped as STD-ridden whores who are throwing away the rights won for them by feminism.

Diet

You can be picked up on for what you do or don’t eat. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, omnivorous meat-eaters are small-minded, planet-destroying barbarians, while the case vice versa is of whiny, pasty, sanctimonious animal rights nuts. Of course, very few stop to think that people may be on strict diets for a reason – such as IBS or Crohn’s Disease.

Political Viewpoints

Have you dumped on Trump yet? Or are you just another lefty snowflake? Politics – in the grand scheme of things – doesn’t matter. It’s important certainly, but you don’t have to lose friends (unless their views are completely repugnant) or get so wound up that you come across as an obnoxious t**t; the vast, vast majority of people don’t care either way.

Political discourse has gone downhill rapidly. It’s no surprise that political debate is getting more heated and tribal as everything is crushed into easily-digestible memes and tweets that often have little basis in fact and create scapegoats and conspiracies. Haven’t we learned anything from the past?

Intelligence (or lack of)

If you’re too intelligent, or actually know what you’re talking about (i.e an academic talking head), you’re an elitist, egghead technocrat who doesn’t have any idea how an ordinary person lives.

Meanwhile, if you lack grace, nouse and your highest qualification is a swimming certificate, then you’re a lumpenproletariat fool who doesn’t know their arse from their elbow and shouldn’t be trusted with putting an X in a box in case all that thinking hurts your tiny little brain.

Personal Interests

Some hobbies, likes and personal interests are deemed socially acceptable, others less so.

For example, you might be an adventure-seeking daredevil who likes rock climbing and sky-diving even though you rack up massive medical bills when you have an accident. Or, you might be a photogenic traveller who’s slowly destroying the planet with constant flights and making up for your inferiority complex with carefully filtered selfies. You may play a sport on an amateur or semi-professional basis, but get blind drunk afterwards and sing sexist songs.

However, if you’re a gamer, you’re a hunch-backed no-life and while classical music and heavy metal have the same core roots to them, there are different attitudes to aficionados of either genre. If you like fashion, you must be starving yourself and if you like the arts, theatre or opera, you’re a pretentious snob.

Even sedate and completely harmless hobbies like fishing, stamp collecting and stuff like trainspotting are looked down upon and carry negative attitudes.

In summary, humans are scum.

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