Discrimination comes in all forms — not just race

Jessica Lee, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Almost everyone knows what discrimination is.  What most students may not be aware of is that race is not the only characteristic by which people experience discrimination.

Gender, sexual orientation, weight, age, and socioeconomic status are all reasons why an individual may be the victim of discrimination.

Gender discrimination, or sexism, is prejudice that stems from traditional gender stereotypes: men are often seen as strong, aggressive and commanding while women are supposed to nurturing, kind and the “damsels in distress.”

“In elementary school, I wanted to play sports with the guys,” junior Hannah Fay said.  “Because I was a girl, they thought that I was weaker and that I wasn’t going to be good enough to play with them.”

Sexism can take place in many forms and the most well known is the wage gap between men and women — although the gap is narrowing.  In a 2012 Pew Research Center survey of 2,002 adults and an analysis of the census data, among workers ages 25 to 34, women earned 93 percent of men’s hourly wages and, among workers ages 16 and older, women earned 84 percent of men’s hourly wages.

Hand in hand with sexism is sexual orientation discrimination, which also arises from traditional ideas — conventionally, a relationship is between a man and a woman.  To this day, the LGBT community is not entirely accepted as evident with how fewer than half of the 50 states have approved same-sex marriage.

“People would act sort of different around me,” sophomore Cory Faamausili, who identifies as gay, said.  “I would tell [people], and they would just be quiet around me.  They think it’s weird if both males or both females are dating because that isn’t how it usually is.”

Weight discrimination, a socially acceptable injustice, stems in part from the media’s portrayal of what is beautiful and what is not.  Generally, thinner people are seen as more attractive and are sometimes seen as being more capable or even more intelligent.

According to Rebecca Puhl and Chelsea Heuer, the Deputy Director and the Research Associate at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University respectively, there is a general misconception that weight can be easily changed and that losing weight deals with personal effort.

In 2000, Thomas Wadden, Albert J. Stunkard Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, and Gary Foster, Weight Watchers’ Co-chief Scientific Officer, conducted a study of over 620 primary care physicians and found that one-third of the physicians characterized obese patients as “weak-willed, sloppy, and lazy,” believing obesity to be a behavioral problem due to overeating and a lack of physical activity.

Age discrimination exists because  of the general notion that wisdom comes with age and younger people tend to be more mischievous.

“One time, me and a couple of people from student government bought a box of candy bars at self checkout and didn’t bag it,” senior Isabel Rodriguez said.  “On our way out, there wasn’t anyone checking the receipts and [the employers] just let other people go but when we were leaving they wouldn’t let us. They took our receipt and kept on checking over it and we had everything that was there and they made us wait there for 20 minutes just because we looked 17 or 18-years-old.”

Socioeconomic status discrimination revolves around incorrectly identifying someone’s social placement based on clothing choice, speech and other identifying markers.

“Once I went into a store at the mall and I wasn’t dressed up at all so the workers thought that I didn’t have any money,” senior Golden Nguyen said.  “I was walking around, and people were looking at me because they thought that I might have stolen something.”

Racial discrimination is evidently not the only kind of discrimination that exists.  Discrimination comes in many forms — some more subtle than others.  It’s important to be aware of these different forms of discrimination to prevent becoming a victim or perpetuating these stereotypes.