Lately a women from New Jersey , Patricia Krentcil, is receiving a lot of attention for allegedly taking her five-year old daughter to the tanning booth. I believe she was arrested, but I really know nothing about the details. Besides, the legal aspect is not my central theme today.
She is dubbed by the media, blogs, and the public as “Leather Face”. To me, this is a spot-on description of her physical appearance and I could instantly relate to the headline, even before even looking at her photo. Why could I relate? Because it conjured up an unpleasant image of another I think of as a leather face, Turns out, I found the similarities striking. It was almost like looking at a twin.
Obviously, I didn’t make any connection to her guilt or innocence based on her appearance. It’s entirely irrelevant. I did, however, question her health-related judgement and decide if she did take her daughter tanning (yet to be proven) then her parenting is also suspect.
We describe people by the way the look all the time. Why? Because it’s efficient and precise. It’s how we humans identify people. If we where in a room full of people you didn’t know and I asked you to point out a felon, you wouldn’t be able. Now, if I asked you to point out the women with the leather face you would instantly do so. Am I right? Now, if we we’re a different species, say whales, we would use sonar to identify others. Dogs? Smell would be the way to go.
The thing is, it’s all relative too. If we were at a “Little Person Convention” and I asked you to pick out the tall man, he might only be five feet in height but towers over his peers. Given most other settings, he’s likely identifiable as the short man. Looking at it another way and getting back to the leather face theme, let’s suppose not only does a women have facial skin damage but also has a pointy nose, bleached hair, and protruding chin. Chances are, the most prominent feature would be used if only one was allowed. If we put all these, one might relate this to a hag and rely on that word alone. Finally, let’s put a huge pair of hooters on this hag (like beach balls, let’s imagine), then I suspect to women she is still a hag, but maybe a guy’s description is focused elsewhere. At least initially?
My point is, like most things, it must be taken in context.
Let me try to explain myself. If we label a sun-worshiper as a “Leather Face” it means just one thing. Most would immediately get the meaning. Obviously it doesn’t mean this person underwent a cowhide facial transplant. Nor does it mean that they somehow descended from an acquired bovine gene. But, if it were explained in the context of a laboratory experiment, any could be plausible.
So, is it unfair to apply this same thinking to a person’s character? I’ll just do a quick, four question poll here to see. Obviously, this relates to our situation. Please feel free to answer to yourself or in the comments section below:
- What would you call a person who sucker punches another?
- What would you call a person who kicks a man when he’s down and unconscious?
- What would you call a person who causes catastrophic injury to another then runs and hides?
- What would you call a person who doesn’t accept accountability and responsibility for their actions?
After answering these questions, is it fair to make a characterization of someone who does all — or even just one — of these?