Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River: Why one dress pissed off the country

By Katie East


Is the dress blue and black? Or gold and white? And more importantly, who cares?

Really, we should all care. The dumb dress meme that blew up the Internet last week is more than just a quick distraction or a conversation starter at the water cooler. It’s proof that as people, we are wrong and stubborn all of the time. That dress is a testament to our fallibility as humans.

The reason this picture stirred up so much controversy is because every person that looked at the picture had a very distinct opinion on the matter. You can’t be wishy-washy on what color you see. It’s not an opinion or up for debate. A color of fabric is constant; it doesn’t change.  Or so we thought.

When it comes down to it, everything is about perception. I used to date a child of psychotherapists and hated it when my ex used to say that all the time. In a way though, he’s right.

I’m an analytical thinker. In fact, I’m an overly analytical thinker. I over analyze Internet memes and pop culture goofs and stay home on Friday nights so I can churn out a few hundred words for you to hopefully enjoy. I scrutinize human behavior. That’s why I hope there are universal truths that I can just take at face value. I hope there are times I can say: “That’s just the way it is,” and be done with it.

Colors are something I’d like to take at face value. In fact, anytime anyone explains light and how it refracts in my eye or whatever, my brain goes numb.

I do not understand science. It scares and confuses me, and I’m not the only one.

I like to think of myself as an open-minded individual, constantly ready to learn and evolve. All that goes out the window when someone mentions how we perceive color. I turn into a patriotic Tea party member: “White is the presence of all colors? Not in my America! Colors are colors and that’s just the way it is, dammit! These colors don’t run!”

This dress reminds us that we don’t know what we’re talking about all the time. The dress reminds us that we take things for granted everyday that we “know.” Really, we know nothing. And that scares us.

I don’t want to learn about science. It frightens me because it reminds me how little I know. I prefer to assume things just happen in this world and we can’t understand why. Or, I hope we secretly live in a Hogwart’s like society and little owls do our bidding and make the world go round. Let’s not question it.

Lightning is another one of those things that hurts my brain me when someone explains it. Often, I make this joke to people and they feel the need to explain it to me further which makes my head want to explode further. Lightning comes from the sky and kills people and that’s that. That’s all I need to know. Don’t tell me lightning comes from the ground and goes up. This makes me question everything I’ve ever “known.”

That stupid dress does the same thing for people. It makes them question truth and melts their brains.

The most interesting part of this whole dress thing to me is those first reactions to the post. People were freaking out when they realized they saw color differently than their friends. People see and interpret things differently than their friends everyday, most just don’t realize it. This dress proves that everything really is all about perception and that scares people.

This is especially true for men who are more likely to be colorblind and also more likely to be wrong. Because let’s face it, men are more likely to be wrong, in general. Am I right, ladiiiiies?

I still feel there are essential truths in this world. I cling to that for argument’s sake. My ex-boyfriend used perception as an out to behave however he wanted. That’s a cop out.

“You embarrassed me in front of my friends,” I would say.

“That’s just your perception,” he would respond.

I call bullshit.

There is good and there is bad. There is right and there is wrong. Sure, not everything is black and white; there are shades of grey, except when it comes to that dress.

I had a teacher in sixth grade who would say: “There are right wrong answers, and there are wrong wrong answers. If I ask you what day it is and you say ‘Tuesday.’ That is a right wrong answer, because clearly today is Wednesday. But if you answer ‘Purple,” well that is a wrong wrong answer because purple is not even a day.”

Here’s what I know. That lady was a terrible teacher for wasting my brain space 20 years later with that nonsense.

Here’s what else I know: The dress is black and blue. That’s how I perceived it, and that’s what’s true. But I don’t deny the fact that tomorrow I might see the dress as white and gold. And for that, I am right wrong.


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