Let's Talk About the Pretty Privilege

I’ve dedicated the last three years of my life to the word “privilege.” I’ve read books about privilege. I’ve underlined the word privilege in literary journals. I’ve sat in lecture halls where professors advised us to be “aware of our privilege.” I’ve seen these nine letters on PowerPoint slides, Twitter threads, and Facebook comment sections. I’ve discussed the hot-button topics of “white privilege,” and “male privilege,” “cis privilege,” and “class privilege.” And then before I knew it, these privilege conversations around me became a Dr. Seuss-esque rabbit hole of one privilege, two privilege, red privilege, blue privilege. But strangely enough, no test, no presentation, no voice in the crowd ever mentioned the privilege that being beautiful seems to give you in this world.

They say that, “Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female,” but it is, however, the currency women and men everywhere have been taught to use in exchange for jobs, and relationships, and even free drinks. If you put on just the right suit with just the right amount of cleavage, it might just land you the job. If you clear your skin, or straighten your hair, or put on that extra coat of mascara, you might even be happier. And those who are blessed with these naturally glowing complexions, long wavy hair, and the “perfect” waistline, in most people’s eyes, have a leg-up in life. Because they don’t have to worry about being fat, or sad, or undesirable, or not in accordance with a company’s “image.”

And while I don’t blame these pretty people for being given the “pretty gene.” I encourage them to recognize this pretty privilege as they would any other privilege. Because from the very second two schoolgirls at recess locate the “cutest boy in school,” we are trained to recognize beauty as a source of power and authority. After all, it’s no coincidence that high school hierarchies are organized on a basis of “hotness” and date-ability, the good looking cheerleaders of the world standing not only at the top of the pyramid, but the top of the social food chain, as well.

But the most unfortunate part of it all, is we give this authority to beautiful people rather willingly. We giggle and sigh, “Oh…well he’s hot, so he can get away with it.” Pretty people can almost literally get away with murder, simply because they’re good looking. Pretty people can be rude, and inconsiderate, and unintelligent, because “beautiful” is the greatest safety net any one could ever ask for. They don’t have to earn respect. They don’t have to prove themselves worthy of a dinner date, or a job, or a relationship, because pretty is enough.

And though society is constantly trying to reassure us that, “looks don’t matter” and it’s “what’s on the inside that counts,” I don’t believe it for a second. Because this is the same world that puts perfectly symmetrical faces on magazine covers, and scolds those who “let themselves go.” It’s the same world that talks about women in terms of their cup sizes and the length of their eyelashes. This is where people with acne get turned down for jobs. This is where people fall into sufferable bouts of depression when they gain weight. This is a place where beautiful is arguably the most widely coveted trait of them all. Not kind. Not empathetic. Not charitable. Not selfless. But pretty.

And while I am in no way saying that my accomplishments cannot be traced entirely to how “pretty” I may or may not be, I recognize that I have absolutely been given opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise received had I not been attractive. Despite this, I will continue to hope and pray for a world that this is not the case. But beyond hoping and wishing, we all must work to stop perpetuating this culture of “pretty privilege,” and refrain from giving things as trivial as outward appearance as much power as we do. I, personally, hope to silence the voices that told me I was “too pretty to be a math tutor,” or was “too pretty to struggle with depression and Body Dysmorphic Disorder,” while also avoiding phrases like “well he’s attractive, so he can act like an ass.” Remember pretty is not a rite of passage, it’s not a requirement, and most importantly, it means something different to everyone.

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