Over decades, many have fought against inequality, and we as people are more aware of social injustices than we would’ve been as little as fifty years ago. However, there’s still so much prejudice to work against. Some of it is obvious, like police brutality, which is often linked to racism, but other instances of inequality might be a little more subtle, like pretty privilege.
Pretty privilege is sometimes hard to discuss, because it’s not always as in-your-face as homophobia or racism, for example. Still, just because it’s not as blatant doesn’t mean it’s not a real thing, and it affects all aspects of our lives, from professional to personal.
What is a pretty privilege?
Just like how white privilege, male privilege, etc. give certain groups advantages in their lives, pretty privilege does the same for people who are conventionally attractive. This conventional attractiveness is, of course, based on eurocentric beauty standards. For example, the smaller your nose, lighter your skin, thinner your body, and bluer your eyes, the more society will generally deem you as attractive.
That’s an important thing to note, by the way. There are many attractive people in the world who don’t fit these beauty standards, but just because they’re attractive doesn’t necessarily mean they benefit from pretty privilege. In other words, pretty privilege is inherently rooted in racism and white supremacy.
What does pretty privilege do for people?
Pretty privilege is more than just getting free drinks at the bar because the bartender thinks you’re cute. It means earning more than your coworkers and getting better grades just because you’re conventionally attractive. It also means being given more job opportunities and promotions because of your looks.
Thus, pretty privilege goes deeper than you might’ve thought. Whether we like it or not, we are constantly being evaluated on our looks, even when they have nothing to do with the topic at hand. It’s why people who are more conventionally attractive are automatically considered more capable than those with “average” looks.
Who’s to blame for pretty privilege?
People who benefit from pretty privilege aren’t necessarily to blame for it (as long as they’re not smug about it); it kind of just… happens for them, like any other privilege. But also like any other privilege, there’s a root cause that makes us believe, subconsciously or not, that one thing is superior to the other.
As mentioned before, pretty privilege is based on white supremacy. We can thank colonialism for perpetuating the standard white person as the foundation of beauty standards.
But hold on a second! Let’s not forget that industries that focus on “beautifying” us, like the cosmetics industry, benefit greatly from the concept of pretty privilege. It’s not just makeup, either. We wouldn’t have products that are intended to literally whiten our skin if not for the constant drilling into our heads that eurocentric beauty is the ultimate beauty.
We don’t even have to hear it, just see it on shows where the entire cast of characters is made up of conventionally attractive people, because we like seeing attractive people on screen, and we have been made to believe that attractiveness is constrained to very specific, biased factors.
Thankfully, one benefit of social media is people who don’t fit the conventional metric of “pretty” finding and uplifting each other. Just knowing you aren’t alone and seeing selfies of people who look like you can help a lot in gaining some self-esteem and throwing a middle finger up at societal beauty standards.
It takes effort to unlearn what’s been hammered into our heads since we were children. However, it’s very possible to re-evaluate what beauty means to us and think about how we can appreciate people regardless of their looks.
No matter what you’ve been told in your life, you never have to fit someone else’s idea of beauty to truly be beautiful. Being comfortable with yourself and freely expressing yourself are not worth giving up for anyone. You are beautiful just the way you are!