Your Place in the Social Food Chain Depends on How Pretty You Are

By: Amina El Farouk

We know that the beauty privilege works against those who don’t have it in many ways. This includes the way women are treated at parties and clubs, in the workplace, and in dating/relationships, and even, in their every day activities. However, this isn’t a new phenomenon nor does it begin to manifest when we’re adults; it starts during the early ages of childhood.

We are trained to recognize beauty as a source of power and authority. After all, it’s no coincidence that high school cliques are mostly organized on a basis of “hotness” and date-ability, the good looking girls 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 (okay so maybe not, but stay with me here). Beautiful people can be rude, inconsiderate, and even unintelligent, because “beautiful” is the greatest safety net anyone could ever ask for. They don’t have to earn respect. They don’t have to prove themselves worthy of a  date, or a job, or a relationship, because pretty is enough.

Although 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 waist sizes and the length of their eyelashes. This is where people with acne get turned down for alot of things, this is where people fall into sufferable periods of depression when they gain weight, this is a place where beautiful is arguably the most widely known and important trait of them all. Not kind. Not empathetic. Not charitable. Not selfless. But pretty. Sad, huh?

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”. I mean, we all have those little moments of triumph when we get labelled  as “hot” or “pretty” but shouldn’t  we always feel content and confident with ourselves? Shouldn’t  everyone get treated the same and not because of how attractive they are? Well nope. Not according to society. 

Yes, pretty is subjective and carries across generations, cultures, and communities of people. The 90s had a standard of pretty that included an Aaliyah-type woman and our current generation is obsessed with instagram baddies. Asian cultures are more drawn to eye-shape but Black culture in America is very fond of the way a woman’s body curves. Regardless of this subjectivity, there is always a shared commonality of “pretty” that resides across the many peoples and communities that exists. Thin waist-thick thighs, flat stomach, thigh gaps, a prefect bust, symmetrically attractive, straight/wavy hair and clear skin are universal beauty standards and the closer you are on the spectrum to these standards, the prettier you are.

So let’s be very clear. This is not an attempt to hate on pretty people or to say that pretty people don’t go through shit and live life easy-breezy. This is to prove that there are real life consequences for not being in alignment with the social construction of “pretty”. So who is actually pretty? Women such as Rihanna, Jorja Smith, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, Chrissy Teigan, Nicki Minaj, SZA, Kylie Jenner and more are constantly considered as top tier pretty women. In fact, Jorja Smith spoke about her own “beauty privilege” in which she says that, in the beginning of her career, she purposely didn’t show her physical identity for the song “Blue Lights”, because people just viewed her as “pretty” and not because of the authenticity of her music.

Even pretty people don’t have it all.. 

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