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  • Writer's pictureLatisha Sonia

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Prettiest of Them All?

In a world where society's cookie-cutter beauty standards for women reign supreme, the concept of “pretty privilege” is undeniably real - so it’s time we talk about it.

Given the weight of first impressions, the pretty privilege phenomenon has become a topic of conversation, sparking discussions across social media platforms like TikTok, with over 250 million views dedicated to unraveling its complexities. But what exactly is pretty privilege, and why does it hold such prominence in our society?

A not-so-pretty phenomenon

Pretty privilege refers to the inherent advantages and preferential treatment bestowed upon individuals perceived as conventionally attractive. These standards of attractiveness often revolve around features such as symmetrical faces, plump lips, big eyes, long luscious hair, and the coveted hourglass figure.

The existence of pretty privilege can be traced back to deeply ingrained societal norms and values that prioritize physical appearance above other qualities. In a world that often equates beauty with worth, individuals who conform to these standards are inherently afforded privileges that extend far beyond their outward appearance.

Intelligence? Who cares… Character? Who cares… Instagram model? Go on, I’m listening… In essence, it's the notion that conventional beauty opens doors and paves paths that may be less accessible to those who do not fit these standards.

From job opportunities to romantic relationships, the halo effect elicits that conventionally attractive individuals are perceived to possess a myriad of positive qualities, regardless of their actual merits. A cognitive bias where the perception of one positive trait influences judgments of other traits, conventional attractiveness is often associated with positive attributes like intelligence, sociability, and success, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of privilege.

This bias not only influences social and romantic interactions but also extends to academic and professional realms. Research has shown that attractive individuals are more likely to be hired, promoted, and even receive higher salaries than their less attractive counterparts. This disparity is further compounded in academic settings, where studies have revealed a correlation between attractiveness and academic performance, particularly in online courses.

The Ugly Truth

Yet, for all its perceived benefits, pretty privilege comes with its own set of challenges, particularly for women. The pressure to conform to unrealistic standards of niceness and perfection can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, while also exposing women to heightened risks of sexual predation. Moreover, the stigma surrounding discussions of pretty privilege often leaves those who benefit from it feeling silenced and misunderstood, further perpetuating the cycle of inequality.

Pretty privilege can go both ways

Acknowledging that pretty privilege is not solely confined to one gender, men, too, are subject to objectification and societal pressures related to their appearance. While the conversation often centers on women, men are not exempted from the expectations of physical attractiveness perpetuated by society. From chiseled jawlines to six-pack abs, the media and popular culture promote narrow standards of male beauty that can be just as unattainable and damaging as those imposed on women.

Men who conform to these ideals may benefit from similar advantages associated with pretty privilege, including preferential treatment in social and professional settings. However, they also face the pressure to maintain a certain image and may experience insecurities and self-doubt when they fall short of these standards.

Thus, recognizing and challenging the objectification of men in the context of pretty privilege is essential for fostering a more inclusive and equitable society for all genders.

Pretty privilege exists. Face it!

While it's tempting to attribute pretty privilege solely to individuals deemed attractive, it's important to recognize that this phenomenon mirrors the beauty ideals society imposes on us all. So, before jumping to conclusions about someone benefiting from pretty privilege, it's worth considering the intricate web of societal biases linked to appearance.

In confronting the realities of pretty privilege, it is crucial to challenge internalized biases and advocate for a more inclusive definition of beauty. Creating a world where everyone is valued for their skills, contributions, and intrinsic worth is paramount to fostering a more equitable society. This requires speaking up against discrimination, interrogating our own privileges, and actively challenging societal norms as we embrace the unique qualities that make each person authentically beautiful.

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