Everyone is chasing after beauty in today’s society. With social media, the idea that beauty is important is more present than ever. Although men can be affected by this, women are heavily influenced and pressured to maintain a certain appearance. While some believe beauty is a social construct others, are under the assumption that conventionally attractive individuals are more likely to gain success, money, fame, and happiness. While pretty privilege is undoubtedly present in the 21st century, are there any negatives to this said privilege? Could beauty truly be pain?
Pretty privilege is best described as unearned benefits awarded to those whose physical appearance resembles societal standards of physical attractiveness. This means those who appeal to the eye of the general public get the upper hand in various situations in life. The term pretty or beautiful is inherently subjective, which raises several questions. Who is or is not considered beautiful? Who determines whether an individual is regarded as pretty? What physical attributes contribute to the likelihood of one being attractive? Although there are certain nuances in regard to this topic, the masses have a generalized idea or conception of beauty. Race, age, gender, weight, body shape, height, hair, and eye color are all factors that contribute to the overall consensus of defining one as pretty. Western beauty standards have been examined and determined as “beauty ideals which include being thin and tall, having long hair, having light/tanned skin, having big breasts, large eyes, a small nose, and high cheekbones”. For decades women have been fed a seemingly unrealistic and often unobtainable idealized image of what is beautiful. Although different online movements and campaigns have made strides to create a more inclusive environment, this unfortunately does not eliminate society’s subconscious biases to what beauty is.
In recent years, with the rise of social media platforms, filters, face tuning, and photoshopping have gained popularity amongst women of all ages. This has further perpetuated the normalization of plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures in an attempt to meet the beauty standards set within society. This has led to a strange phenomenon, one in which body parts and physical features have been categorized as a trend. One day being curvy is “in” and the next day being extremely thin is “in”, there is no way to win. Even though these standards are extremely unachievable, many individuals still desire to be perceived as beautiful in modern society for various reasons. Physical attractiveness has supplied benefits well beyond aesthetics and typically isn’t gardened. Many studies show that attractive individuals lead a more successful life and walk in the world through rose-colored lenses. So could there really be a downside to this theory?
Most media outlets are interested in solely describing the prejudice and arbitrary in benefiting from pretty privilege. With all items considered most people don’t want to read or listen to an attractive person complain about how hard their life is, it can be hard to have sympathy. However, similar to everything else in life, there is no good without bad, this certainly applies to pretty privilege. The most recent and perhaps disturbing example of this is the Hulu documentary Pretty Baby with Brooke Shields. This series outlines how toxic and predatory the entertainment industry is especially for an underage girl who was labeled as “pretty” even as an adolescent. Shields was considered an object of others’ desires and often times struggled to find her own voice and identity through this. Madison Beer is another example of how pretty privilege has had negative impacts on her self-perception. Beer has been candid in several interviews to acknowledge her pretty privilege while also stating how she has always had to “prove” herself to others. She states that many individuals judge her claiming she is dumb, stupid, and talentless based entirely on her looks. While these problems may seem minuscule and unrelatable, individuals with pretty privilege will spend the entirety of their lives showing that they have more to offer the world than just their appearance.
In most aspects of life, humans inherently tend to think the grass is greener on the other side. “If I were pretty then he would like me more”, “If I were beautiful my life would be easy and I would have more friends”. Although being pretty may have its perks, it won’t automatically fix or discard all of life’s trials and hardships. No one is exempt from experiencing struggles and pain. To say looks don’t matter at all would be widely inaccurate, but to say looks are the only thing that matters would also be inaccurate. As a society, we have to take first impressions and appearance at face value. As we continue to participate in meaningful conversations with others, connections can be made that go deeper than the surface.