Pretty privilege is a concept that has been around for quite a while but has recently gained popularity thanks to everyone’s favourite app, TikTok. Pretty privilege comes from the idea that those who fit society’s narrow beauty standards of tall, thin, and European, have an upper hand in life. No matter how much we preach about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, we still have preconceived ideas of what is beautiful.
Do you get served free drinks by bartenders because of your looks? Have you managed to get into clubs without paying an entrance fee? The privileges that come with being attractive can manifest themselves in various ways. However, it is also possible that problems could arise for those who are conventionally attractive.
It comes back to the horrifying days of secondary school. The hierarchies that naturally form in a school situation have been around for centuries. The popular group of students are always extremely pretty, have a copious amount of social opportunities, and get social attention. Whilst those who are not deemed worthy of this popular status are left to idolise this group, wishing we had the beauty and friends they did.
And this kind of attention also carries on into adulthood with those who are classed as more attractive gaining more job opportunities. Adults who have been constantly praised for their looks tend to have more self-confidence, which employers find incredibly attractive. Whilst these people may not be any more skilled than average looking candidates, their confidence gives them an edge over everyone else. The Halo Effect highlights our biased assumptions that someone who looks good must also be good. We believe that a person’s appearance directly correlates to their personality meaning that employers will warm towards those that fit conventional beauty standards due to the expectation of them being sociable and intelligent. So not only do we need to worry about the state of the highly competitive job market and how much more underqualified we seem to be compared to every other graduate scrounging for a job, we also need to start panicking about how our looks will affect our employability.
Pretty privilege even applies to the courtroom. More attractive defendants are less likely to be found guilty of a crime than average-looking ones. Attractive people are more likely to be excused for their poor behaviour or problematic actions because of their appearance. This can be seen in the copious amounts of stories in which fans dismiss a celebrity’s wrongdoings due to their pretty face. Clearly, being pretty does pay off.
It is widely accepted that pretty sells. Most of the people featured on health and beauty advertisements are conventionally attractive because everyone is desperate to buy new products that are promoted by the most beautiful celebrities in the hopes that it will transform their own lives. Our television screens are constantly filled with people who do not look like us fuelling the attitude that these extremely specific beauty standards are actually normal. And social media only helps to perpetuate this even further by prioritising posts made by young and attractive creators.
Not only can this be damaging to the self-esteem of those who are not included in this clique of pretty people, but it can also negatively affect those who are placed on this pedestal. Pretty privilege can often lead to people obsessing over their looks and worrying over the changes that occur naturally as we grow older. This unhealthy occupation with looks can consume a person, as they slowly lose sight of what is actually important in life. Pretty privilege can lead to us throwing money at surgeries or products that claim to prevent the effects of ageing or to even completely change the way we look. The expectations placed on someone who is more attractive can often become overwhelming with people fixating on their mistakes and flaws.
Pretty privilege is a learnt behaviour meaning that it can be unlearnt. The importance of diversity within the media is an essential part of this process. The more body types on our screens and catwalks would help to promote the idea that there is no perfect.
Image courtesy of Vince Fleming.