A few months ago I had come across this Reddit thread (I know its a weird question, but what is it like to be a hot girl?) and the discussion there had stayed with me. Then recently, I felt the sudden urge to explore the topic in some detail. So I asked four of my (“conventionally pretty”) friends to write about it. I told them to answer the question: Do pretty girls enjoy the “beauty privilege”? Two of them obliged. Here are their responses.
We’ve all heard of this, surely. Do the pretty girls intentionally turn on their appeal to achieve an end? Or are they simply unaware that that which they thought to be “somebody doing them a simple favour” actually had a seedier undertone? Truth be told, the former is a possibility that I really, really wouldn’t want to be true. But, given the over-usage of the “pretty girl” stereotype by the media, one has to consider that there may be some truth to back it.
The following are a few examples of “pretty girl advantages” that I’ve come across, usually in TV shows or movies:
- Pretty Girl (henceforth referred to as PG) gets nerdy boy to do her maths homework.
Fact: The women I know, most of them are smart enough to not need help with any homework, tests or projects. In fact, they’re usually the ones doling out the assistance.
- PGs jump lines all the time. Usually achieving this by way of flirtatious compliments and eyelash-batting.
Fact: This is India. Everybody jumps lines. At the drop of a hat. I’m not sure if we even have lines. We have “swarms of people ineffectually circling around a lone window/booth/door”. We have people who decide that they are bigger than the lines, and will form their own separate one and expect it to be given equal preference. The line itself is the flawed concept here. There are no lines!
- PGs get gifts from hordes of loving admirers.
Fact: Okay, I don’t know if this is true.
- PGs are always given seats in crowded buses or trains.
Fact: (Refer point about “lines”) Nobody gives up their seat. In a bus, you’ll be lucky to find that the seats reserved for the disabled or the elderly aren’t taken up by able-bodied men, women and children.
- PGs have boys waiting to hold their books and bags.
Fact: A sweet one, this, but nonetheless, not true. A couple of my male friends will ask to help me out if I’m particularly bogged down with stuff, but these are chivalrous guys. I don’t think appearance has anything to do with it. And then you have those annoying friends who will blithely watch you struggle with three bags, four books in one hand, and folders in the other, only offering any assistance when you yell at them to “move their asses and help”.
Maybe you’re thinking, “she probably just doesn’t know any pretty girls”. Not true. Objectively speaking, a lot of women I know are very attractive and receive their fair share of male attention. But these women are more than just pretty faces. They are intelligent, ambitious and self-reliant. And they do not use their looks to get what they want.
Gone are the days when women were fair maidens who had to be rescued and treated like trophies. Today you have women who know their own worth. Women who aren’t waiting around to let someone else do their work for them. Women who have debunked the “pretty girl” stereotype time and again. The world knows it; we’re strong, we’re capable and we’re confident. You know this is true when even Disney, a company that has, for the longest time, reinforced traditional gender-related stereotypes, makes films like “Frozen” and “Brave”.
So, to all the women out there who may occasionally use their feminine charm to get things done, ladies, you just don’t need it.
(Ankita is an undergraduate student at Ramnarain Ruia College. She blogs at http://iwillnotpayforanaddress.wordpress.com/).
All the World’s a Salon!
Of course, you look at people and form a prejudiced opinion that time will hammer at and change in due course. At the very first glance, you look at people, and depending on how firm their handshake is or how lovely their smile is, you form an opinion of whether you like that person or not. That’s the power of a first impression. That’s also the power of unbridled prejudice.
When I was asked to write this post, I was told to feel free to interpret “privileges or benefits that pretty girls enjoy over others”, the way I wanted to. I am amused that on the one hand we’re waving the flag of equality when it comes to feminism and on the other we need to discuss the privileges of being a pretty girl. How contradictory! As long as someone gets preferential treatment over another based on anything, least of all anything as superficial as appearance, it’s time to sound the gong saying we’re not equal anymore. Make no mistake, I do not deride the need and pleasure of taking the time to look good. In fact, I believe it’s really important to take care of yourself. However, the fact that others use it as a pretext to put you on a pedestal says something about our society and nothing about you. So, hang in there while I desecrate the “pretty-girl-gets-privileges” notion. To me it’s more of “how-shallow-is-our-society notion”.
Yes, pretty girls enjoy privileges over many others. They get waited on easily. They can find a seat in a public transport. They get ahead in lines in rock concerts. Boys also take them seriously when it comes to dating. Moreover, they are also able to find grooms, jobs and all those things that fall in line as soon as the hip sways. Here’s the problem I have with this — are we that superficial as a society? Of course we are! As a society, we’re a mass marketing campaign of fairness creams, how can we not be perfunctory? To be fair, pun unintended, to an extent it’s true. As humans we’re attracted to what is beautiful on the outside. My grouse here is that as humans and more importantly girls, we’re not what we look like on the outside. Have you ever met a person who appears plain, but when they talk to you, you wonder how many more layers of wonder they clothe?
The growing problem with feminism as a means to empower a girl stems from the starting point of clothing. All feminists are champions of the fashion industry, it seems. Is that all a girl is to you? What she wears?! If that’s the first point of contention on your agenda, you’ve got the whole aspect of equality turned on its head. The fact that we need to discuss the privileges a pretty girl gets over other conventionally “non-pretty” girl or even boys, is the signpost that we’re yet to evolve as a society. We’re yet to challenge people to unmask their facades and look at a human and not through them. We’re yet to teach the coming generations to look beyond magazines on the stands and assess the challenges behind the stories they print. We’re yet to arrive at a culture that harbors meaningful interactions and periodically exfoliates its cursory judgement from time to time. It’s unnerving that we offer privileges on the basis of something so ephemeral.
Allow me to campaign for the so-called “non-pretty” girls and boys, for a while. It’s not only discouraging to offer favors to people based on how they look but it is also an invitation to the growth of unhealthy and damaging personal undercurrents. For example, recently, I saw Adrien Brody’s 2011 movie “Detachment”. Among other things, it’s a somber take on how the new generation is so tuned into the flippant and ephemeral as opposed to growth and depth. One of the characters in the movie is a girl who is a little on the heavier side and eats her food in the toilet. On the outside she is a tough nut, but on the inside she is tearing up because she has no one to talk to. The ghastly end that she meets on account of this stymied society indulgence called “appearance” just broke my heart. Here’s a movie that brings to the fore how increasingly inept our values are, and how there has to be more awareness on who we are rather than what we look like. The results of advocating a culture of being partial to appearances can be hugely damaging, and therefore, this must be stopped!
The debates must be titled and skewed in the favor of how we’re beautifying ourselves. Are we spending enough time manicuring our shortcomings? Are we moisturizing our children and the values we hand down to them? Are we threading the unnecessary fringes that get in the way of what is right and worthy? Are we adding serum to make interactions plainer, and consequently deeper? Conversations are necessary, and they must be had. What matters is the inching towards equality however elusive it may seem. The answer must be in the attempt.