Recently HuffPost featured an article which commends Chrissy Teigen for being brutally open about "postpartum buttholes".
The piece goes into detail about how people don’t open up about talking about things like vaginal lacerations after birth and would have been a perfectly fine article if it had not been for the way it ended.
The end, which was also used as a quote in a tweet by HuffPost, says that if more “pretty, smart and influential women” like Teigen opened up about the hardest aspects of childbirth, more moms would speak up about it.
Now there are three things wrong with this sentiment. Number one is that it assumes that people aren’t already talking about it.
Secondly it suggests that gruesome birth experiences are only recognised as valid and worth talking about once a beautiful woman shares her experience, thereby “giving others permission” to follow suit.
And lastly, I’m pretty sure that Chrissy Teigen would not want the conversation to revolve around the fact that her beauty somehow adds gravitas to a conversation.
It would have been perfectly fine if that quote went something along the lines of “Influential women should boost the narrative of realities around childbirth.”
And Twitter clearly agrees because many were quick to call HuffPost out.
Women around the world: “Oh, if only the pretty women would talk about giving birth, then us ‘uglies’ could feel validated as mothers!”— Elle (@Lurtle) June 11, 2018
You know, women have been talking about this shit for ages. The truth is, you didn't bother paying attention until "pretty and smart" women talked about it. You're the ones with the problem.— wordlass1 (@wordlass1) June 10, 2018
But instead, here we have a piece whose end point is ruined by leaning into the pretty privilege narrative, inadvertently saying that your opinion (frivolous or not) has more value than those who don’t quite meet the beauty benchmark.
Who even gets to decide who and what pretty is anyway?
I mean we’ve all heard of thin privilege, hetero privilege, white privilege, male privilege and financial privilege. So what’s the deal with pretty privilege then?
Usually we are unaware of our privileges. They are such a normal part of our daily lives that we don't even consider them privileges. So much so that when someone calls us out on any of them we feel attacked.
It seems a bit strange for a privilege to be based on something as subjective as looks. The other aspects of one's identity such as sexual orientation, race and gender are usually more easily quantifiable (for lack of a better word).
What is pretty privilege?
To put it in simple speak, it's part of the reason why celebrities are good looking nine out of ten times. This is not to say that actual talent and merit are negated, but rather looks can grant you access that isn't so easily attainable for others.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, model and actress, Emily Ratajkowski (Emrata) said she was "perceived differently" from puberty because of her looks and she's often vocal about what her pretty privilege has meant for her.
"Perceived differently" is an apt way of putting it. And it's because of this perception that socially attractive people get treated differently or rather, more favourably than people not deemed conventionally pretty by mainstream standards.
It's not even about getting attention, but about how you can thaw ice just by walking into a room and suddenly people warm up to you or laugh harder at your jokes.
There's an episode of the 2012 sitcom, Partners, where the guys explain to Sophia Bush's character, Ali, that she's not actually as funny as she thinks she is - people only laugh at what she says because she's pretty. They said she's pretty funny not... pretty funny.
This episode actually partially addressed what was mentioned earlier about how privileged people are unaware of their high position on social hierarchies until they find themselves in a situation where their privilege no longer serves as an access card to various perks.
Often pretty privilege is associated more with how the opposite sex perceives you (as was the case in this episode of Partners), but even people who identify as the same gender as you can treat you like a special snowflake just because of the perfect symmetry of your face.
We see it with girl squads, where the Beyoncé of the group is usually the most socially attractive girl or how in school everyone wants to be friends with the pretty girl.
And the most physically fit boy becomes the head boy - this whole thing gets carried all the way up to adulthood.
What is this phenomenon even based on?
I'll always remember this quote by Leo Tolstoy; "It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”
Because this is what pretty privilege is essentially based on - the association of beauty with goodness.
A Harvard research paper titled, Why Beauty Matters, presented findings on "the beauty premium", which states that "if someone is easy on the eyes, the enjoyment we derive from looking at them colours our perceptions of other attributes.
The research says we’re more likely to view them as intelligent, healthy, and socially capable simply because they look good."
The study also mentioned how this may even start as early as pre-school and primary school, where cuter children are given more attention by their teachers. And this attention yields better grades and more confidence in the future.
So how do you know you've got pretty privilege?
Everyone is beautiful, whether you think so or not, so who decides who gets these pretty privilege coupons or nah?
It's not necessarily an arbitrary omniscient being handing out these benefits, but rather a series of "coincidences" which start making sense once you join the dots.
Like you know you've got pretty privilege when...
- The world calls you out on your cultural appropriation, fetishisation of black men as well as your overall ignorance, yet still watches your reality TV series on E! because you guys are actually really pretty even though you seldom have anything profound (or original) to share.
- Your mugshot goes viral because you look good in it, the internet starts calling you "prison bae" and when you're relased from prison you become a runway model. An opportunity seldom granted to any other felons.
- You sleep with an underage 14-year old school pupil, but manage to escape punsihment because your lawyer thinks you're too pretty for prison.
- When people can't wrap their head around the fact that your boyfriend beat you to death because you're too pretty to be abused. What this mindset implies is that the murder of a less attractive woman is not worthy of outrage and that if you're attractive, the people you date will never ill treat you. Bollocks.
- You get hired faster.
- You throw a tantrum at the bank, a talent scout spots you, and few years later you win an Oscar (not denying the fact that Charlize is super talented).
- When you stop wearing makeup in an industry that thrives on enhanced beauty, but the world doesn't stop... or even flinch for that matter.
- When everyone agrees that you're not the most talented vocalist, but your music career still somehow thrives anyway.
- When your looks can get you further (and richer) in life than a degree ever could, provided of course, that the right people follow you on Instagram.
- You're just shopping and minding your own business in a store and a stranger offers to pay for everything in your basket just because you look good.
- You've never paid to get into the VIP section of a club - you always just end up there because you know someone who knows someone.
- Oh, and your drinks are often covered like all the other things you get "on the house."
- You can talk your way out of a hefty traffic fine.
- People respond promptly to your texts.
- When your default response to someone being favoured over you is "she's not even that pretty," because you're so used to life making your lemonade for you because of your good looks that you become as sour as the lemon life decided to throw at you for a change.
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