Even though it may not seem as important one of the overbearing privileges that many seem to yearn for, is having the good fortune of being “pretty” or “handsome”. Why is it that people believe being a certain way is better than another?
by Vivega Saravana Prabhu
At least once in your life you would have either said, “oh that person is so lucky” or “wow thank god I’m one of the lucky ones”, this privilege that we talk about comes in many different forms: food, shelter, education, and family. Though it may seem unimportant, one of the overbearing privileges that many seem to yearn for is having the good fortune of being “pretty” or “handsome.”
Why is it that people believe that looking a certain way is better? Well, this kind of mindset evolves from a term called “pretty privilege”. Pretty privilege is when being “pretty” or “handsome” plays a role in getting you more opportunities and/or gaining better things.
When scrolling through social media I’ve seen numerous comments assuming “oh she’s only famous because she’s pretty,” this may be true in some aspects but I believe it isn’t true all the time. However, before we get to what I think, let me demonstrate the different mindsets behind the term “pretty privilege.” Does being pretty actually get you better things? Or are there other overweighing factors that affect this outcome as well? Or could there be an even-handed way to look at this?
I would have power if I looked like that.
How is being pretty a privilege? Well if you think about it, first impressions are key when it comes to interacting with people, be it a job interview, a date, or making friends. First impressions include many things such as personality and character, but one of the first things people take in about their new acquaintance is their appearance.
Let’s talk about our rapidly growing social media industry for instance. On social media, especially Instagram and Facebook (where you mostly post pictures), factors such a personality and character aren’t as helpful. People only see your picture and are quick to judge with just that context in mind. Sometimes people follow influencers just because of their pleasing looks.
This is exactly the point of filters and effects that change our appearance. Although their function is to make ourselves feel prettier, they also encourage us to change ourselves into our “ideal” versions for the public.
In a job interview, when you enter the conference room or a video call, the interviewer will first see your appearance before they hear about your qualifications. The few minutes they get to see you (and how they feel about your appearance), can alter their decisions on whether they’d like to hire you or not.
First impressions matter. But with the rise of social media, looks are increasingly the only impression: The prettier you are, the more you achieve.
Other qualities make me just as powerful.
On the other hand, the believers of the term “pretty privilege” tend to overlook some important factors. For example, being pretty doesn’t mean that person has the experience or qualification to get a particular task done. Someone who probably doesn’t have an attractive public appearance can still be more than qualified for a job. They can acquire it not because they look pretty, but because they deserve it.
Furthermore, just a smile on your face can change your recruiters' thoughts about you, a person who looks absolutely stunning but seems emotionless may not seem desirable in comparison to someone who looks enthusiastic and happy to attend this job interview like they want it.
Additionally, people believe that beauty is pain and sometimes a curse. When people are quick to judge someone based on their appearance, their actual personality and worth are undermined. People can question someone's intelligence and skill just because of the negative stereotypes that degrade conventionally attractive people. Wondering if they’re smart enough for the job, saying they can’t handle it, or that they don’t know how to put in the effort.
Influencers also receive backlash and are often accused that they have no skill and are just succeeding because of their face or body. This is not always the case. People can also gain followers for their humor, dance skills, makeup, lifestyle, etc. on social media, and looks are often not the primary factor. Many amazing and popular artists have even gotten death threats and silly petitions for their appearance, such a J-hope and RM (BTS) whom I believe can’t become more beautiful.
Today these artists stand tall, regardless of what some assume because they are good at what they do and put in the effort to reach their goals.
What I think makes you powerful:
If you ask me, I believe both your appearance and your other outstanding qualities come into play if you want to become successful in today's world. In our society, where many things revolve around social media, your appearance can truly help you get other people’s attention. Additionally, there are jobs that require you to look a certain way for you to be qualified, like modeling, acting, and other visual jobs. The K-pop industry, for instance, is very strict on maintaining an artist's image and appearance, it is common to see artists being told to go on diet and having to work out to achieve a certain look. Yet still, we come across models, artists, and actors that break social norms every day because of their outstanding talent and skill.
So in the end, I believe that if you work hard to face the struggles that come your way, you can achieve anything, no matter how you look.
Either way being pretty isn’t determined by what others say about you, but by what you think of yourself.