WTF Is ‘Pretty Privilege’?

Privilege is defined as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group. And while I’m sure several things immediately come to mind when discussing the topic including race, gender, and equality, many of us struggle or benefit from a privilege that seems to be ruining conversations among friends, families, and even the legal system. 

Pretty privilege, I mean what the f**k is that? And who decides who gets to have it? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then how can something based on preference be part of so much mainstream dialogue, and if it does exist what are the qualifications to be considered pretty enough for the privileges to follow? 

In a world thwarted by our ability to be seen as “desirable,” pretty privilege or a person who has more opportunities, becomes more successful in life because of how attractive they are. 

People who are already consumed with social media and the need to appear perfect strive even harder to achieve what some folks claim to be unrealistic body goals at all costs. Women and men are obsessed with crash diets and whatever new workout craze is “sweeping the nation” not to mention a newfound conversation on “body goals.” The obsessions have made going under the knife seem like a trip to Target and have folks ready to trade in large noses, hip dips, and dad bods for trips overseas to rediscover themselves. But is having the privilege of being pretty really worth it? 

The conversation around pretty privilege has moved so far beyond the streets of Twitter that folks have begun conducting studies to understand the benefits of being subjectively beautiful. 

Imagine being thought of as a better employee, getting better grades, or even a shorter prison sentence because of the way you look. Most of us would think the concept alone is laughable, but according to data done by several different groups and organizations, all of these have proven to be true. We may not agree with the thought process behind these two words when but if we’re honest, most of us work ourselves to the bone in order to achieve standards of beauty that if you ask me were never meant to benefit Black and Brown folks. 

When we think of pretty we inherently think of women and femininity and most constructs of what we know of beauty and its possession. Sure we had sayings like the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice, but those things were focused on the sexualization of darker-skinned women rather than the celebration of her femininity. 

Other concepts include textureism and the way that we are taught to see looser or wavy hair as feminine or good, and kinky coils as masculine naps to be hidden on women. We even see it in stature politics in dealing with the way that folks will treat women who stand taller or broader thus somehow eliminating their ability to be seen as feminine. But when we think about the way that Black women are set up, “pretty” and feminine were never built for us to survive in the first place. 

Privilege often feels great but in an era of self-love and an abundance of folks realizing their love of all things natural there’s been a notable shift in the way people access what some may see as a god-given right while others see it as an unfair advantage.

Artist K. Michelle created a show My Killer Body where she talks about the lengths some of us will go through to gain access to a privilege that many would say shouldn’t exist. The need for pretty no longer stops at the face. We need abs, invisible waistlines, and perfect teeth even if it means going to the black market putting new meaning to the phrase “beauty is pain.” But when striving to receive a particular look to inevitably receive privilege becomes an addiction we have to have a bigger conversation about our standards and what we truly value.

The privilege of pretty has its benefits and pitfalls and while I’d like to think that it’s inherently problematic because beauty is so subjective, I’m sure we’ve all benefited from it at some point in our lives. The question now is what do we do to ensure we aren’t making other folks feel like it’s their responsibility to live up to our preconceived notions of what the beauty standard is, isn’t, or should be, and then take a moment to analyze where ours came from in the first place. 

In a world where so many of us are overlooked because of the color of our skin, I would never ask someone, especially a Black person, to feel bad about a benefit that they can’t control or worked hard to attain I would, however, say paying things forward when that privilege puts you in a place of power may just be a source of good karma.

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