To realise I once owned it, I had to lose it, and go from the receiving end of this problematic situation to being a silent observer of how beauty, as society defines it, can open doors, windows, treasure chests and anything that's to remain locked for those of "mundane" appearance. Having spent most of my life receiving privileged behaviour that came with a ton of easily accessible opportunities and kindness even from strangers, I considered myself "just lucky". It took me gaining 20 kg to realise I was favoured (or rather victimized as you will soon find out) by what we refer to as pretty privilege. Well, mine expired... and came back to bite me in the ass.
Before I dive deeper, let me create a visual of the specific characteristics of mine that made me a perfect candidate to receive the "pretty privilege". I was a white, 50kg girl with long blonde hair, blue eyes and well, to phrase it politely, nature was quite generous with me when it came to specific body parts that are excessively sexualised. Pretty privilege usually benefits people that live up to very specific standards, while rejecting the much needed diversity of any type. Curvy people, those of color, LGBTQIA+ members and people with disabilities are only a few groups that are often ruled out from receiving the pretty privilege.
As you can easily figure out from the previous statement, this privilege isn't earned, as much as physical appearance isn't given to us by choice. Yet it is powerful enough to grant academic, economic and personal success by creating a chain reaction for those who possess it. Pretty privileged people are usually on the receiving end of favoritism and special treatment leading them to build a strong confidence and flawless social skills. Combining their privilege-worthy physical appearance with their self-trust, they are more prone to be offered better job opportunities, higher salaries and even the chance to get away with breaking the rules and, yes, the law.
I am not proud to say that I have gotten away with multiple instances of "rule breaking" in my life due to this fact, and I quote, "I was cute". I also used to receive kind behavior and better service, while having a perfectly easy romantic life, all due to the fact I was, oh, so lucky! Not. And before you run to defend your romantic choices and justify your partner's selection, let me tell you that the answer "Attractiveness" is more frequently given, than you might think, to the question "What are you looking for in a partner?", of course accompanied by "intelligence, kindness, sense of humor, reliability".
For someone who claims to be aware, I am so guilty of overlooking the fact that I was privileged just because I fit into society's beauty standards.
Now, while it is called a privilege, it comes with a lot of damage potential. Women (and not only) who receive it are, more often than not, sexualised and objectified to the extent that their worth becomes questionable by their circle and, sadly, their own selves. Pretty privileged women are then faced with jealousy, loneliness, negative attention and a lot of assumptions. "Do you think she is smart?", "She only got the position because she's hot", "She is probably superficial". A woman's attractiveness DOES NOT equal her worth. Even though pretty privilege is mostly happening subconsciously and many of us are guilty of it, there are times when pretty privilege is accompanied by "terms of trade" and the one on the giving end is hoping (or rather forcing) to get something in return...
When you have been receiving the perks of fitting into societal beauty standards since you were a child, losing it can be quite shocking, but thankfully, at the same time, eye opening. While at the beginning, it is hard adjusting to the new reality, losing your pretty privilege can turn into a privilege itself. You will come to realise there is so much more in you than your inherited traits, and that the way you look, does not define your journey in life. Hopefully, next time you receive it, you'll know how to recognise it and how to dismiss it.
At the end of the day, it comes down to each and every one of us. It is our duty to be aware of our social privileges (based on social class, race, gender, looks and more) and acknowledge them. It is up to each individual to promote diversity, inclusivity and self-love, while fighting against societal stereotypes. Only when we reprogramme ourselves and erase these stereotypes, will we be able to say we have truly changed.
drawing by joy