In the world of women and femmes, it has become rather clear that identifying as such presents a whole array of difficulties. Levels of oppressions and privilege vary based on other possible identifications, including race, class, religion, sexuality and more. Our society has made it clear what will be accepted and what will be resisted. Among these identifications that grant privilege, attractiveness has recently come into question. Is it possible that being conventionally attractive acts as a privilege? Is pretty privilege real?
Janet Mock wrote an article describing her experience as an attractive trans woman. Mock talks briefly about her life pre-transition, and how prettiness was not one of her attributes. She talks about the admiration she had for other women she considered beautiful. Once she transitioned, she recounts being treated much differently. Suddenly people were nice to her, and she was a part of the popular crowd. She reaped the benefits of polite smiles, and free drinks. She felt as though her quality of life has been heightened due to her new found beauty.
Mock makes a few notable points in her article. Many statistics do show that women deemed pretty are more likely to be hired for a job, and less likely to be found guilty for a crime. Pretty people are seen as healthier and more competent. While these are true and valid, it is also important to look at what is considered pretty or beautiful. Mock herself admits that “pretty” usually means white, thin, cis, and middle to upper class. So, is being pretty within itself really a privilege? Or is it just those qualities that are considered conventionally beautiful?
I cannot deny, being beautiful has its perks. Yes, the free drinks and polite smiles are nice. Yes, It is true that women considered beautiful may receive more opportunities in life, allowing them to become more successful in life than others. Being beautiful is absolutely an advantage, this is undeniable. Yet, beauty often comes with a price. Women seen as pretty are often seen as just that, objects existing solely for the visual pleasure of men. Not to mention, those polite smiles are quick to turn into sexual harassment. Predatory men do not look at women and think, “Oh, she’s pretty, she doesn’t deserve to be raped or assaulted.” In fact, it’s generally quite the opposite. Those “pretty” women are often blamed for being "provocative." Conventional beauty does not directly protect women from these types of oppressions women face.
Perhaps there is a fine line between an advantage and a privilege. Privilege generally restricts certain hardships from a specific group of people. In my experience, despite the few perks beauty may have brought me, it has absolutely caused me plenty of problems. Being “pretty” presents as many issues as it does benefits. I can acknowledge and see very clearly the privilege I have from being white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, and straight passing. I have not, however, experienced protection from my prettiness. So, while I can see some of the irrefutable points Mock has made in her article, I struggle to define pretty as a privilege for women.