This is a video from Buzzfeed that talks about the concept of being pretty and how people respond to that concept. I thought I’d try to answer these questions too.
- When do girls first learn that being pretty matters?
I think everyone regardless of gender pick it up really early. If you look at all fairy tales we tend to equate being pretty with being a good person. That applies to both genders, however, I think we then emphasise it more when complimenting young girls.
- Where does the pressure to be pretty come from?
Everywhere. I didn’t grow up in Australia, but in one of those nations that’s often listed as having “the most beautiful people in the world”. It’s a brand, a fetish, an export, and an expectation. Combine that with a consensus based culture and you have extreme norms regarding beauty and no one who challenges that. You’re either pretty or you aren’t. They concern both physical appearance and personality. Because I didn’t fit those criteria, I was the designated ugly friend for some 20 years. Me and many others. I can’t speak for every other place in the world, but having very strict norms about what is pretty and what is not, is brutal. It is also a culture that aims for cohesion but refuses to admit that it does. If you don’t look a certain way, you’re not pretty. If you don’t dress a certain way, you’re not pretty. If you don’t have a certain personality type, you’re not pretty. There’s no middle ground. It’s like Project Runway, you’re either in or you’re out.
It also expects you to subscribe to that culture and those norms. That’s the consensus. You’re not allowed to find different things appealing or to be happy about not fitting all those norms. If you do feel happy about yourself despite not ticking all the boxes, you will be corrected and shamed into assimilating. If you refuse, the rejection is brutal. I don’t think most Australians I’ve spoken to truly understand what that culture is like and I wish I didn’t understand it either.
- Is there a difference between pretty and beautiful?
I think beauty is timeless. Pretty is modern and it is girlish. Beauty is something I desire, being pretty is not truly something I’ve wanted.
- What makes you feel beautiful?
Give me a wrap dress, heels, red lips, and put me in a debate with a motion I can give a killer speech on. Those are the four things that when combined make me feel more beautiful than at any other time. Or give me a pool with a decent temperature, there’s something beautiful about being able to do two hours of cardio when people assume you’re just a lazy fattie because you don’t go jogging.
- What advice do you have for girls who don’t feel pretty?
Skip pretty. Go for beautiful. Go for badass. Go for competent. And when you’re an adult, go for sexy. Pretty is the most boring thing you can be.