Pretty privilege or beauty bias is real. But can it be unlearned? The term pretty privilege has been bandied around for a while now but has come back into light recently.
Pretty privilege works on the principle that people who are deemed more attractive—based on societal beauty standards—have an upper hand in the world and are afforded many opportunities that us regular folks don’t have.
Like most other biases, pretty privilege is something we’re all aware of—whether we have experienced it first-hand or not. Yet, it’s not often that we are willing to admit it—or even talk about it—especially if we’re on the receiving end of its benefits. Nonetheless, various scholarly studies and surveys have proven that our appearance does in fact have a direct correlation with how well we are received by others, in both social and professional settings.
This bias, also known as lookism, is defined as “Prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s appearance” and occurs in a variety of settings, including dating, social environments, and workplaces.
Pretty or attractive people are, of course, not all identical. And yes, we get that the terms used are purely subjective—and, can be entirely down to personal preference. But, there are some commonalities that are shared universally. Most, if not all, are based on European beauty standards—you know, white, tall, thin—and more recently, the ‘Instagram face’.
“The beauty bias means that people who look good (as judged by society as a whole) tend to get an easier ride, even though there is no proof that they are smarter, more capable, or intelligent than anyone else. Nor are they healthier or more competent, socially or morally.” JON BRIGGS
Briggs also explained that pretty privilege can be extremely powerful when it comes to breaking the law and getting away with it. It’s no secret that it’s harder to unlearn something than it is to learn it, hence the saying ”old habits die hard”. However, according to Pearson, it is doable. It would just mean the entire world and its perception of beauty would have to change.
“The more we see diversity on our TV screens and catwalks, the more we grow to understand and accept that there is no ‘perfect’ and that people can express beauty in many different ways,” he says. “And this, in turn, will lead to a big reward for society as a whole in terms of raised self-esteem, as people realize that they have a voice and are valuable, irrespective of how they look. This in turn should lead to opportunities opening up for them as they no longer get overshadowed by others who are perceived as being more ‘conventionally beautiful.”
Ultimately, we’d have to make widespread change for pretty privilege to be dismantled. The first step, however, is acknowledging it. Now, what is your opinion?