*Trigger Warning: First World Feminism
If I had a dollar for every time someone said “well at least you’re pretty,” I would probably be less irritated by it.
My purpose in mentioning this is not some humble brag; I’m serious. In the face of a little bad luck or even tragedy, I have been offered these words as some shoddy, dismissive condolence. As if to say that the perception of others somehow diminishes my experience or understanding of the world. No one’s problems are made less by their ability to score free drinks at the bar.
Once it occurred to me that it was a kind of unintentionally isolating thing to say, I considered things. “Have I said that to someone?” I thought. “Have I completely taken away from someone’s experience by reaching for some half-assed condolence?” Ewww.
At what point will it stop being normal to validate or qualify the extent of a woman’s world view by her looks? Beauty is not relevant to emotional pain or tragedy. A person does not care how they look when confronted with the worst that life has to offer, and you would never say that shit to a man, “Oh well sorry you got passed up for a promotion, at least you’re pretty, though!”
While crying over the latest headlines or trying to find answers in a world that appears to have no justice, we are suffering. Women are not exhaling collective sighs of relief. We are fighting tooth and nail to be treated as equals, to put a stop to domestic violence and abuse, to help our sisters abroad who have no voice. Beauty has little to no impact (in respect to the things being experienced, not the things avoided having to experience because of the privilege that beauty brings). The words create a whirlpool for self-worth to travel down.
I feel intensely sad, but I don’t deserve to because people tell me I’m ‘pretty.'”
“My feelings do not measure up to or compare to someone going through the same thing because they tell me that I’m lucky.”
“I can’t express what I’m going through because I don’t feel like I deserve to feel bad about it.
That’s complete bullshit. No one should have their physical appearance define them as an emotional being. In addition, most likely the women on the receiving end of this ‘compliment’ probably don’t see themselves as “pretty”:
• Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (up from 2% in 2004)
• Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves
• 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful
• 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful but do not see their own beauty
• More than half (54%) of women globally agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic
Unfortunately, in addition to the assumption of priorities, the use of this language is teaching young girls that happiness and acceptance come from beauty. They don’t. Furthermore, it’s causing damage by reinforcing the idea that women should first and foremost strive to be considered beautiful before they endeavour to be anything else. Culturally we’re perpetuating the notion that attractive women lack depth when we assume that their troubles will dissipate at the reminder of what’s in the mirror.
It might seem like a trivial argument, but I’m wondering who else has experienced this.