Do Beautiful Women Really Get Away With More? We Took A Good, Long Look
Life seems to go pretty smoothly for beautiful women. They’re prime candidates for lucrative modelling contracts and leading lady roles, men fall over themselves to pull out chairs for them and pay for their dinners, and, when it comes to dating, they merely have to select one of the dozens upon dozens of desperate men lined up outside their doors. They breeze through life blissfully unaware of how much harder things are for ordinary looking men and women, and opportunities for which other people have to scavenge and hustle simply fall into their laps.
The idea that beautiful women have laughably easy lives, and that they’re ignorant of the advantages their looks afford them, is a persistent social trope. However, the evidence that this is actually the case is a little thin on the ground, and ignores the wider issue of how sexism and misogyny causes life to be more difficult for all women. Here’s why we should be re-thinking the idea that beautiful women get away with more than we do:
What Is “Beauty Privilege”?
We are living in a moment of preoccupation with the idea of social privilege. Three decades after Peggy McIntosh wrote her pivotal essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack“, the idea of “checking your privilege” has morphed into a social obsession; a kind of collective, mental abacus we use to determine which kinds of people have the easiest lives, and why. After the ideas of white privilege, male privilege and straight privilege came to be taken for granted, pioneers searched for new frontiers, and it wasn’t long before every kind of social advantage a person might have was being conceived through the lens of privilege: thin privilege, neurotypical privilege and, eventually, “beauty privilege” (and its inverse form of discrimination, “looksism“). And in certain internet-based subcultures, especially the men’s rights movement and pickup-artist community, the idea that women possess particularly strong social benefits from being beautiful took off in popularity.
Indeed, various ‘men’s interest’ groups are devoted to dissecting how beautiful women are able to sail through life without realizing how comparatively difficult things are for unattractive or even average-looking men, and the enquiry has become an obsession in certain quarters. Reddit is a hive for this kind of discussion — a comment theorizing that “pretty girl syndrome” exists received more than a thousand points and is still referred to more than six years later, and a conversation about “what it’s like to be a hot girl” was hotly debated in hundreds upon hundreds of comments, mostly left by men. There are even books on the topic: Take, for example, the charmingly titled Men Are Pigs And That’s A Good Thing, whose author un-ironically refers to himself as “The Sex Whisperer” and states on his website that, “as a general rule, the more beautiful a woman is, the more likely she is to be an inconsiderate, self-absorbed head case.” These groups pay little attention to the social benefits received by good-looking men, or the disadvantages faced by unattractive women. Their fascination, and sometimes ire, is directed solely at beautiful women.
But Life Is Easier When You’re Beautiful, Right!?
There’s a certain easy logic to the idea that beautiful people have simple lives. All other things being equal, life does tend to go more smoothly for beautiful people than for their less attractive counterparts. Anecdotally, most of us know this to be true: we all know someone so gorgeous that they leave the rest of us falling over each other in a dazzled frenzy to make life easier for them; and studies have also demonstrated that beautiful people are perceived as more persuasive, healthy and competent; that beautiful politicians receive more votes and that good-looking people earn more money.
But “all other things being equal” is an important qualification, and the experience of being a beautiful woman is very different to that of being a handsome man — and not necessarily easier than that of being an average-looking or unattractive man either. Gender is a strong determinant of social power, and men are on the receiving end of that gendered power dynamic, which means that whatever power beauty brings a person, it is tempered, not amplified, by that person also being female.
If you control for other variables like race and class, life is more difficult, in several demonstrable ways, for all women than it is for all men: Women are paid less money for doing the same kinds of work; they face sexual assault and harassment at levels higher than men do (and bad sex means something worse for women than for men); they experience negative gender-based stereotyping (e.g. “get in the kitchen” jokes and the “difficult woman” myth); and they shoulder the bulk of the emotional labor in relationships and in the workplace.
It’s not exactly a walk in the park being female, and being beautiful doesn’t shield you from sexism and misogyny. In certain situations, in fact, it can amplify it.
The Downsides Of Being A Beautiful Woman
One situation where being a beautiful woman isn’t always easy is that of simply walking down the street, or otherwise existing in public. The phenomenon of street harassment has been well documented over the past few years, and while average-looking women also suffer from unwanted sexual attention, beautiful women can expect to take the lion’s share, because by presenting according to conventional standards of femininity, they are seen to be “inviting” sexual attention from all men (let’s clear this up right now: they’re not).
Beautiful women are also often read as vapid and unintelligent, and have their capability and professionalism doubted in the workplace, no matter how smart and qualified they are. And, as the recent exposure of Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent #MeToo movement has made clear, beautiful women are not so powerful that they cannot be exploited, sexually assaulted and silenced by men, on a widespread and systemic level — hardly an enviable position, and one that men who believe hot women “can get away with anything” would do well to consider. (None of this is to suggest that life is harder for beautiful women than average-looking or unattractive women, by the way; in general, the inverse is true.)
Overall, it’s not an especially fruitful exercise to obsess over who has harder lives than who, and how much you can “get away with” in life depends on hundreds of variables that aren’t always immediately apparent, including your childhood, level of wealth, personality, mental health and myriad other factors.
But beautiful women certainly don’t get the easy ride that many men think they do, and the brewing resentment of beautiful women that ignores the hardships faced by all women is not a productive pastime. It’s time we ditched the idea that hot women can get away with anything: it’s become a tired, oversimplified trope that ignores the full picture, and it’s not doing any of us any favors.
Source : AskMen.com