Being defined as the pretty one can hold someone back. Often, when a woman is seen as a pretty girl, that's all she's seen as.
The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou
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Pretty Privilege is the belief that conventionally attractive people are given a leg up. While it's true that desirable physical attributes can open doors, attract sought-after partners, and enable some lucrative professions, it's not as good as it seems.
This was the case of actress and former model Christina Hendricks, who played one of TV's most desired pretty girls: Mad Men's Joan Holloway. The star told The Guardian, "There certainly was a time when we were very critically acclaimed and getting a lot of attention for our very good work and our very hard work." Although all of her success she wasn't taken seriously. The actress revealed that "everyone just wanted to ask me about my bra again."
Prettiness can also be associated with various moral failings of character. The "gold digger" trope instructs us to be wary of beautiful women because their beauty must be hiding some materialistic agenda. While the "dumb blonde" trope explicitly equates beauty with stupidity. And the "beautiful villain" or "female fatale" is evil precisely because she wields her attractiveness knowingly to exert power over men.
Ultimately, when people see a pretty woman, they're really seeing preconceived culturally entrenched notions of what their beauty represents. And so they fail to get to know the real her.
In her book "My Body," Emily Ratajkowski, who came to fame primarily renowned for her looks, attempts to redefine herself apart from her beauty as an author and a more three-dimensional person. The critical response to the book revealed a painful truth: Someone defined as a pretty girl can't escape being viewed through that lens.
On the one hand, some praised Ratajkowski. The reason was that she questions the patriarchal structures that have exploited and allowed her to capitalize on her beauty. But on the other, critics argued that by writing solely about her body, she's still upholding those structures, capitalizing on that beauty, and possibly exploiting herself.
One way to better understand the pretty girl identity is by examining movies and shows that feature multiple attractive actresses but only designate certain characters within the fiction as especially pretty.
In Grey's Anatomy, female docs Izzie Stevens, Meredith Grey, and Cristina Yang are all beautiful women. But Cristina is known as a prodigious talent, and Meredith comes from a medical dynasty. These attributes supersede how they look in their reputations and their sense of themselves.
But Izzie is pigeonholed as the pretty one, which means she's fighting an uphill battle against people's expectations to be taken seriously as a doctor. Izzie is viewed this way because she once capitalized on her beauty as a model, paying her way through medical school with lingerie shoots.
Just like Ratajkowski has sometimes spoken about her career breaks, Izzie talks about her modeling opportunities with a sense of defiant feminist empowerment. The plot is revealing about how beauty can intersect with class. Izzie's beauty allowed her to achieve social mobility that otherwise may have been difficult for a child who grew up in a trailer park with a single mom.
Although society has fooled us by making us believe that everyone wants to be a pretty girl, there are a lot of struggles we don't see behind those stereotypes.