So I was having a conversation with a male friend, B, the other day about my mouth, *sigh*. I talk a lot, I realize it. Also, I haven’t quite mastered “easy conversation” (picture me discussing my qualms with the Aiyana Jones case with a guy I met in a bar the other night). It is what it is with me– a big mouth, thick thighs, a bit of a neck roll, a (possibly unhealthy) shoe and handbag addiction, passion, stubbornness, a heavy heart for injustice, and a slight obsessive compulsive issue with my toes being perfectly pedicured at all times. We are all– or we should be, multi-faceted, fully developed human beings. Or at least fast on our way there. My girl Renina (@mdotwrites) may call some of these traits “quirky Black girl” qualities. We all have them and should embrace them.
B, however, refers to my behavior as “pretty girl privilege.” He says beautiful women get away with being “quirky,” being mouthy, being ummm…themselves, because men accept these types of behaviors based on a woman’s attractiveness. Word? A woman can’t just be comfortable with herself, be self realized and true, without a dependence on beauty? B admitted that when he invites me to events and randomly starts debates between me and his homies, its because he feels proud that he dates a woman who is attractive AND smart AND can draw blood during a debate. I politely told that negro that such a comment was sexist/patriarchal because in some way he was attempting to show ownership of me (my beauty and talents), which he had no right to do. His reply, “see how you talkin’…pretty girl privilege.” I can’t with him.
I took my question to Twitter (because twitter is where all directed research begins and ends these days), “Is there a such thing as pretty girl privilege?”, I asked. One sister that I often tweet with, and a beauty in her own right, @lovemyskip commented that this type of privilege does exist. She said she takes advantage of it whenever she can, and has been on both sides of it- feeling superior and inferior in looks at different points in her life. Panama Jackson over at www.verysmartbrothas.com posted a blog entitled “Stop It With The Ugly Girl Problems (Unless You’re An Ugly Girl).” I read the blog often, even if I don’t agree with the authors takes on issues of dating and relationships because it presents, I believe, a satirical (sometimes very caricaturist) presentation of the way some–but certainly not all– young Black men think (the feminist gon’ get me). Anyway, this particular post deals with dating behavior and the idea that many attractive women fail to use their “pretty girl privilege” when selecting/dating men. He made two very interesting points:
“…I’ve never met an ugly chick with commitment issues. But you know what, I’ve also rarely met an ugly chick who settled for less than what she wanted. Now, it could be that their scope of attainment was different than others so maybe they aspired for something less than Idris Elba.”
Umph. So ugly women have lower (or more realistic expectations) and thus don’t have as hard a time finding mates? Some of the brothers reading this post are right now nodding their heads. Okay Panama. I see you.
“But you know who DOES end up screwed? Attractive women who for some reason, act like what I’d ASSUME busted chicks would act like: being accepting of their circumstances for no good reason and then blaming the guy involved for doing what he can get away with. It breaks my heart.”
Attractive women are supposed to make better choices in relationships because, well, they’re attractive. Pretty women have options…loads and loads of them. *blinks*
Here’s what I know. Beauty, unlike anything else in this world, is in the eye of the beholder–it is subjective–any person who places too much value on it is probably headed for failure. Unless a woman is Beyonce on that red pepper and water diet, she’s probably going to have issues with the way she looks, on some level, on some days. Clearly, an entire multi-billion dollar “beauty” industry rests on the indoctrination of self loathing. My question in all of this is, what happens when that time comes (and its sure to come) when a formerly beautiful woman is no longer situated in what we consider the “standard of beauty?” What happens when those pretty girl privileges are revoked? As Black women, we always somehow sit outside of what is considered beautiful anyway, sometimes even to Black men- add a few years and possibly a few babies to that equation and you get a woman who is depressed because people used to listen when she spoke, open doors when she walked, and treated her with kindness, instead of disdain.
Also, it’s important to mention that being “pretty” can be distracting in that people can refuse to see who you are because they want you to maintain the fantasy they created for you in their own minds. For instance, there is this one brother that I’m feeling who, every time I express how much I dig him, replies that I probably tell a whole bunch of “dudes” that. He can’t, I surmise, understand how I could have so many dating options and choose him. I am very outgoing, which people often mistake for flirting because of the way I look, I suppose. He doesn’t take me seriously, and I believe it has to do with the idea that “pretty girls” play games, are materialistic, and break hearts. In other words, pretty women have no depth and aren’t really worth investing in.
I want to be respected and treated kindly because I’m a good person. I want men to laugh at my jokes because they are funny. I want them to spend hours debating me because they see me as an equal with an interesting perspective. I want these things to be true despite my winning smile and double d breasts *bats lashes*. Seriously though, anything less is objectification, it isn’t real, it won’t last, it isn’t worth my investment. My mouthiness is a result of me understanding as Audre Lorde argues, “my silence will not save me.” I go after what I want, which has little do with my looks and a lot to do with the fact that hard work and determination is how my family made if out of sharecropping in Louisiana cotton fields–its in me. It is belittling to assume that my behavior is a result of my looks. That is all.