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I Hated Being Called Pretty

i hated being called pretty

Photo cred: Leon

I was a huge tomboy growing up (still am). I hated wearing anything that was remotely feminine. I was the only girl on my baseball team in elementary school and I distinctly remember winning the unsanctioned spitting contest in the dugout. I was the go-to tech guru and sports maniac of all my friends and played video games until the break of dawn. My dad and I would talk about cars for hours and I’d read all his Motor Trend issues that came in the mail. So as a child, whenever my parents’ friends would call me “pretty” or “beautiful” I’d feel this unease cloud me and I wouldn’t know how to respond. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I was so-called “good-looking”, it was that I didn’t care and I didn’t notice. To me it wasn’t a compliment, it was merely a formality, an observation. If I wanted a compliment, I wanted one based on my achievements, not something that was out of my control. Yet, for some reason, it seems to me that many people think that beauty is the greatest compliment you can give.

I think our girls deserve better than just being pretty. It’s no wonder women value beauty to the highest degree and hurt so much from it. At a young age we notice their looks and we comment on it, almost putting it on a pedestal. It’s ridiculous how being called ugly is more offensive than being called stupid. I mean after all beauty is fleeting.

The other day my friend and I were chatting and she brought up an interesting point. She mentioned that she’s heard from many people that it’s considered unprofessional to not wear makeup to work. I then stumbled upon this article by The Telegraph where they found that “more than two thirds of employers admit they would be less likely to employ a female job applicant if she did not wear makeup to the job interview” and 61% of executives said that not wearing makeup would have “detrimental effects on a women’s promotion prospects.” I don’t really feel the need to elaborate or comment much on this because anyone with a sane mind would see that this statistic is extremely upsetting. Men are merely assessed by their performance, but women have to consider their physical appearance on top of their performance? I mean let’s just break this down logically. Who’s usually on the top of corporate ladders? Men. Who’s doing the promoting? Men. This twisted misogynistic world we live in is far from equality, and newsflash, it’s not just the discrepancies in paychecks. The male gaze isn’t only in the media my friends, it’s everywhere.

I don’t mean to be beating a dead horse with this topic because many people have commented on how unjustifiable the world is to women. Sure you could throw in legislations and rules to combat this issue, but that only just grazes the solution to inequality. You could sue a man for his sexist actions, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a sexist. If we’re really going to get rid of sexism we got to change the psychology and sociology of everyone, not just men. Maybe our current generations are at a loss here, but it’s not too late with the next. I think it all starts with calling that young girl pretty. I’m no guru on these issues. I’ve never subscribed to feminist blogs or taken a women’s gender studies class, but it doesn’t take an expert to look around the world and cringe at the ridiculousness. I’m going to challenge myself to not compliment a young girl’s beauty, but instead their actual worth on the inside. Will you join me?

COMMENTS: 9
  1. August 07, 2014 by Jonathan

    Nope. Not buying this one Connie. Not wearing makeup is a sign of not caring about your appearance, same as man who doesn’t shave or wear a tie. Many women look just fine without, but in a society where being made up is the standard (and you could argue the unfairness of that if you’d like), it looks unprofessional. Men have to be groomed as well, and there are consequences for slovenliness.

    How about this? As it is now, women can wear basically whatever they want in the workplace within reason… You ladies give up that right, show up to the job in a suit and tie with a proper bag like I have to, and I’ll talk to the patriarchy higher-ups about letting the makeup thing slide. Sound good?

    • August 07, 2014 by Connie Zhou

      Thanks for your comment.
      Two things here.

      First off, I take it you don’t work in creative? Fortunately for me, I do and don’t have to worry about a business professional/causal dress code. However, I do have many friends that work in a setting where they have to dress professionally. And if you’re going to complain about a suit and tie, try wearing a pencil skirt and heels all day. Sure we have more variety in clothing, doesn’t make it any easier. If anything it’s harder because we constantly worry about “is this professional enough? Is my skirt too short? Is my blouse too bright? Etc.” Honestly, I would take a tie over heels any day.

      But I think you’re missing the overall point here. It’s not about competing who has it worse, the point here is that we shouldn’t be placing a woman’s worth in her beauty, but we do because of our culture’s history. Much of it stems from the male gaze. The makeup tangent is merely one result of it.

      And I’m not trying to blame men for this, I’m saying us women are also playing into this worldview and it’s not right. I think your comment about “giving up our right” only shows a defeatist attitude. Let’s not contrast which gender has a more difficult role, let’s strive to make the world a place where we don’t have to worry about who has it worse.

      • August 08, 2014 by Jonathan

        I think we’re both misunderstanding eachother, then. The second half of my post was unnecessary to what I was trying to say. I was just being snarky, not trying to compare misery. Basically, I just disagree with your angle of attack (and the examples you raised).

        Society is brutal to unattractive men, overweight men, balding men, and short men. By framing this as an issue of sexism, you’re missing the real problem.

        I did, however, like your point about addressing sexism by reevaluating our linguistic behavior. I wrote a dissertation on something similar in graduate school.

        • August 19, 2014 by Christina

          “Society is brutal to unattractive men, overweight men, balding men, and short men.” Well at least they have male privilege.

  2. August 08, 2014 by Trea Bailey

    I get your point– I don’t really have an opinion on it, but now that I read it, it really is an interesting issue.

    The culture I’ve been apart of lately (a church that is very much about gender equality) really stresses that all women are beautiful and that their worth is found– not to get spiritual– in God rather than in what popular media and advertising say about their appearance. One thing that is important to remember is that there are a good number of women who have always dealt with not being “pretty.” It’s been said about them their entire life by media, friends, boys, and even themselves. Sometimes sincerely telling a woman she’s beautiful is not necessarily about their appearance as it is about their core attributes– essentially, the “beauty” compliment is a doorway to validate in areas of achievement and actual value outside of photo-friendly genes.

    I think the comparison I would make is that of men and accomplishment– men care deeply about being respected and validated by their peers. Basically, we want people to recognize our hard work or achievements… to say, “I’m proud of you.” Men are faced with the spy movies and action stars that essentially have endless bank accounts. For the average Joe, that’s not the case, and it presents men with a complex of “I’m not good enough.”

    Both issues stem from unrealistic expectations.

  3. September 22, 2014 by Elizabeth Smith

    I agree so fully with this post, especially the challenge to compliment girls on their achievements instead of their physical appearance. Here is a link to another blog post I really appreciate on the subject. http://fayejones.blog.com/2013/09/28/letter-to-anna-seven-and-beautiful/

  4. October 07, 2014 by Gaurav

    but you’re not even pretty though

  5. October 26, 2014 by renmi86

    I think “beauty” should mean a girl’s mind, her soul, and her personality. I worked 2 years in the fashion industry and it made me hate being a woman for a long time while working there and even years after I got out. There is nothing wrong with a woman going without make up so long as she’s a good person. A smile works better than any cosmetic available.

  6. August 08, 2015 by Nishi

    Your picture gave me an erection

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