It would seem to be a truism to say that pretty people have an easier life than others; however, in our world of egalitarian dreams, we loath to say that openly. Even more, we hate to admit the corollary; physically unattractive people have a more difficult life than most. Both are truths that defy time and place.
It is assumed by many that beauty is entirely culturally created. While it is true that children are taught to desire and appreciate a certain look that they define as beauty; however, that is only partly the why we prefer to look at and be with a certain kind of person. While there are indeed certain cultural practices that become part of what one considers beautiful, these cultural idiosyncrasies are overlaid on a biological core.
Experiments with babies find that regardless of culture, babies prefer faces that one would call beautiful. To be more exact, they prefer faces that are highly symmetrical; the two sides are identical. Even small irregularities that adults do not consciously see change the preference of babies.
Across all cultural lines, fit and healthy is preferred over unfit and unhealthy. And a recent study of cultures worldwide indicated a preference for women with lighter toned skin and men of darker tone. This crossed all racial lines as a preference pattern.
Now, these biological preferences are impacted by one’s wealth. Access to quality nutrition and health care are vital to maintenance of those biological beauty markers. No matter how a person’s genetic disposition might be toward beauty, ill health and malnutrition undermine the blossoming of that beauty.
All that to say, that not all measures of beauty are taught by culture. On top of this foundation, comes the cultural overlay. There quirks to attractiveness in most all cultures. Tiny feet, long necks, tiny waists and other things are clearly taught to each new generation as beauty. Within the broad category of “fit” bodies come trends of preferences. Large breasts, small breasts, hair fashion, body adornment such as tattoos or piercings are not only ethnically based, but change over time.
And, literally on top of all that comes clothes. Clothes made to accentuate some body parts and minimize others. Rich fabrics and skilled tailoring are worldwide hallmarks of someone who is considered beautiful. This part of beauty is entirely based on available wealth and so denote both social status and beauty.
The net effect of the biological and social aspects of beauty create a special class of “beautiful people” with privileges not afforded to others. It is not a question of the truth of this but only a question of our acknowledgement. Numerous studies have documented how pretty people are treated differently; my favorite was the one with the girl with a flat tire. A group of graduate students put the different women beside an apparently disabled car at different times. Not surprisingly the “attractive” woman had motorist stop very quickly to help. The “wall flower” got some offers for help but only after a lengthy wait. And the “unattractive” woman in this study, never had anyone stop.
Pretty people get better jobs offers for more money than their less attractive contemporaries. This effect is true regardless of the sex of the applicants or the employers. People just like to be surrounded by pretty people regardless of any sexual interest.
With the advent of visual media, the advantage of the pretties has only expanded. Not just in Hollywood, but in all walks of life personal beauty is the coin of the realm. This begins in grade school and extends thought out our adult years. Those of us who are not beautiful, must understand and compensate for our relative inferior position at the start of every race. The advantage of good looks is often undermined by a sense of entitlement generated over a lifetime of special treatment. It is the Achilles’ heel of the pretties.
Now, I am not suggesting that we “un-pretties” should see ourselves as some oppressed group, because this preference for prettiness is part of who we are as human beings. We like looking at attractive people. What I am saying is that we should always be cognizant of our inherent bias toward the pretty people so that we are not one of those who drive by the unattractive women stranded by the side of the road. It’s not treating the pretty people less kind, but putting forth an effort to treat everyone as if he or she were a pretty.