The perks of being pretty
It’s something most of us just sort of take as a given: beautiful people have it easier. This video has been floating around for the past week or so and getting quite a bit of attention for its comment on the privileges pretty women appear to get on a day-to-day basis. As an experiment, Caroline, a British journalist, hits the town dressed up in two different personas- Plain Caroline, with no makeup and her hair pulled back, dressed in conservative, unremarkable clothing, and Sexy Caroline, dolled up with red lips, curled hair, high heels and a short, tight dress. The methodology is simple- as both characters, she goes around asking for free stuff.
Not surprisingly, Sexy Caroline gets a much more favourable response, and ends up with free bus trips, taxi rides, ice creams, cakes and drinks. It reminds me of on the Simple Life when Paris and Nicole would walk into bottle shops or convenience stores or whatever and just say ‘Can we have this for free?’ and they were always, always indulged. Plain Caroline, on the other hand, finally ends up with a free drink, but spends most of the day being ignored and sent away.
Obviously, it’s not a scientific experiment- but then, it never claimed to be. After all, she doesn’t talk to the same people in her different get-ups, so it is hard to really compare if she would have gotten different responses. She does behave more confidently and flirtatiously as Sexy Caroline, which could very possibly influence how they respond to her as much as her looks do, and we don’t know how much was edited out. But to me, whether it’s completely accurate or not isn’t really the point. What’s important is that it’s opened up a dialogue about how much appearance matters.
The interesting thing is it’s not even a matter of being naturally beautiful or not. Even Plain Caroline isn’t actually plain at all, and I’m sure that even the most ‘ordinary’ looking girl would get the same response as Sexy Caroline if she was all dolled up like her. So it’s not actually an issue of beauty, but the extent to which you conform to standards of femininity. Caroline hasn’t changed her face or body. It’s just the different costumes she puts on, how she presents herself as a woman.
It made me think about how being dressed a certain way can affect how you feel and how you interact with others. The way I’m dressed on a particular day- or, more accurately, my perception of how attractive I look dressed that way- definitely influences how I act. It changes the way I walk down the street, the way I talk to shopkeepers, the way I sit on public transport. If I’m feeling attractive, I strut and pose and act as if everyone is watching my every move. If I’m feeling plain or ugly, I act as if I hope I won’t be noticed.
Plain Caroline acted kind of goofy and gave up quickly when she was shot down, but Sexy Caroline was cute and coquettish and had the confidence to keep flirting until she got what she wanted. Sure, maybe it was partly put on to help her get the results she wanted for the video, but it’s possible it was also partly just how she felt in her different personas. If you feel plain and dowdy, it’s naturally harder to act cute and flirty, especially if nobody is responding to you. Knowing you look like a knockout, however, and having people stare at you and lap up your flirting, can be the perfect boost to amp up your attitude.
So maybe instead of it being a matter of beautiful girls getting what they want, it’s more that feeling attractive gives you confidence, and confidence gets you what you want. It’s possible- I think it’s definitely at least part of what’s going on. The question then is how you can feel attractive all the time even if you’re not objectively living up to the standards of feminine beauty.