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The Price of Pretty Privilege

Written by: Wesley Sanders, FACES Outreach Coordinator

I was born with Pfeiffer syndrome and grew up in a town where many had the advantages that come with attractiveness. I was born with a condition that prevents the skull from growing normally, affecting the shape of my head and face, so my appearance is not considered conventional by most people. I am facially different. I grew up with two brothers who reaped the benefits of being attractive, and my cousins were all afforded the advantages of pretty privilege, too. There are stereotypes relating to someone with a facial difference. Because of our differences, the world often characterizes us as subdued, unable, and unintelligent, invoking pity and dependence. I am none of those things. I am a college graduate, hold a job, travel the world, pay my bills, and don't require the world to pity me.


Until recently, I didn't understand the depth of "pretty privilege." I knew that pretty privilege had a reputation for being superior, but the gravity and power of what having a pretty face can do for you was baffling to learn. I first learned of pretty privilege when I would be treated differently than my peers. I vividly remember when I was out with my younger cousin, and the line of questioning she received was far different from the questions I was asked. Despite being a year older than her, she was deemed more intelligent and trustworthy, and her answers were given more credibility. I remember how I felt afterward. "If only I were pretty, maybe they wouldn't assume I was stupid."


Yes, I am incredibly aware that we live in a world that remains highly fixated on outward appearances. According to Forbes magazine, "the phenomenon of "pretty privilege" awards significant societal advantages to individuals deemed conventionally attractive."


You certainly don't have to be a person with a facial difference to suffer the consequences of society's standards for being unattractive, just classified as ugly. My opinion on this matter comes primarily from the heart, informed by my life experience.


Pretty privilege is a term coined to describe the benefits associated with conforming to society's beauty ideals and being naturally attractive. According to Bond University: Associate Professor of Communication, Dr. Donna Henson states that "Research dating back decades finds that physically attractive people consistently receive preferential treatment, across a wide range of contexts, from pre-school to the job market." People who fall under this category are deemed more intelligent, trustworthy, and likable. If you have a pretty face, the world tends to be kinder to you.  What's the price of pretty privilege? | Bond University | Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Many of us with a facial difference have strategies to preempt any horror that comes with "looking different" and not being classified as conventionally attractive. We are told that it's human nature to fear the unknown. Therefore, we must debunk any false narrative attachments we may receive.

The solution to pretty privilege isn't to ensure that people who don't have the benefits of conventional attractiveness bow to fate and live quietly– it's that we teach people what face equality is, to begin with. Change only comes with a revolution in the minds and hearts of the masses. We should also be seen as intelligent, trustworthy, kind, and likable. Let's change the narrative. Together.

Face equality is about recognizing that every face is different and unique, and regardless of facial appearance, every person deserves to be treated fairly and equally. To learn more about Face Equality, click here!

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