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An Honest Conversation: I DON'T Have Pretty Privilege. And It Sucks.

Here's my very honest, (and I mean HONEST) examination of life when you're not a "10."

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Stephanie's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

So, before I open up this conversation, let me say that I don't think I am an unattractive girl. I know I am attractive in some ways, and I understand as a Black woman, that we are all beautiful. I am not discussing this for pity. And I am not discussing this to be dismissed. I simply want to have a conversation about what it means to have pretty privilege. This conversation has been swirling around the social media-sphere for much of 2021, and I have always had opposing experiences from those who usually actually have the conversation—or those who are pretty.


Celebrities such as Saweetie have opened up about her experiences with whether she does or doesn't benefit from this type of leverage, and there's a multitude of videos on TikTok floating around on the subject of pretty privilege as well.

But this is my story, and what my mental health has personally struggled with for some time. And, well, I want to be honest about it. I just want to be honest. That's all. Please don't dilute my story with yours. This is my truth about the difficulties of not having pretty privilege in an image-based society.

OK. Here we go. *sigh*

Growing up, I always knew that 'pretty privilege' existed. I always knew people, specifically women, could use their looks as a form of currency as they move through a patriarchal society and that they could use it to get better mates, or they can use it to get better jobs that "regular-looking" women couldn't get. I was aware that this type of privilege is out there.

And I also knew that I didn't have it.

For anyone who doesn't know the concept of pretty privilege, it's when you basically get treated better in life due to how attractive you are. It never really bothered me until I got a little older and began to take stock of different things I didn't have in my life, which honestly, is natural as we all often compare ourselves to other people.

I started to just think about all the things in my life that probably would have been a little bit easier if I had some pretty privilege. But pretty privilege is not something that you, yourself, can decide that you have. It's something that society just gives you based on what the systems of society already are.

I began noticing subtle changes in behavior toward me and then toward my girlfriends. For example, for my most recent birthday, a few friends and I decided to go out and celebrate, which was a huge deal for me. It was monumental. I was never that girl who went out or that participated in the stereotypical rituals of partying, dressing up, or anything that most young, millennial women take part in. And sadly, this was because at a very young age, I realized I was the girl at the bar paying for my own drinks or never being approached by any men. I created a defense mechanism to where I would only go to places where I knew no one there would be anyone I was attracted to. I was roughly 22 years old.

But anyway, for whatever reason, this particular birthday, I decided, "You know what, sis, you've been watching YouTube tutorials, you are poppin' AF, go out and have a good time." I felt so pretty that night and I remember walking into the restaurant like I was a star. I felt like I was on top of the world and if anyone was going to notice me, it was going to be tonight!

But I walked in, and not a single person made eye contact with me. No one even budged, actually. 

And what's wild, is my friend walks in to meet me, and the entire place shifts towards her beautiful light skin and effortless aura that I just do not possess. I went home, after such an amazing night out with friends, hurt. I felt I did all the things that women are supposed to do, and most importantly, I was confident. I was happy. But it just wasn't good enough.

I realized I will always be invisible, even if I try.

Another time, I was at the airport and crossed paths with a guy a few times as we were on the same flight. We stood near each other much of the boarding process, and didn't speak, no eye contact or engagement at all. We were offered to sit near each other but he chose to sit elsewhere (which in hindsight, it didn’t dawn on me why he chose the other seat until we sat down) so when we began to board, I went to my seat, and he went to his. He was near another woman, who was Indian or Latina. And within two minutes, she knew his name, where he worked, they connected on social media, and she was invited to a party in the Hollywood Hills.

Go figure.

Tired Give Up GIF by HBO Giphy

And it sucks because for me, the guys that usually approach me are those who have minimal ambition or aren't equally yolked career-wise (not that I make a million dollars), therefore my dating experiences are limited. Like, I always make sure I'm even employed before I begin to date. Let's just say this is never the case for me, as successful men often look for a certain “type" of woman.

This is why women like Lori Harvey, or Ciara, or Cassie aren't role models for me, and never were. Women often ask Ciara what was her prayer for her husband and this conversation isn't even in the scope of my life as I can sit up here all day in a convent and pray and it won't work like that for me.

Ciara is not a regular, degular, smegular girl. She is beautiful, talented, and has a career all her own. No matter how much people try to dress it up, Russell Wilson was attracted to her because of that first. This is how pretty privilege works.

And it's the same with work. I have to work for people to think of me positively. Be more, have better, or seem stronger. It's exhausting.

But ladies, I say all of this to say, as superficial as this all may sound, it's real. The thing that hurts the most about not having pretty privilege is that I feel like I get left out of the amazing, beautiful things about being a woman.

Something did dawn on me, however: even without pretty privilege, I won't look like this forever. I thought to myself, 'You're missing out on the parade of life.' I may not be a pageant queen on a float, but I'm still here. And it's my job to adorn myself, the way I see fit.

Even though traffic may never stop when I go outside or I may have to pay for my own drinks at a bar, I can still make an effort to make myself be a reflection of how I feel about myself. And even if no one ever turns their head when you walk in the room, or if they never buy you a drink, when a picture is taken, and you go back and look at it years later and think, 'Wow, I can tell she loved herself,' that is all that matters.

Society may not feel that you have pretty privilege, but if you feel you have it, then you're going to reflect that back into the world.

And at the end of the day, that's all that matters too.

Stephanie often has open and honest conversations about societal norms on her YouTube channel. Follow her on Instagram @ohstepco for her latest updates on her life's journey.

Feature image courtesy of Instagram/ohstephco

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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