Beauty Can Make You Unlikeable
It originates from the patriarchal belief that women should be competitors for men
I won't be coy and adopt the usual stance of denying one’s attractiveness and I will not pretend I am hideous to preserve my sense of modesty. Whilst I had a rocky patch in my teenage years, I am aware that in my womanhood, people find me somewhat attractive.
This has been proven by the leering comments from men on the street or the fact that I can see that my holiday poolside bikini snaps have been saved by others on Instagram. I am no model or ethereal goddess, but I am aware that I have been blessed with a high metabolism, a decent facial structure, and tameable hair, which would constitute under the societal definition of ‘attractive’.
You may be thinking ‘hey, where is this article going, surely this woman can't have any complaints about the fact she was born moderately attractive?!’
Whilst I do not seek to extract sympathy, or dare to moan about something which I am aware gives me plenty of advantages in life, I do want to address the prejudice and preconceptions which can often hinder attractive people from forming connections with people.
It is perpetuated in teen films such as Mean Girls and the many others like it, it is shown when women bitch and gossip about the beautiful woman that becomes the girlfriend of the man you’ve had a crush on for years. This phenomenon I’m talking about is the practice of perceiving attractive women as unapproachable and conceited and instantly having some sort of distaste towards them.
We don’t talk about it and we definitely don’t outwardly show it, but many women dislike other women based on a preconception due to their attractiveness. It is mainly stemmed from jealousy but it is also caused by the stereotype of attractive women that is shown in movies and tv shows.
The popular, attractive and seductive women in movies are usually cold, mean and narcissistic- it is a common archetype which has been used for years. It is usually the more modest-looking woman who is portrayed as good and kind, whilst the high fashion catwalk model is proved to be vapid and cruel.
Even though most of us recognise that these stereotypes are not realistic, I think that many people have still internalised them and therefore have this predisposition against women who look similar to the archetypal beautiful women who appear on their screen.
The first time I thought that others may find me unapproachable, was when a girl at my university who I had never spoken to came up to me after a lecture one day. She told me that she worked with my boyfriend back in our hometown and had seen photos of me on his social media. She said she had been meaning to come and say hi for ages, yet didn't know how to.
I was so shocked, as I am the type of person who will chat to anyone, and believe myself to be warm and sociable. I wondered what it was that made this girl so hesitant to approach me, was I intimidating? Do I appear like the type of person that would not welcome her introduction? I figured that the reason she took a while to approach me was due to the way I look, perhaps my interest in fashion and my usually made-up face gave me an air of ‘mean girl’, that made me harder to approach.
We have a habit of distrusting attractive women and expressing our own insecurities about the way we look by shutting out these women. I have been guilty of it myself. It is proven by the fact that we wouldn't necessarily want to hire a young attractive nanny for our children, out of the fear that our husbands may stray.
That young and sexy receptionist at our partner’s firm would not get the same warm welcome and offer of friendship that a kindly 70-year-old lady would. This is due to the simple fact that we view the young woman as a threat, which instantly causes her to have a sense of unlikeability.
Arthur Schopenhauer, a German Philosopher, said in his book On Women, that:
“Men are by nature indifferent to one another, but women are by nature enemies… Even when they simply pass in the street they look at one another like Guelphs and Ghibellines…Because women are all in the same profession (competitors for the attentions of men), they all stand much closer to one another than men do, and consequently strive to emphasize differences in rank”.
Because of the patriarchal expectation that women are in competition against each other for men, we have begun to seek other women as our opposition. We have created a divide against each other, due to the primal competition to mate that patriarchy has spurred within us.
We live in a society where a woman no longer needs to rely on a man to be successful, comfortable or wealthy, yet we have not let go of this competitive hatred for other women who threaten our own image or ranking within the hierarchy of beauty.
I can admit, that at times I have felt that a beautiful woman may not be the best fit for friendship, due to my instinctual preconception. It is not until I have gotten to know these women, that I have realised that their image does not hinder them from being some of the most humble, kind and hilarious people I know.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her book We Should All Be Feminists, that “we raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men”.
Until we stop seeing each other as competitors, women will not be free of the patriarchal reign that we have suffered under for so long. Women should celebrate and feel comfortable around each other not view one another as the enemy.
What is the real enemy, is that patriarchal assumption that we must fight each other for the attention of men, not that young blonde in your office.
I challenge women, and myself too: next time you meet someone attractive who appears unapproachable, strike up a conversation, break that conditioned assumption that beautiful women are cold and conceited.
Prejudice can be an awful thing and I do not think we will ever totally break free from the curse of judging someone based on their looks. However, we must take steps to change this and each time we find ourselves making a prejudgment about someone because of the way they look, we must fight that instinct.