Pretty is one of my least favorite words/ideals/concepts. It’s a little word that brings so much grief, I wish I could banish it. It’s usually given as a compliment, as a word to value and cherish, as a point of pride, but it’s actually condescending and limiting. It’s a way to damage a girl’s self-esteem, one tiny “compliment” at a time.
I know there are people out there reading this and shaking their heads, tut-tutting silently, thinking “goddamn feminists, are you every happy? Can you ever take something at face value instead of shoving your hang-ups into everything? Quit your whining, be happy someone calls you pretty.” But that’s why it’s so insidious. It’s not big and scary and violent, so you don’t complain.
Pretty is a word used as a compliment almost exclusively for women. Call a man pretty and its an insult – you’re saying he’s feminine, delicate, fragile, ornamental, and probably not all that smart. Here’s the thing – you’re saying THE SAME THING when you use it to describe a woman. But we’re supposed to be proud of those things, because…vaginas? Pretty doesn’t carry the gravitas of beautiful, it’s a couple rungs down on the attractive scale. It has no power, no strength, no use beyond “I like the way your face/body looks.” And it’s given to girls as an accomplishment.