I have an incredibly vivid memory from childhood about the word “pretty,” in truth I’m sure we all do. It was seventh grade and I was auditioning for my hometown’s summer musical, Grease. I opened the script and in the notes about the character Rizzo, it said, “unconventionally pretty.” I remember thinking about it, I remember asking myself what that meant, and then I thought of Stockard Channing in the movie Grease. She was pretty, but rough and tumble. She had a spunk about her that attracted people to her, but not a shine that made people feel small. I thought, in that moment, that was what I wanted to be – unconventionally pretty.
I didn’t realize it then, but wanting to be “unconventionally pretty” was in itself playing in my head the soundtrack of “not good enough” so many little girls are taught to replay over and over again in our heads from the time of adolescence. Instead of saying “I’m pretty,” we say “I’m pretty, but…”
I teared up reading the article “Why Don’t Women Say ‘I’m Pretty?‘” on Jezebel recently. Instead of saying “I’m pretty,” Jezebel says we say things like this:
I’m pretty, but not the kind of culturally condoned pretty
I’m pretty, but not for the region I grew up in
I’m pretty, but cognizant of where that fits on the full spectrum
I’m pretty, but I’m not beautiful
I’m pretty, but I know my market value
I’m pretty, but I take shit pictures and therefore have no real proof
I’m pretty, just not today
I am pretty, but sometimes it’s still an illusion
I’m pretty, but there’s a hierarchy
I’m pretty but admitting it is vain and/or sounds delusional
How do we begin to change this trend? How do we begin to look ourselves in the mirror again and say “I’m pretty”? I’d start first by telling someone else she’s pretty. Maybe it’s your mom, your child, your niece, your friend. But the more you get used to saying the words to others, you may just decide it’s time to say them to yourself. Weigh in here, readers. How can we all as women stop saying “but” after the word “pretty” when we describe ourselves?