I guess it was inevitable. I posted a series titled “not a pretty girl,” and what I heard back — invariably from male friends — was “but you are pretty! Don’t you think you’re pretty?”
When I first got asked that, it gave me pause for a couple of reasons. The first was the sudden cognitive dissonance of trying to decide which of two socially acceptable answers to give. On the one hand, calling yourself “pretty” or “hot” or praising your own appearance is considered vain: with the concurrent advent of sites like MySpace and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter and the advent of digital cameras, the phenomenon of “selfies” became very popular very quickly and become very mockable just as fast*.
On the other hand, I am an Empowered Feminist Woman who believes in body positivity and self-esteem and so forth, and being self-deprecating about one’s appearance is considered damaging and toxic and buying into Western beauty ideals.
On the gripping hand, my attractiveness isn’t even secondary to the point — it’s, like, quinary at best. But the title of the blog posts seem to have convinced some people that I don’t consider myself attractive, and it seems very important to them that I understand that I am pretty.
On top of all this, from other conversations people have been having around this series, I think I may have given the impression that I value the ideal of “pretty” over “not pretty” — that I think the pretty Other Girls are better than the not-a-pretty-girl Me’s, when really I just think girls shouldn’t hate on girls for being girls because being a girl is hard enough already. And since I wrote about identifying as a “I’m not like those other girls” type in high school, maybe it came across like I wish I were prettier.
So here’s my answer: