Perhaps being a girl has made me more observant and analytical of women’s social tendencies. I first noticed a specific trend at the end of middle school, but subconsciously, it’s something that I’ve always assumed. It persisted throughout high school, and I saw shades of the same behavior at Yale and other universities, too. The truth about pretty girls is ironically an ugly one: they’re usually only friends with each other.
Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and yes, it seems a bit reductive to assume that friendships are based on one superficial factor, but you would be lying if you said that females that are objectively attractive didn’t stick together. At the end of the day, attractiveness is an avenue for social mobility, a fact that most girls learn at too young an age through experience and rationalization,witnessing how the beautiful are treated differently than the rest.
The most important aspect in understanding the “beautiful people” phenomenon is first acknowledging a certain type of instinct. There’s no question that humans are drawn to those they find most appealing, whether it is their kindness, sense of humor or passion. But before we discover any of these things, all we have to go off is appearance.
It would be remiss of me not to touch on the importance of attention. The mentality is that of “power in numbers.” One pretty girl is sure to garner her fair share of attention — naturally — but a group of them gets people talking. This results in attention for all members of the squad. Each girl is known as one piece of the beautiful puzzle and thus likeable simply by association.
Most important, attractiveness is a tool for social mobility. Although some may deny it, a perk of being friends with the pretty crowd is that you will never have a shortage of social events to attend. It’s just a fact that pretty girls are more likely to be invited than others, and no girl is going to arrive at a party alone. Moreover, having an attractive girl group helps bolster one’s image: arriving to a function flanked by your gorgeous friends is a power move.
Instead of falling into the classic tendency of letting appearance govern our social groups, we should work to disrupt this exclusive and intimidating structure. My argument goes beyond simply focusing on what’s inside, not what’s on the outside. We’re at a point where we should know that by now. We need to go further, being constantly conscious of the ways that appearance affects our daily interactions and the social circles that surround us. I’m not saying that physical appearance is the root of all societal shortcomings, but we should take a step back and ask ourselves why we put so much value into it.
I say none of this to discredit female friendships, nor am I suggesting that they are based solely on appearances. But it would be naïve to assume that there wasn’t some level of calculation — often a subconscious one — behind the relationships we form. Female friendships, like all others, are complex and multi-layered. But all too often, appearance determines who spends time with who. It’s our responsibility to make sure this toxic culture comes to an end — in our suites, in dining halls, in classrooms and in how we relate to the world around us.
SIMI OLURIN is a first year in Pierson College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .