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@rivermckenziee via TikTok

Why do ‘pretty girls’ on TikTok think that everybody hates them?

A new trend suggests that making friends can be hard when you’re beautiful, but it’s time to move on from the toxic idea that women hate other women just for being attractive

Life must be tough when you’re stunningly beautiful. At least that’s what beautiful people keep saying. Tales of female jealousy are as old as time. When Greek goddess Aphrodite heard of a princess who was more beautiful than her, she flew into a jealous rage and sent her son to poison the princess. In fairy tales, jealous queens and step-mothers punish young women for their beauty. These stories all hinge on female jealousy.

In real life though, do women actually hate attractive women? You could argue that today physical beauty is more important than ever. While appearance has always been a form of social currency, the rewards it can reap online have never been more obvious. A 2018 study showed that social media users who are considered physically attractive have higher perceived likeability. In the age of Instagram, beauty as social currency can be converted into actual currency as it helps gain large followings and influencer deals. However, the same study showed that users who post a high percentage of selfies have lower perceived likeability. This suggests that beauty is likeable only when it’s paired with modesty.

TikTok’s new ‘why girls hate me’ trend is anything but modest. There’s nothing wrong with thinking you’re beautiful and celebrating the fact, but the trend has been described as “so toxic” for pitting women against each other. Despite this, the ‘why girls hate me’ hashtag has amassed 1.8m views and counting. While some of the videos are humorous and self-aware, many include conventionally beautiful teenagers and young women saying that other girls hate them because they are pretty. In the videos, creators, who are usually slim, white and wearing natural make-up, hold their hand out as if introducing themselves to you with a handshake before the words, “Hi, I’m pretty” appear on the screen. Some of the comments prove the point made in the videos: “I’m sorry she makes me so mad I don’t know why.” Others suggest that girls don’t hate them because they are pretty but because of their personality. Overall, however, a large majority of the comments are supportive, agreeing with the creator that they are pretty and praising them for their self-confidence. 

Several users have pointed out why the trend is problematic though. Lauren Russell made a video under the hashtag saying, “other women don’t hate me and I don’t hate other women. This is internalised misogyny and pitting women against each other.” Russell has experienced being at the end of someone’s jealousy herself and she doesn’t want to invalidate anyone’s experiences. “Naturally, humans tend to want what we don’t have,” she says, “so of course there are plenty of scenarios where jealousy could become a problem in your female friendships. It’s totally normal to feel jealous. What’s not okay is letting those emotions cause you to lash out against other women or anyone for that matter. I don’t support the trend that it’s cool for people to hate you.”

Paige Manzello originally took part in the trend with a video that received millions of views before she took it down. “My intentions with that video were not to bring anyone down, not to be seen as narcissistic, arrogant, or a misogynist,” she says. “Humans are beautiful and the last thing I ever want to do is bring other people down. I seriously do not think other girls hate me because I’m pretty and for people saying that it’s because of my personality, you don’t know me well enough to judge me off my personality.”

While we can’t make sweeping judgements about individual human behaviour – who among us hasn’t ever felt jealous of someone else? – evidence points towards ‘pretty privilege’, or ‘the halo effect’, being a much more persuasive force in our perceptions of others than jealousy. The halo effect is sometimes referred to as the ‘what is beautiful is also good’ principle. It means that we are more likely to find beautiful people likeable and trustworthy.

“We find by and large in almost all situations that being more attractive is a positive for people,” says Dr Lisa Walker, a sociologist specialising in group dynamics and social perceptions of attractiveness at the University of North Carolina. “In a workplace setting, attractive people are often given more influence. They're more likely to get hired. They often get paid more.”

There comes a point, however, where being beautiful stops being received well by those around you. “If you are extraordinarily attractive and a vision of perfection then that can backfire a little bit but only really in two ways,” Dr Walker continues. “If you're in a leadership position, for a woman to be particularly attractive can be detrimental because others don't take her as seriously. That's not true for men. The other way is that there can be a bit of resentment or jealousy or dislike. Most of the time women don’t dislike other women who are attractive, but there are probably a few occasions where someone is just so stunningly beautiful that you react in a way.”

In 2012, an article titled ‘Why do women hate me for being beautiful?’ went viral. Journalist Samantha Brick argued that jealous friends have cut her off and female bosses have barred her from promotions at work all because she is attractive. The ensuing hate that was directed towards Brick seemed to prove her point in a way, but backlash was mostly along the lines of, “No, actually. Women don’t hate you because you’re pretty. They hate you because of your personality.” The article launched a global debate. Many concluded that being beautiful is positive but being arrogant or superior about beauty granting you an elite status is not. If you really believe that everyone is jealous of you then you will assume that the way people treat you is all down to that jealousy. There’s a difference between thinking you’re beautiful and assuming that your beauty negatively impacts all of your relationships. 

“There’s nothing wrong with believing that you’re pretty. However, when people come forward on a TikTok trend or with an article telling the world how beautiful they are, they are often just reinforcing a narrow, Eurocentric definition of beauty”

There’s nothing wrong with believing that you’re pretty. If anything, more people should believe in their own attractiveness. However, when people come forward on a TikTok trend or with an article telling the world how beautiful they are, they are often just reinforcing a narrow, Eurocentric definition of beauty. What people find attractive is not without its biases. The fact that beauty more often than not does open doors for people shows the importance of widening our definition of beauty and making it more inclusive for people of all races and genders.

It’s rare for women to dislike other women for their beauty, but when they do it’s unlikely to be because of beauty itself but because of the things that beauty has helped them attain. “It’s not necessarily about wanting to look that way,” Dr Walker says, “but wanting to get all the good things that come from looking that good. Like, your life looks so easy because everybody’s nice to you and you can have any man you want and you’ll get any job you apply for. It’s jealousy of the consequences of being that attractive.”

The implication that women hate attractive women is reductive and sexist. It portrays women as shallow, petty caricatures competing for beauty and male attention rather than for achievements. It pits women against each other and ignores the much more dangerous consequences that can come when men are jealous of female beauty. Male incels are much more likely to fly into a jealous rage if the woman they desire rejects them than women are to cut off female friends just because they are attractive. It’s offensive to other women to assume that they won’t like you just because you are pretty. 

More often than not women actively hype each other up. Go to any woman’s Instagram comments and you will see all of her friends bigging her up. Nightclub toilets are always full of women waiting to tell other women how beautiful they are. So, do girls hate girls because they are pretty? Rarely, and it’s time to move past reductive social media trends that enforce that stereotype.