We hear a lot these days about male privilege. Men earn more, feminists keep reminding us. They get better teaching evaluations. They're seen as more competent. And so on.
But there's another side to the argument, one that we would probably hear more of if men's rights activists weren't routinely written off as sexist losers. Women are privileged too. They're hugely under-represented in dangerous and physically demanding jobs. They control 80% of spending decisions. They take more in benefits from the state, despite paying in considerably less tax. People like them more (both men and women).
Today I want to introduce another type of female privilege that I haven't seen talked about: the privilege that comes with being an attractive female. (I'm calling it hot girl privilege, because one of the most powerful predictors of a women's attractiveness is her age, and so younger women benefit more.)
Anyone who's been around a hot girl will know how this works. Men will drop everything to help a pretty girl out; even a lot of straight women will treat her with extra respect, either out of admiration, or because they recognise the power she wields. She's by far the most likely demographic to be given free drinks, dinners, and movie tickets. Weak-willed and corrupt men may even give her priority when they allocate resources, give scholarships, or make hiring decisions.
Of course, the more comely ladies will also get a certain amount of unwanted attention, and that might be annoying. (Younger and more attractive women are also more likely to be sexually assaulted, and that can be a real cost). But every bit of sexual interest is also an opportunity, one that most people don't get, and one that can be employed to further various sorts of goals.
Is this just my impression? No, that physically attractive people are seen in an especially positive light - the so-called 'halo effect' - is one of the most well-established phenomena in psychology. People regularly ascribe greater intelligence, trustworthiness, and integrity to attractive strangers, even in the absence of specific evidence for those things.
But surely that applies to hot men as well as hot women? It does, but the effect's probably not as great. That's because of differences in what men and women look for in a partner. While physical sexiness tends to be at or close to the top of the list of what men look for in a woman, it's much lower down in the list of what women look for in men. That means that a hot girl has much more power than a hot guy. (In terms of power, the only real rival to a hot girl is a high-status man, because women value status about as highly as men value looks.)
But surely there's a lot of disagreement about who's attractive? Actually, while there's some variance (as there always is when it comes to individuals), people everywhere agree pretty strongly on what makes for an attractive member of the opposite sex. That means that if one guy thinks a girl's hot, a lot of other guys will probably agree with him. And that means that hot women will have a lot of doors opened for them wherever they go.
One of the reasons that I'm writing this just at the moment is that it strikes me that hot girl privilege may be becoming dramatically more influential just at the moment. The success of online platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, combined with norms about having photos next to articles and bios, means that people's attractiveness is more and more on show.
That wasn't the case 40 years ago, when pieces printed in magazines tended to simply carry the author's name, meaning they'd be judged on the content alone. Even 30 years ago, it was harder to find images of journalists and intellectuals. Now, you can just find someone's Instagram feed and you can see them in a range of different lighting, and in a variety of different outfits.
That's why it shouldn't be a surprise to see the rise of a whole cohort of young, female political commentators who are more than usually easy on the eyes. They're on the far right (Brittany Pettibone, Lauren Southern); they're anti-feminists (Daisy Cousens); they run influential websites dedicated to ideas (Claire Lehmann); they're even centrist skeptics (Julia Galef). (For some reason I find it harder to think of hot left-wingers, but no doubt that's partly because my own political leanings expose me to fewer leftist internet stars; I'd be grateful for suggestions in the comments!)
Of course, some of these women are highly intelligent, eloquent advocates for the views they hold, and they may well have made it without the specific kind of privilege they enjoy. And if they're conscious of it, I don't really blame them for that; we all use what God has given us to advance our aims and to get by. It's hard to deny, though, that they've probably got an advantage in this image-obsessed age for the simple fact that if you give men a choice between clicking on a picture of Tomi Lahren and of Jamie Whyte - well, I don't think I need to finish that sentence, since most of the men reading this have probably gone off to google 'Tomi Lahren.'
None of this is an argument that men don't enjoy various sorts of privilege. They may do. And it's definitely not an argument that all women enjoy this sort of privilege - unluckily for them, unattractive and older women enjoy about as much privilege as low-status males (that is, virtually none). All I've done is suggested one more way in which some women may occasionally enjoy considerable advantages in life, advantages of the kind we're constantly being told accrue only to men.
Sam Butler is an English settler in New Zealand, a writer and an anti-intellectual. You can follow him @ErewhonNam if you like his picture.