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The Pretty Obligation

There’s these god-awful silly things that society creates solely for the purpose of controlling femininity and masculinity. Some make themselves known through policing the way we express ourselves, for example – the idea that men shouldn’t wear makeup. Some present themselves by trying to push feelings of shame and guilt on us – introducing what I like to call “the pretty obligation”.

“The pretty obligation” is a flying fairy that goes around preying on women. Alright, maybe it isn’t an actual flying fairy, but it is a fictional belief that goes around making people feel bad about themselves for no good reason. It is the absurd thought that women owe it to society (specifically: men, bosses, husbands, boyfriends, random strangers) to look pretty at all times. It is the thought that if you’re a woman, it is your duty to go out in public looking like a runway model because if you don’t, you are doing a great misdeed to the world. As if it is downright disrespectful for a woman to leave her house without wearing mascara (but remember to not wear too much makeup because then people will think you’re a hoe).

Think back to the years in the past where husbands thought of their wife as their property who should just stay in the shadows, be quiet, look pretty, and let them shine. Nowadays, the pretty obligation has evolved to take a different presence than that obvious scenario straight from the 1950s. Some people may argue that the pretty obligation is obsolete in modern times. Contrary to that belief, the pretty obligation is alive and well. The pretty obligation breeds low self esteem and crushes self love in one single swoop. It has seemingly magical powers to single-handedly make girls feel horrible about themselves. It makes us feel as if it is our sole purpose to look beautiful for those around us to appreciate.

Girls, no matter what men tell you – you are under no obligation to look pretty for anyone but yourselves. I once read a quote online saying “Pretty is not the rent you pay to exist in the world as a woman”. You don’t owe it to your boyfriend to have shaved legs for every date (as if shaved legs equate to beauty). You don’t have to apologize to the cashier for going to the grocery store wearing sweat pants. You don’t have to wake up hours before school to straighten your hair and put makeup on just because you think people will think you are ugly or unpresentable if you don’t. You don’t have to be sorry for having uneven eyeliner or mismatched lipstick. You are not obligated to jump through all these hoops just so you look attractive in others eyes.

Now you know what the pretty obligation looks and feels like. It is something we should all actively combat. We need to stress the fact that women are not prized trophies or cute Barbie dolls. We are actual humans with brains capable of the same intellectual level of any man. We aren’t defined by how short our skirt is and we definitely aren’t defined by if its length pleases a man. The clothes we wear and the makeup we apply are strictly for us. We wear dresses and eyeshadow to make us feel good (and we know we look damn good too), not to make a man look at us like some shiny toy. Women are beautiful, but not for the reasons the pretty obligation suggests.

Voted Thanks!
Lou Rambeau
Written By

Lou Rambeau is a young writer, photographer, activist, and artist currently located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Contact via email at, Twitter/Instagram @lourambeau, or website


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