Here is another think-piece nobody asked for to start the year but because I am gracious and ever generous, I am happy to oblige.
‘Premium babes deserve premium treatment’
What a loaded statement. I will preface my short piece by saying that I do not have sufficient knowledge of the preceding context of the above quote but merely saw it stated in a tweet on my timeline.
Three questions come to mind when I read that statement;
- Who is a premium babe?
- Who determines this standard?
- What happens to women who are not classified as premium?
Let’s get a little academic and start with proper definitions;
Dictionary.com, defines premium (adjective) as:
‘of exceptional quality or greater value than others of its kind; superior’
I would like to point out here that the word ‘premium’ when used as an adjective, like in the quote, is therefore inherently comparative. The existence of premium babes, presumes the existence of babes who are not up to that standard, babes who are not ‘superior’.
It is not hidden that all our societies have standards and hierarchies of beauty with certain kinds of people at the top and others on the bottom. We know that both online and offline people treat different bodies in different ways, depending on how much those bodies conform to societal beauty standards.
It is disappointingly regressive that in big big 2021, we are still insinuating that women should be treated in accordance with their perceived level of attraction, (usually to men). What this means, according to that quote, is that women who are more beautiful should be treated better. This is not what we should be aspiring to as we hope to dismantle fatphobia, colourism and racial/colonial connotations of beauty. Statements like these are a step backward, not forward in unpacking and reshaping our perceptions of beauty.
All bodies are worthy of ‘premium treatment’
All bodies are to be celebrated.
But sadly, we know that this isn’t the case.
Interestingly, the OP of the quote is a light-skinned, conventionally attractive woman who is likely a frequent benefactor of ‘pretty privilege’ (Yes this is a thing and I will not be arguing about that today or any other day for that matter). Statements like these are very common from people who are conventionally attractive. @KlhoeUmoh (on Twitter), makes a brilliant point that ‘if you have to convince yourself that you only deserve proper treatment because you’re better than other people, then there’s a problem there.’ Such a welcome perspective that tells us about the minds and thought processes of those who exist at the top of the beauty hierarchy.
In this part of the world, in this country Nigeria, we operate a loose ‘pigmentocracy’. The first time I heard this word was from Jade Bentil, a brilliant Black British academic and I remember being startled that the perfect word existed to describe beauty hierarchies based on skin colour. Harris, a Professor of English, describes what a pigmentocracy looks like;
‘Lighter skin tones are therefore valued more than darker skin tones. Such preferences have social, economic, and political implications, as persons of lighter skin tones historically were frequently — and stereotypically — viewed as being more intelligent, talented, and socially graceful than their darker skinned black counterparts.’
Does this not sound a little familiar to you? Do we not witness the misogynoir that darker skinned women experience, online and offline?
When we add fatness to the mix, we enter an even lower part of the hierarchy where fat, darker skinned women are often mocked and dehumanised. According to societal standards, these are not premium babes, therefore they are to be treated less favourabaly because they have do not possess the social capital that comes from being ‘beautiful’.
There is a fat, dark-skinned TikToker who is constantly under a barrage of hateful comments about her body, many telling her to hide or never show her face. She suffers this because her body and physical appearance does not appeal to (i) men (ii) society at large. Fatter women in general are treated so poorly, even by those who are supposed to love them. We hear that the partners of fat women go on to anonymous sites, mocking their women to lose weight. Even where they are supposed to meet love, they meet hatred and mockery. Not very premium treatment, if you ask me.
In response to the question ‘who determines a premium babe’, someone on the timeline responds that you yourself can declare yourself a premium babe. I do agree with that. Women all over the world have ascribed beauty unto themselves regardless of whether or not they conform to standards of beauty.
What we will not do, is act like these standards exist in a vacuum.
It is history, culture and most importantly PEOPLE (more usually men), who determine what these standards are and uphold them. So you can ascribe yourself a premium babe, but still not receive ‘premium treatment’, because those who determine ‘premiumness’ do not deem you as premium.
Bat shit crazy right?
It would be delusional to say that men are not at least a huge determinant of what is considered premium. The trends we see with plastic surgery, BBLs, the obsession with the hourglass figure, are all to gain social capital, usually given by proximity to men or by financial elevation, as a result of these new bodies. Women are mocked for their real bodies, mocked for plastic surgery, mocked for anything that does not appeal to the male gaze.
That is perhaps my strongest aversion to that statement. You do not have to be visually appealing to men, or to anyone at all, to be treated well and respectfully.
So my darlings, especially those of you who will not fall into whatever a ‘premium babe’ looks like, please know that you are always worthy. Regardless of how you look, you are worthy of love, of affection and of care. You do not have to be drop dead gorgeous to be treated well because the definition of drop dead gorgeous is always subject to change.
As you are, as you currently exist, premium or not, you deserve to be treated well.
N.B: Special thanks to Jola, Khloe and Maryam who directly and indirectly gingered me to write this piece.