Simple, Infantile, Presentable: 4 Women on Their Perceptions of the Word Pretty

As inherently communicative creatures, human beings' relationship with different words and labels is profoundly shaped by our experience (or lack thereof) with having those labels applied to us over the course of our lives. Not everyone is going to share intense feelings about the same words, but there is one label that almost every English-speaking woman has a complicated relationship with, even if she doesn't explicitly realize it: the word pretty.

Recently, we discovered that this thousand-year-old word has enjoyed a long and colorful history, evolving from a word meaning "crafty" to "clever" to "good-looking" to a diminutive version of attractive, specifically applied to women.

Today, pretty is a word we hear tossed around rather flippantly in the beauty industry, whether it be to describe a product, like a shimmery pink eye shadow; a physical feature, like long, shiny hair; or a person in general. But as our culture becomes increasingly more conscious of problematic language, we thought that it was time we take a moment to suss out our feelings about the word pretty and decide whether or not we think that this diminutive way of describing female beauty is troublesome, positive, totally benign, or a mix of all three depending on the context.

To get a diverse array of perspectives on how women really feel about the word, we decided to put together a live roundtable featuring three women from totally different backgrounds. First, we found Claire Wineland, a vivacious 20-year-old cystic fibrosis patient and activist with a robust public speaking career, a devoted social media following, and her very own nonprofit called Claire's Place Foundation, which aids other families dealing with cystic fibrosis. Then we called up Tiffany De Silva, a wellness blogger and founder of Simply Silva, who focuses on eco-friendly beauty and self-care. And last, we invited Maye Musk, dietitian and model for over 50 years, to join in as well.

Together, the four of us hopped on a Skype call and got deep into the weeds about the word pretty, challenging ourselves to analyze what the word represents to us, whether or not we think it's sexist (or at least insecurity-provoking), and what language we could possibly use instead. Read on to see what we discovered.