news

She asked a question online and received emails telling her to die.

By GRACE JENNINGS-EDQUIST

A YouTube search for the term “Pretty or ugly video” brings up 216,000 results.

One video, published in January 2014, features a girl who looks around 15 and the caption: “People tell me I’m ugly all the time. I just want the god honest truth from you, am I ugly or am I an average girl, or am I a pretty girl?”

“What features are wrong with me and what features do I have that are good?”

In another video, a young woman in heavy eye makeup smiles hopefully at the camera, perched on the edge of her bed.

“I dunno my freinds (sic) always say i’m pretty but deep down inside I feel Like I can approve (sic) myself more!,” the caption accomanying the video reads.

“What you guys think?”

It’s a trend sure to strike fear in the heart of any young girl.

Teens and pre-teens are asking complete strangers to rate their appearance — posting videos on YouTube and asking commenters to decide if they’re ‘pretty or ugly’.

The unnerving trend has been highlighted by performance artist Louise Orwin, who recently wrote on her website that she first encountered videos of this sort in 2012, when she clicked on a YouTube video ‘with its juvenile text-speak title: “Pretty/UGLY PLZ TELL ME!”‘

“I first thought must be a joke. But a few minutes into the video, the searing honesty and anxiety of the author struck me. (The girl in the video) couldn’t have been older than 12 or 13,” she said.

Louise Orwin, appearing on Sunrise.

The 27-year-old London-based artist and researcher told Sunrise yesterday she became curious to know why these girls were posting the videos, what the effects were and what the trend meant for feminism today — so she posed as a teenager, posted a series of ‘pretty or ugly’ videos online, and documented the shocking responses.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Within a week one of them went viral, and I remember waking up one morning to just torrents of abuse,” she said.

“I think I had about 200 email notications in my inbox that morning. They were telling me that i should get my nose fixed, that I should go kill myself,” she said.

She said the experience stung, even as an adult with a more reasoned perspective on body image issues.

“It was hard. I’m 27 years old, I had that level of distance, and yet to me that was just so hard to take,” she said.

Orwin has written on her website that she was also ‘sent many inappropriate messages from older men’ after posting the videos.

She estimates the average age of authors of these kind of videos to be 9-13 years.

Louise, who has now created a live performance, Pretty Ugly, based on her research, also interviewed a number of teenage girls as part of the project. Interestingly, she said many of those girls ‘found the trend perturbing’ — even those who admitted to participating in the videos.

“What I found extremely interesting was that there seemed to be a sense of guilt surrounding the importance placed upon looks by these girls,” she said.

“In many of the interviews I found the girls answering that they knew they shouldnt see looking good as an important part of their lives, but that it was almost necessary: ‘to get higher socially’, ‘to talk to boys’, ‘to feel good’.”

What would you do if a teenage girl you knew posted a ‘pretty or ugly’ video online? Is this the first you’ve heard of this trend?

[post_snippet id=324408]

00:00 / ???