Why are Women Forced to Choose Between Beauty and Brains?
For some reason young girls are told that they can’t be smart and pretty. You get to be the beauty, or the brains. The damsel in distress, or the nerdy sidekick. If you show any kind of intelligence, you’re pigeonholed before you get any say in the matter and boxed into a space marked “ugly.” Pretty girls are stupid, and smart girls are ugly, and there’s no travelling between the two. There are so many illustrations of this in our media; the way that attractive film stars and models are only asked dumb questions by journalists, and the way that intelligent women are shown as unattractive, bossy, boring, and hard work. People act like a woman with a beautiful face is incapable of opening a book and stringing a sentence together.
Let’s take it back for a second: why is ‘beauty or brains’ even a choice? Why is it only those two? Can’t a woman be neither, never mind both? We know when we’ll have an equal society, because women will be allowed to be as average as men are. Women will be allowed to roll into work with minimal outfit effort, do the bare minimum, and get payed handsomely for it.
It’s frustrating because we shouldn’t worry about how ‘ugly’ we are (what even is ‘ugly’ anyway?!) because it’s such an unfruitful worry. There are times when it doesn’t matter how smart I think I am, I sit and worry about my cellulite and worry that it makes me worthless, but why?! It adds nothing to my life, yet still. And it’s even more frustrating because I’m so educated in how the patriarchy occupies women with worries about cellulite rather than letting them get on with stuff that really matters, yet I still feel that pressure to change myself, make myself smoother, smaller, prettier, quieter, more palatable. That extra thing that would make me “worth more”, because we’re told we’re not enough as we are. Because that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? Doing that thing, wearing that shirt, toning this thing down, because it makes us more palatable. It makes us easier to digest.
Women are so restricted in what the world wants us to be, so much so that intelligence and beauty are seen as polar opposites, rather than things that are kind of unrelated. If I make an effort in my appearance, it’s not because my brain’s taking the day off, and it’s not because I’m trying to pigeonhole myself. We at LAPP don’t understand why the patriarchy keeps trying to box women into places that we’ll never fit into. Women contain multitudes (perhaps this is because we’re human?!) and we’re allowed to be everything and nothing all at once, if we want to be. The point is, you don’t have to shrink yourself into ‘beauty or brains’, or into any other binary that society tells us we need to fit. We’re not built to be subtle! If we’re as vibrant and as brilliant as we want to be then we unconsciously allow others taking influence from us to do the same. I write all this to say: we are fine as we are.
Written by Rochelle Asquith
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