I have a problem, and the problem is that we seem to have a very distinct picture of what qualities such as “power” and “intelligence” look like. We (because I’m guilty too) look at beautiful people, particularly women, and think to ourselves “She’s so beautiful she must not be very smart” or “She must be stuck up” or “I bet life has been easy for her”. When an exceptionally attractive woman holds a position of power we assume she has used her sexuality to her advantage, whereas the idea of a brilliant, handsome, MALE doctor may seem rare but realistic.
It’s as if we believe there is some sort of limit on how awesome a person can be. For those of you who played “The Sims” in middle school (or your freshman year of college…you know, no judgement here), it’s like we actually believe REAL life and REAL people are allotted a certain number of “personality points” and can only be so nice/outgoing/intelligent/neat/playful/attractive/etc. Fortunately, real people aren’t created the same way as Sims. Even if you are playful and outgoing, you can still be caring and athletic. If you’re a sloppy mess, you may still be a total grouch. And just because you’re drop dead gorgeous doesn’t mean you’re a total airhead. Shocker!
Throughout time, attractive women have been associated with cunning snake-like seduction. Biblically men are warned to avoid the evil temptation of women’s flesh, as if women are commonly tying poor unsuspecting men up and throwing themselves at them. As if a woman with curled hair, red lipstick or tight dresses could somehow deface the virtue of an innocent soul. The Siren, femme fatale characterization of sexually attractive women is present in religion, mythology, literature and art. I’m not here to debate theology or bash anyone’s religious beliefs. The majority of religious texts were written hundreds if not thousands of years ago, when the social context for women was vastly different from contemporary standards. However, I am here to argue the misconstrued body shame women grow up encountering due to the misunderstandings these texts construe at face value and thus its affect on woman’s role in society.
Little girls (and boys) are taught that in order to be taken seriously in the world they must abandon femininity. If you want a job as a CEO you better not wear pink lipstick or floral dresses. Don’t you dare participate in a beauty pageant, join a sorority or wear flowers in your hair if you ever want a career in politics. Educated, well intentioned parents urge their daughters not to play with Barbies, watch princess movies or dress as ballerinas. I get the intent here, I really do! I don’t want my future daughter to look at Barbie and long for a “thigh gap” or plastic face. I don’t want the children I nanny to watch “Cinderella” and expect a prince to save them from life’s problems and I don’t want any little girl to develop an eating disorder striving to fit the ballerina body type. I want the girls I babysit to be strong and climb trees! I want them to play in the waves at the beach without worrying about ruining their hair. For Halloween I want them to feel free to dress as pumpkins or presidents or princesses. I want these girls to look in the mirror and love whatever body they are naturally gifted with. Yet, don’t you think we’ve taken the whole “you can’t be a feminist and be feminine” idea a little too far?
If we want men to take attractive, feminine women seriously, shouldn’t we start telling little girls it’s okay to wear pink and sparkles, but it’s equally okay not to? Shouldn’t we urge young women to embrace their interests whether they are passionate about soccer, fashion, chemistry or cheerleading? What message are we sending if we praise our daughters for their success in math and science but not equally in theatre, english or art? I want to live in a world where girls are encouraged to wear tutus or camouflage, to collect bugs or porcelain unicorns, to make flower crowns or basketball goals. Being feminine and being feminist are not mutually exclusive traits and by perpetuating these two ideas as fundamentally controversial it sustains the stereotype that both men and women shouldn’t take “sexy” women seriously.
There is something inherently disturbing to me that our culture can’t take a woman we’ve seen in a bikini seriously. I’m not advocating women running for political office should campaign in La Perla. Yet, I question the deeper meaning behind the allegations against attractive women. If men hope to attract women they find sexually appealing (which duh, they obviously do) yet cannot see said woman as more than a superficial sex object than what is it we are setting ourselves up for ladies? By refusing to see more than empty headed play things when we stare at beautiful faces and bodies we are unintentionally belittling our own sexuality.
Gorgeous women aren’t the root of all misogynist evil, really, it’s true! Instead it’s the belief that the feminist movement cannot progress in stilettos or winged eyeliner, it’s the radically belittling idea that a woman’s body detracts from her mind, her sexuality “points” automatically diminish her “intelligence quotient”.
&there’s my feminist rant for today.
P.S. Loving Napa and already planning my Summer in Baltimore. Eep! Growing up is so weird!