My mum sometimes reads ‘Take a Break’ magazine and I sneak a look to see what sort of features they’re running that might be of interest to the more skeptically minded woman. Today’s find was a readers vote asking:
What gets you further in life – being clever or looking good? Would you prefer to be like TV presenter Mary Beard, who had a PhD from Cambridge University, or pretty reality star Amy Childs, who once asked ‘where’s North London?’
The results came is at 71% for Brains and 29% for Beauty, and I whispered a little ‘hooray!’ for Mary Beard who came under misogynistic scrutiny from AA Gill when she frontlined the fascinating and captivating BBC programme ‘Meet the Romans’.
Throughout Western history there have always been men like Gill who are frightened of smart women who speak their minds, and I guess, as a professor of Classics at Cambridge University, I’m one of them. – Beard
I did wonder though where the third option of ‘both, please’ was, because I’m sure there are women out there who are passionate about educating themselves, keeping up to date with current affairs and science etc. who also have insecurities about the way they look. It is also possible to be be beautiful and highly intelligent – or not outwardly beautiful and not overly intelligent.
It’s a bit of a complicated playing field, isn’t it? Pitching the brainy against the beautiful, as though they’re mutually exclusive, to see who ‘gets further in life’ – simplifying the way in which we’re made to feel about ourselves on a daily basis by those around us, and those who present information to us such as the media and traders on the high street. We must look younger, we must weigh less and dress better and smell nice if we want to be successful – or, we can shun that and just go for brainy instead. Or we can be both unintelligent and not beautiful and sit outside the playing field altogether, peering in hopelessly at how much of a failure we are.
Nah. No thanks. I don’t see anything wrong with the way Mary Beard looks. I don’t see beautiful people as probably unintelligent – I just see a whole bunch of people being made to consider how only beauty or intelligence will get them anywhere in life. Being told how others value the success and attractiveness of others based on how they look when this isn’t at all true. It’s depressing that a fun little survey in a woman’s magazine demonstrates how stuck in patriarchal sentiment our society really is.
I remember recently tweeting that misogyny ‘was everywhere’ to which some British male skeptics mocked that I was playing ‘the victim card’, and that misogyny might be ‘everywhere’ in other countries such as Afghanistan, but not here. It made me reconsider ever writing about things on the topic of gender based discrimination or patriachal sentiments being shoved in the face of women on a daily basis, but then I realised that this in itself was exactly that. So before anyone comments to tell me I could have it worse, I’d like to point out that I know. Thanks. Really.
However you only have to look at the sentiment of things such as this every day Readers Vote to see the attitudes towards women still aren’t quite right in society even here. It’s a fair point that pitting beauty against intelligence in a magazine opinion poll isn’t as scary or oppressive as forcing women to cover their bodies and faces up on a daily basis, or shooting a woman to death because two men can’t decide who should ‘have her’, but the point is that there’s still progress to be made. Every little dig pitted against women leaves the ‘foundations’ exposed for more misogynistic things to seep in like damp mould spores – such as the anti-abortion movement that is becoming way more vocal in the UK recently. So don’t tell me I don’t have it as bad as others, or that I’m playing the victim card. I’m not and I’m not ignorant. Neither shall I shut up about the offensive sentiments I come across in the country I live in, where girls are raised to think that to be successful they’ve got to be outwardly attractive.
“I think if you’re good looking life is easier. The prettier you are, the more people will go out of their way to help you, and you’ll find it easier to find a job and find love. I would love to look at myself and know that if I fail at something, I’ll always have my looks to fall back on” – Stephanie Jade, a participant in the ‘Take a Break’ magazine poll.