Complicit In The Patriarchy

by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon

Complicit In The Patriarchy

When Pretty Women Act Stupid & When Smart Women Make Themselves Ugly

I have a friend who is the picture of “pretty”-conventionally attractive. She has the blonde hair, tan skin, the barbie doll figure, always 100% put together and polished. I sometimes wonder if she pops out of bed every hair in place and fake eyelashes already applied. She is also very smart but many people she meets don’t get to see that. She plays dumb, ditsy and dense.

It doesn’t fool everyone. People will tell her they can tell she is far smarter than she lets on. The other people though, the ones it does fool, look at her and see a stereotype. They see a “dumb blonde.” They see a pretty girl with air in her head and it isn’t the reality of it.

She does it because it helps her get ahead. She exploits the stereotype and through doing so reinforces it and helps the stereotype to continue. I love her to death but it drives me a little crazy. Watching her reinforce the patriarchal image of women can be kind of painful.

I don’t fault her for it really. Doing something because it makes your life easier is in human nature and you can’t expect most people to choose to buck against social expectations at their own personal expense. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to occasional yell “STOP ACTING STUPID.” Part of me can’t help but think that if you have the incredible privilege to be both smart and conventionally attractive you have some responsibility that comes with it. Some responsibility to your gender.

It’s not just pretty women playing dumb. It goes another way as well.

Smart women, ones who are proud of their intelligence, make themselves look ugly on purpose.
They wear unflattering clothes, get horrible hair cuts, wear make up that makes them look older; all because they won’t be taken as seriously if they look “pretty.” In their own way, by protecting themselves, they too are reinforcing the harmful stereotype that pretty women are idiots. Like my friend, it’s hard to fault them. It could make their careers much harder if they didn’t dress like someone’s great grandma.

Smart women shouldn’t feel that they have to dress ugly and pretty girls shouldn’t be afraid of looking smart. The only way that this harmful aspect of the patriarchy will be disassembled is for women to be proud to be smart and not afraid of looking nice at the same time. It starts one woman at a time and it takes bravery. Little girls get picked on for being “nerds” and that fear can persist throughout their lives. Smart successful women hear insults about being high maintenance if they have the gall  to wear a flattering dress. One woman at a time though can make the choice not to hide and perhaps one day smart, attractive women will no longer hear exclamations of surprise when people realize they are intelligent.