Earlier this week I blogged about Grey’s Anatomy’s Cristina Yang being a feminist.
I mentioned that she scoffs at being called beautiful by her husband, Owen, and would rather be complimented for her brains, not her beauty.
Sure, I enjoy being called beautiful just as much as the next girl, but I, too, would rather people recognise me for what’s on the inside, not what’s on the outside.
From “What’s the Point of Pretty?” by Sarah Von on Yes & Yes:
“‘How would you feel if the only thing people ever praised you for was something you had no control over? And how would you feel if every day, you were slowing losing the one thing people complimented you on?’”
Pretty shitty, especially when striving to be good at things outside the realm of the physical.
So I asked my friend Katrina, the most beautiful woman I know, what her thoughts on the matter were. Would she rather be considered beautiful, or be complimented on her mind?
“It’s a tough question really, so many women—beautiful or not—are inherently self-conscious. Living in the world we do, so much pressure is put on us to fit a particular type of mould. Sometimes I look at other women and think ‘I wish I had her legs’ or ‘I wish I was a unique creature like her’, but it’s not that often. More often I am happy with the way that I appear. In fact, I put more pressure on myself to be intelligent! This is therefore my choice—brains over beauty. I suppose I feel I have something to prove to myself—I’m always striving to be better, to know things. I feel like a failure if I’m not getting where I want to go—but it is my brain that enables me to get how far I am now! Our intelligence enables the world to be our opus, and I’d much rather be admired for taking up that challenge than for swanning around it in a cloud of beauty!”
But do those who are beautiful take it for granted? Is that why they choose brains over beauty? Because they’re already physically blessed? I’d be interested to know in the comments if anyone reading this feels they’re more well endowed in the brains than beauty department, and if they would change this given the choice.
As the quote from Yes & Yes illustrates, it’s actually kind of insulting to be complimented on your looks alone. If anyone should be proud of the way you look, it’s your parents, right? Beyond getting a flattering haircut, using makeup to present your (arguably) best self and—in extreme cases—getting cosmetic surgery, we don’t really have a hand in the way we look.
Maybe this is why young, cute girls are always told how young and cute they are over how smart, how unique, how funny, how nice they are. It’s usually parents and adults who say these things; children are often oblivious to the way they look until a certain age. There are articles circulating the blogosphere at the moment in regards to this. Let’s focus on things other than looks in kids, lest we end up with a world of Heidi Montag’s et al.
It’s also a generational thing, I think. People my age are more aware of the effects of focusing on looks alone, especially for women, and will hopefully raise their kids accordingly.
I had a coworker who’s pushing 40 comment on my hair recently. I was having a bad hair day anyway, and I asked if he was insulting me. He replied: “I could never insult you… not on your looks, anyway.” I found that even more insulting than the fact he thought my body hair was open for discussion!
Perhaps it was the age difference, perhaps it was because he was a man… I don’t know. I just know it’s so not appropriate to comment on people’s looks in the workplace (more on this to come tomorrow). And that equating looks to the only positive thing about someone is reprehensible.
So back to the question at hand: brains or beauty?
I would choose brains hands down. I have chosen brains.
If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gone to uni. Or started a blog. Or read books. Or incite spirited arguments amongst my friends to see what their opinions are on asylum seekers and SlutWalks, and to challenge my own.
Brains will still be with you when your looks have been washed down the drain with the dirty dish basin water. (Provided you don’t get dementia which, if my dad inherits from his dad, could be a very real possibility for me. Argh!)
*And by no means are brains and beauty mutually exclusive.
Related: Cristina Yang as Feminist.
Poor Little Rich Girl: Who Cover Girl Heidi Montag.
The Hills Have (Dead) Eyes.
My Response: Go Back to Where You Came From.
Elsewhere: [Yes & Yes] What’s the Point of Pretty?
[Jezebel] Should We Tell Little Girls They’re Pretty?
[The Huffington Post] How to Talk to Little Girls.
Image via All Posters.