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The beauty and the brains.

A compliment we don’t question.

By Eva SmittePublished 11 months ago Updated 11 months ago 7 min read
by @danny_gaska_photography

Culture stereotypes women to fit the myth by flattening the feminine into beauty without intelligence or intelligence without beauty; women are allowed a mind or a body but not both.”

Naomi Wolf

I’ve used this Instagram hashtag myself in the past, without giving it second thought. A quick search reveals that #beautyandbrains has 716 k entries on the above mentioned social media platform. I remember someone refering to me as that in the university during my philosophy studies. It was definitely meant as a compliment, and I certainly enjoyed hearing it at the time, mainly because back then I doubted I have got either. Over the years however, my perception of both myself and the society has changed , and I did start to wonder why is there such an expression to begin with. It says in an indirect way, that more often than not, those two are mutually exclusive. You are either beautiful or smart. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t any evidence that genetically it makes any sense, and yet if you have both - you are literally a lottery winner. Because what are the odds?

Needless to say, beauty is something that is highly subjective, not only due to the personal preferences, but also the fashion trends that continue changing over the course of history.

The meaning we attribute to the word “smart” also means different things to different people. What they call ‘street smart’ is very different to the academic kind of smart, and both pale in comparison to what I personally consider to be the ultimate pinnacle of intelligence - the wisdom.

In everyday life, it seems to be the case that for a lot of people, the definition of ‘highly intelligent’ is often some variation of what is actually better termed as ‘cunning’ or ‘manipulative’. After all is said and done, it is one’s values that determine what equals intelligence in their books.

Perhaps, the only more or less objective way to measure this criteria, is the IQ test, and yet it is rarely taken that far when the above expression enters the conversation.

Of course it can be argued that if one possesses what is subjectively branded as “good looks”, one might not be as driven to develop other faculties , as life is supposedly easier for good looking people. While I can see some logic in this, I think this causality applies to a very small percentage of people. First of all I believe that the degree of one’s intellect is an inborn trait, the potential of course can be developed further by acting upon it or not, and this is where historically the society’s conditioning steps in, at least for women, and below I will explore why.

While in theory this “compliment” can be aimed at both genders, in practice more often than not it is directed towards the fair sex, hence why the roots of it most likely have to do with the female population and its history. This line of thinking isn’t meant to place blame on men , nor to paint women as victims. It is simply an exploration at how certain attitudes were developed, attitudes that still have presence in the perceptions of many.

Long story short, it is only in the last hundred years or so, that women have the access to education and the academic world, as well as the workplace. So what would be one of the consequences of this historical fact? Evidently, the intelligence not being recognised and developed in the fairer sex until recently. That doesn’t mean that women didn’t have it, but they were certainly not expected to use it, as a result of not having the access to education and the workplace. I have to add that it is my belief that the mere fact of education doesn’t automatically equal high intelligence either. In fact, at times it can indoctrinate and diminish ones capacity for critical thinking, if one simply follows the script, never asks any questions, and doesn’t develop their own independent thought.

Either way, I believe there is a direct link with the above events and the beliefs and stereotypes that were developed in the society as a result. It is these beliefs that are hard to shake for some people, hence why the appearance of certain expressions.

By Tai's Captures on Unsplash

But I want to take this further and argue that despite the expression suggesting that the combination of a certain physical appearance and the brain power is the ultimate jackpot one can win while in the female body, these are merely two aspects of what being a woman and being a human is. The irony is that the above mentioned hashtag, while created with the intention to be expansive, is actually very limiting. Basically this expression limits a human being to just two aspects - the physical body and the intellect. The two things which were historically highly valued in the patriarchal society, yet split in two - intellect being attributed to men, hence allowing them to study, get education, and achieve things in the world, while denying it to women; and beauty being a highly valued quality in women, who were expected to just marry, have children and stay at home. There is nothing wrong with this if that is truly what a woman wants, as opposed to her only option of survival in the society.

Going back to the expression, it makes it sound as if the feeling quality of a human being , the heart, let alone the soul is out of the equation , perhaps because a lot of the time it wasn’t as highly valued in our world, so often torn apart by wars and other cruelties. As a result, as a society, we are deeply emotionally immature. It is the emotional intelligence that mainly gets compromised as a result of trauma, and the one we should learn to value more if our world is to have any hope of survival. Especially now that the AI, otherwise known as the artificial intelligence is gaining such a momentum and is most likely becoming a lot smarter than us. In what ways it might be so, still remains to be seen, however there is no doubt that we still have something that can’t be replaced by technology, and that is the higher wisdom, that combines both the heart and the mind.

It is a commonly held belief that generally speaking, women are naturally more nurturing and connected to the qualities of empathy and compassion, and while that might be true on the biological level, the Nature as opposed to nurture kind of level, in the practice it is often not the case. I happen to know some very empathetic men, who are a lot more likely to be understanding and validating. A lot depends on the environment one grew up in, what qualities their mothers and fathers exhibited and so on. This brings me to the fact that first and foremost we are individuals with unique histories, genetics, influences (personal and social/cultural), strengths and weaknesses, which inevitably affect the way our gender expresses itself . Additionally, in the recent years and decades a lot of women were forced to be predominantly in their masculine energy in order to prove that they are able to do everything a man can do, which isn’t healthy a lot of the time.

It might seem like there is a certain contradiction in my thinking , first I emphasise how historically women were dominated and forced into certain traditional roles and excluded from others. Then I follow with a hint that feminism got it all wrong assuming we are the same as men. I don’t perceive it as a contradiction and here is why; being equal doesn’t mean being the same. It means being equally valuable, having equal opportunities, the ability to choose what to do with one’s life. One not being subservient to the other. One not being better or worse than the other. Sameness/being identical on the other hand is a totally different concept. Not only the two genders aren’t the same, as was established above - every person in the world is a unique individual, with a unique expression of different strengths and weaknesses.

What’s more, regardless of one’s gender, we all have both masculine and feminine energies present within us, albeit in very different degrees. On the physical level, it can be seen in the fact that the sex hormones such as estrogen (female) and tostesterone (male) are present in both men and women, of course in very different quantities . On a psychological level, the famous Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung and his work on anima and animus are good resources to explore.

By Дмитрий Хрусталев-Григорьев on Unsplash

However, there are obviously some very distinct differences when it comes to two genders - biological, psychological, hormonal and energetic. And while it appears that there is currently a lot of confusion out there for both genders around what it means to be a man, and what it means to be a woman, with conflicting messages for both across the board, since I happen to be a woman, I can only have a perspective of one. Speaking of the physical differences, male and female brains indeed are not the same. A controversial subject, one that different scientists seem to disagree about. The below article made the most sense to me:

After reading the above article, it becomes very clear that those differences are in fact designed to compliment each other, further establishing that one is not better than the other, aka equality.

I want to end this article with a quote that caught my attention recently, I feel it communicates in a very deep way what we all should strive towards, regardless of our gender.

“Not all women are wise , but wisdom has a feminine form. She lives as a quality in men and women who seek her. She is there to reshape every human intellect into a wise sureness- if one asks her, if one loves her, if one seeks her. In ancient Egypt she was called Isis, the Greek sought her as Sophia, and she appeared in a human form as Maria.. that is how Christians know her. She pours herself out in every soul that goes through catharsis, purification. Each purification, however slight, gives wisdom - wisdom is a woman.” Mieke Mosmuller.

feminismgender rolesbodybeauty

About the Creator

Eva Smitte

Writer, model, mental health advocate. Instagram @eva_smitte

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    Eva SmitteWritten by Eva Smitte

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