Beauty or The Brain?: Deconstructing the “Either, Or” Narrative


The glowing mind is now a tick on nearly each bucket listing and has the potential to turn into the brand new, hotter substitute of bodily magnificence.

– Fadilah Ali

Intellectual requirements, drastically in contrast to magnificence requirements, have at all times been so low for girls that they may as effectively be thought-about non-existent. For most of historical past, the roles of pondering, giving opinions, and hypothesizing have been male-dominated. Women, alternatively, had been tasked with the job of wanting fairly. With the existence of those containers neatly outlined in binaries, a lady’s mind was not solely framed as substandard but in addition a menace to scholarly males. These ladies had been thought-about a disservice to femininity, for the best way they ventured into strictly masculine endeavours.

The amelioration of this sorry plight of ladies had (the early waves of) feminism to thank. It successfully steered public opinion in direction of the enlightenment that girls had a lot and extra to supply than fairly faces and killer our bodies. Radical second-wave feminism, particularly, disavowed magnificence and beautification and regarded it as antithetical to feminist beliefs. In order for girls to be totally empowered, they needed to detach and elevate themselves from the necessity to appear and feel fairly. Simone de Beauvoir herself writes, within the basic scripture of second-wave feminism, The Second Sex, that “when (a woman) has once accepted her vocation as a sexual object, she enjoys adorning herself.”

Being conventionally enticing was dangerous sufficient, however going out of the best way to line these eyes and powder that nostril and put on that scent, all to reinforce magnificence condemned such ladies as prepared accomplices of their oppression. One would argue that this stance was excessive and that denouncing beautification was pointless. But, for a society that prized ladies for his or her magnificence, it was pressing to create a brand new social foreign money for girls; one which had no set requirements, one which wasn’t supposed to cater to the male gaze, one which didn’t base their value on appearances.

Consequently, magnificence and beautification grew to become anti-feminist. Women’s faces and our bodies not needed to attraction to males with a purpose to take part in society and be handled with respect. Women’s mind (and character) mattered extra, and wonder grew to become understood as an unintended attribute that performed little relevance within the character of the stated girl. This paradigm shift birthed many extra wins within the space of ladies’s rights and gender equality, as most of the rights hitherto withheld from ladies hinged on their being seen as an amalgamation of fairly faces, seductive physique elements and nothing extra. Because ladies solely wanted to be fairly and never sensible, they didn’t must vote or work or maintain public places of work and even examine. Assuring the beforehand uninformed public that girls had been a lot greater than playthings dangling beneath the arms of their male counterparts questioned the legitimacy of the plethora of rights inaccessible to ladies, and facilitated the actualization of these rights.

Decades later, the world has surfed on two extra waves of feminism (pun supposed), and much more rights and alternatives have been secured for girls. The query of ladies distancing themselves from grooming their appearances, and as an alternative specializing in ‘being smart’ nonetheless stands. Despite the flourishing beauty industries and plastic surgical procedures, extra ladies at the moment are embracing the One True Objective: being ‘extra than simply fairly faces. And, the disavowal of magnificence has left a gaping gap ready to get replaced with the closest commodifiable parameter: mind.

As earlier talked about, mental requirements exist the best way magnificence requirements do. While most magnificence requirements for girls border on the debasing, injurious and even unimaginable, mental requirements are so low they plunge deeper into the extremities of the earth each hour. Perhaps, not the intent behind The Second Sex, nevertheless it must be stated that we as a society within the Twenty first century, have come again to concerning ladies as intellectually inferior. The distinction is, this time, we did it in uplifting language.

The dramatic change in compliments provided to ladies could but be the obvious marker. While ladies’s social foreign money nonetheless largely stays as magnificence, mind can now be thought-about a detailed second. Women displaying even a lick of intelligence are not met with hostility, however with approval laced with willful condescension. Brainpower, extensively thought-about a person’s area turns into a uncommon asset in a lady, and each time she workouts it in probably the most fundamental affair, she have to be praised to the skies. Bonus factors, if she pays no thoughts to fancy dressing. Then, she has liberated herself from the shallow wants of normal ladies and is now on par along with her male counterparts. This sentiment has given us oxymoronic slogans like “substance over beauty” and “beauty and brains” and “not like other girls”.

As the modelling and trend industries progress, the main ladies make sure that to exit of their approach to state that they’re much greater than their appearances. Women in STEM and different historically male-dominated careers have an edge on this regard, as their proximity to maleness insulates them from the fickleness of self-grooming. It just isn’t unusual for the Twenty first-century progressive girl to look down on historically female ladies, for being petty and common. It has turn into feminist to sentence ladies who take pleasure in beautification, to query them on what they create to the desk (in marriage to a person), or to easily cost them with enjoying into stereotypes that paint all ladies as weak and petty. These endeavours go manner again to the drafting board; they don’t disparage female ladies almost as a lot as they profit the questioner, and her must set herself aside from the “rest”.

Unlike the preliminary intent of elevating mind as superior to magnificence with a purpose to place extra worth on each girl, the trendy quest for being considered as sensible exists as a result of being sensible has turn into fashionable. In order to be deemed an mental, all a lady has to do typically, is to dazzle an viewers with some cool area of interest data, be measuredly grandiloquent, and possess a cushty stage of confidence.

What this commodification of intelligence does to ladies is that, identical to magnificence, ladies will inadvertently be prized for supposed brainpower. It is not (as) trendy to be fairly and breathtakingly so. To actively search lovely ladies now could be to be superficial. Therefore, the glowing mind is a tick on the bucket listing and has the potential to turn into the brand new, hotter substitute of bodily magnificence. Smart has turn into the brand new fairly.

The factor about this improvement is that, regardless of the preliminary intent to free ladies from being judged over bodily appearances which they haven’t any management over, it’s nonetheless limiting. There is infinitely extra to an individual than math equations, chemistry legal guidelines and nice grammatical prowess. Seeking ladies only for being sensible just isn’t up to now faraway from in search of them for his or her magnificence. It is similar commodification, involving the identical style of backhanded compliments, the identical must characterise ladies based mostly on one or two outward qualities. It might additionally take root from the trendy want to attain progressive factors.

Before now, ladies had been desired for his or her capability to put on the most effective appears to be like and clothes. Now, ladies are starting to be desired for his or her capability to churn out (already well-liked) opinions, to train superficial confidence, to be overly philosophical, all of those beneath the scrutiny of dismissive maleness. So whereas we went from pondering that girls are intellectually inferior to males to realising that that isn’t the case, we have now gone again to that commonplace by associating mental development with males whereas praising ladies who’ve it by making them out to be remoted accidents out of the homogenous crowd.

The want for performative intellectualism one way or the other blurs out the precise that means of being sensible, as a result of fairly than uplift, it undermines the precise ladies who labored tirelessly for them. There must be a brand new standardized definition of intelligence, particularly on this age of politicians and distinguished figures within the media, leisure and in any other case, particularly on this peak of social media the place each remark fulfils the have to be seen as mental, and “not-like-the-others.” Most of what we regard as intelligence is retentive reminiscence, obligatory philology, a sure outspoken character and a loud voice to go along with it.

I nonetheless don’t consider that girls must do something in cultivating their bodily appearances with a purpose to be taken significantly. As cliché because it sounds, I consider in a wise steadiness inside all private features and the counter-commodification of those social currencies. A pricey good friend would say: “I like being smart and I like being pretty but I don’t like being liked for being smart or pretty.”

Fadilah Ali is the Features Editor for The Muslim Women Times. She has a B.Sc in Microbiology and he or she is enthusiastic about studying, writing, ladies’s rights, and tafsir.


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