This may sound strange, but when I was younger I was embarrassed by my intelligence. I never told anyone outside of my family, the results of my IQ test until recently (and I won’t be sharing them here, so please do not ask me). I acted like it wasn’t a big deal when I skipped a grade in high school, allowing me to graduate and head off to university a full year before my peers. I downplayed the full scholarship and early acceptance letter I received from one of the top rated schools in Canada. I hated the impact of being switched over to the grade eight class for kids who were excelling, so much, that I asked to be transferred back after a few weeks. I cared what people thought of me and I wanted them to like me. That was my priority back then and I am not proud of that now. I should have been proud of my accomplishments and my self-driven successes, even as a very young woman.
Society had taught me that it was better to be attractive and fun than smart and plain. As a child, it was easy to believe that it was more important to be desired by a man (or maybe a woman) than it was to be accepted into university. I grew up in the Disney Princess generation, specifically, Little Mermaid where she gives up her family, her voice and her natural body to find “true love”. We are told that for women, being married matters more than most other goals. I bought in and willingly hid “my smarts” in order to be liked and desired, I mistakenly thought that was the secret to happiness. The media rarely lets beauty and brains intersect and when they do, the woman is usually career driven and alone, despite her obvious beauty. The Devil Wears Prada always comes to mind when I think of an example. I’ve since realized that it is possible for women to be both attractive and intelligent as well as a variety of other traits all at one time. While the media is far more likely to feature men as the lead character in television shows, books and movies, and thus the more well-developed character, women are just as interesting, in real life.
Beyond the idea that intelligence and beauty can coexist is the idea that intelligence is one of the things that can make a woman appear beautiful. I will speak for myself in saying that I find intelligent and kind people to be far more beautiful than those society deems worthy of the cover of a magazine. Just because I pose in lingerie to promote body positivity, doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent and successful. In fact, much of the bopo community is made up of women who hold multiple degrees and in some cases, PhDs. I’m not saying formal education is the only way to measure intelligence, to be clear. Many of us have books or amazing projects that keep us surviving financially. Most of us our feminists and yes a majority of us pose in our underwear, so the SWERFs really need to tone down their slut-shaming and recognize how they are contributing to a culture of victim blaming. It is important that we allow women the space to exist in whatever way they choose, instead of being limited by a few archetypes or fearing repercussions through violence or harassment. We are more than the cheerleader, the nerd, the activist and the rebel. We don’t have to be limited by stereotypes of women, we can be all of those things and much more. I want young women to know that being smart, is sexy!