Smart is awesome. Smart is powerful. But smart is not beautiful.
Hear me out.
Obviously, phrases like “smart is beautiful” are meant to be empowering for girls and women.
I believe girls should be taught to value their intelligence from a young age; however, the phrase “smart is beautiful” perpetuates the idea that the best thing women can be is beautiful. It sends the message, “being smart is important because it contributes to your overall attractiveness.”
Why can’t we simply value a woman’s intelligence? Why is being smart not good enough on its own?
Intelligence and beauty are not mutually exclusive. Women are much more complex than the world makes us out to be.
During my freshman year, I constantly felt ugly in comparison to one of my closest friends. Guys often told me I was smart, but they told her she was attractive.
Then one day, she made a comment about how people, specifically guys, took me more seriously than they took her. She felt like they didn’t listen to her or respect her as much.
Sure, she didn’t have a problem with people thinking she was beautiful, but why couldn’t they view her as smart too? I had never even considered how she felt and hearing that definitely changed my perspective.
Why do we assume “attractive” women are unintelligent? For example, the “dumb blonde” stereotype.
Women can have more than one characteristic (shocking, I know!)
When we say “smart is beautiful,” it’s like we want to turn women’s intelligence down a notch, reducing it to “cute” or “adorable” instead of calling it what it is: absolutely brilliant. And important.
Solving an equation isn’t cute. Having an amazing idea isn’t adorable. It’s intelligent. Witty. Smart. Inspiring. Empowering.
I’m not suggesting we stop calling people beautiful. However, there’s much more to women than what they look like, and many more adjectives in the English language we can use to describe those unique strengths.
I understand phrases like “smart is beautiful” are used to empower girls to value their intelligence. But how can we teach girls being smart is awesome if we’re still implying that we should strive to be attractive or pretty? If we’re still implying that, sure, being smart is helpful, but is beauty still the #1 goal?
How often have you heard people tell boys and men being smart makes them “beautiful” or “handsome?”
“You’re so smart” should be a compliment on its own, holding no less value than “you’re beautiful.” We shouldn’t value intelligence because of the “beauty” it can give us; we should value intelligence for what it is and value women for more than how “beautiful” they are.
Image via Celina Timmerman