Trolling around on TvTropes the other day, as I often do when putting off grading, I was instantly infuriated by a comment regarding glasses. The following description of “Imperfect Beauty” was given:
“This kind of character would be very beautiful, if it wasn’t for some kind of flaw that ruins their beauty. Maybe it is a scar, glasses, a tail or another kind of flaw or uncommon trait.”
Seriously? Glasses are as bad as a *tail*?! I don’t think so.
I have definitely had some students who are squinting at the board from the back row, and I ask them if they need a closer seat or if they can see. Suddenly they realize that they might see better with their glasses and put them on. I want those girls to feel comfortable putting their glasses on with pride *before* class starts, as this will help them take in the math and other things around them. Here is an article describing a survey revealing that far too many women in the UK are going without the glasses they need out of fear of being viewed as unattractive. Now, as an alleged intellectual, I should be asking, “What about the men in this survey? Do a quarter of all men who need glasses also go without?” I could not find the actual survey online , but the ideas described in the article are real.
Yes, I will freely admit that I quickly whip off my glasses when a photo is taken. This is more than anything due to the fact that they still reflect and glare when photographed, despite the special coating on them. And yet, I must ask myself if that really is the only reason. Is it possible that I have slightly bought into the stereotypes that outrage me so much?
I was once the teaching assistant for a teacher who had given the class a cryptogram, which turned out to be the notorious quote, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Especially in a class with an awkward gender ratio, I was horrified beyond belief that he had included this.
Yes, in many ways it has gotten a lot better. Intelligence in women is no longer BAD and so the appearance of having ever opened a book does not dissuade people in the same way anymore. Shows like 30 Rock, while not exactly portraying Tiny Fey as a complete social butterfly, at least show a woman with glasses having relationships and doing normal things. But movies are still made today which feature the magical Makeover Montage. Most of the time, this involves the dramatic removal of the glasses. I’m looking at you, Princess Diaries. And how about She’s All That? Yes, I know part of the plot was about getting the female lead to open up. But look at this picture. (Ignore the overalls.) This is a beautiful young woman! “Before” shot, indeed!
To end on an optimistic note, I reveal this rant to be against the cliche-driven but influential media, and not against anyone I actually know. I don’t know when the last time was that I actually remember anyone getting made fun of for wearing glasses. It seems to be all media-propagated, because so many writers are too uncreative to do anything but fall upon dated stereotypes. But TV and movies get into children’s brains like nobody’s business, so it is worthwhile to challenge these ideas.