A tall, gawky man sports a pair of outdated eye-glasses. Looking into the camera, he smiles and declares that he can solve a Rubik’s cube in precisely 10.33 seconds. In another room, a slender woman caked in rosy-colored makeup gazes into a mirror, caressing her hair and scrutinizing her physique.
Now in its fifth season, the CW reality show Beauty and the Geek pairs seven “Geeks,” men who depend on intellect rather than social aptitude, with seven “Beauties,” young women who rely primarily on their looks, to compete as couples for $250,000.
Advertised as “The Ultimate Social Experiment,” the show attempts to dramatize a supposed “collision of worlds” in which the narcissistic “Beauties” encounter the shy “Geeks.” Although the show attempts to bond these two groups of people despite their apparent differences, it instead reinforces stereotypes of shallowness and intelligence. I, however, do not subscribe to this false dichotomy between physical beauty and intelligence. Rather, I fervently believe that girls and women can be both intellectual and attractive.
At Marlborough, we are fortunate that we don’t have to worry about our appearance on a daily basis. With uniforms, pressure to dress in stylish clothing is virtually non-existent. In this way, the School uniform code reduces social anxiety, allowing girls to focus their attention more on academics than style.
In the Upper School Science classes, for example, such as Honors or AP Chemistry, students must occasionally dress for lab work and abstain from aesthetics, since safety is top priority. Thus, it’s logical that anyone truly immersed in academia would prefer to put the majority of her energy toward discoveries, experiments and studying than toward fashion, dieting and make-up.
With this in mind, at Marlborough it is understandable that we sometimes choose to trade good grooming for extra time devoted to cramming for exams. We sacrifice beauty, for instance, when we opt out of brushing our hair or scouting out the ideal lip color in the hopes of sparing five minutes to review those vocabulary words for that AP French exam first period.
However, as students, we must not allow the uniform code to become an excuse for lazy habits. When we graduate into the “real world,” the sorry truth is that as women, we will be judged first and foremost on superficial details. Therefore, we should take these standards to heart and try to adhere to the School’s uniform code. I believe that we Marlborough girls should be allowed to focus on our studies but should also be careful to not neglect our appearance.
Pop-culture stereotypes undeniably equate beauty with dim-wittedness or a lack of intelligence. Despite our best intentions, biases based on gender and even attractiveness still cling ferociously to our society. It’s a sad truth, but in order for us to defy these stereotypes, we are going to need to be those smart but also pretty girls that change people’s minds.
We can’t help it: from a young age, we are faced with cultural norms as expressed by the media, that subject women to all sorts of sexist standards and divert attention from our competence to perpetuate gender roles that are separate and by no means equal.
Although I regard “brains” as essential to the beauty package, I also consider how feeling beautiful is a crucial part of the life of a female. In other words, I believe that caring about your appearance is not the ultimate betrayal of feminism. Rather, embracing the way you look and appreciating your features are the ultimate signs of self-confidence.