Friday, 6 March 2009

Here's an interesting post by Michelle at Lonergrrrl, inspired by this piece by India Knight and all the recent coverage of Gail Trimble and her appearances on University Challenge. Both do a good job of summing up what I've been feeling about the whole situation ever since we started hearing about Gail and her intellect.

I have to say I'm not sure about India's comment that being 'brainy' was valued when she was at school and that derision of 'swots' is a frecent phenomenon; I'm sure kids have been teased for being clever for decades. I was definitely picked on mercilessly for getting A grades and being very serious during my days at secondary school and remember well how myself and others were teased and ostracised. I particularly remember one girl telling me I'd never get a boyfriend - 'it's not like anyone will ever fancy you!'. Intelligence and bookishness apparently can't go hand in hand with 'attracive' femininity.

As Michelle says:

'...a patriarchal capitalist society requires its women to be feminine and heterosexual in order to keep functioning, hence the push by mainstream media (and even some alternative media for that matter- alternative politics and music are also unsettled by the woman with the scrubbed face who questions too much) to feminise and heterosexualise clever women.

They try and placate a woman’s intelligence, get her back in that feminine box, by giving her a makeover, sexing her up, highlighting the fact that she still likes to indulge in feminine pursuits such as shopping, and most importantly of all, ‘has time for boys.’

If they can do this - get her in low-cut top & lippy, get her to admit that the pursuit of knowledge isn’t everything to her – then they’ll let her off for having the temerity to use her brain. As long as she’s heterosexualised and feminised we can just about stomach a woman’s bookishness.'

It comes back to something I find myself saying a lot, that all too often it's apparent that the only way for a woman to be accepted, to be praised, is if she conforms to conventional beauty standards and femininity and is therefore somehow of worth to heterosexual men. Without this, she's just a target for abuse, mockery and deemed unacceptable. I think it's so important for women to stop measuring their self-worth by how acceptable they are to men. I know this was a major turning point in my own self-esteem. As Michelle says, we need to determine our own standards to live by, ones which suit women.

I'm off to Million Women Rise tomorrow. Post to follow!

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