Thursday, October 16, 2008

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I realize I'm cross-posting this several times on Facebook and Delicious (which re-feeds to my Facebook wall), but I'm in a hate-the-world-for-telling-women-to-change-just-to-bag-a-man mood.

I fully support ogling hot bodies in fundraising calendars as well as posing in them (seriously, how fun would the photo shoot be?!), but the general trend of commodifying and oversexualizing the appearance of intelligence (not intelligence itself) is a tad repulsive.
Bostonist | "Nerd Chic" not really "Nerdy"

... Maybe we wouldn't be so annoyed by this if it didn't seem to be part of a trend. Tufts' "Nerd Girls" proclaim, "Brains are beautiful, geek is chic, smart is sexy, not either/or"--subtly suggesting that if you're smart but not sexy you're not actually smart. That strikes us as pretty problematic. The club was supposedly created to "empower" female engineers, but slapping on some makeup and a halter top is not necessarily empowering--it's just a way to dress, nothing more.

The Nerd Girls recognize only attractive, skinny women as "chic geeks," recreating exactly the type of exclusionary social structure they're pretending to subvert. They laud a cheerleader and aerospace engineer as though there's something wrong with just being a plain ol' aerospace engineer, and praise Natalie Portman for her "intelligent hotness," as if intelligence alone isn't worthy of note.

... Of course smart and sexy aren't mutually exclusive. But nor are they the same thing. Putting on a skimpy top doesn't give you brains--and knowing the answer in math class doesn't make you unattractive. Smarts should be appealing, and all women (and men) should be able to flaunt their sexuality (without being labeled stupid) if they so choose. But being sexualized is not a required part of being smart. It's okay to be dumpy and dowdy at times. Self-worth should come from personality and intelligence, not appearance. By overemphasizing the physical, the Nerd Girls are de-emphasizing the intellectual and undermining their own stated mission.
And now, off to an MIT karaoke bar that a friend recommended...

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