Beauty or brains? That’s a question that is asked far too often in what I thought was a modern world. Virtual reality, iWatches, and 3D printing all exist, but the idea that a woman can be both educated and interested in her physical appearance is inconceivable to a rather large quantity of people. The question people really seem to be asking is “Feminine or Educated?”. Why does this outdated philosophy that a woman’s only options are being a vapid, thoughtless doll whose sole purpose is to please the male gaze or a homely spinster whose life is dreadfully incomplete without the man she’ll never attain due to her intelligence and theoretical ugliness still exist? This question is instilled into the lives of girls at an incredibly young age, and is something that they are forced to believe is a choice they’ll actually have to make.
I can recall being asked the “Beauty or Brains?” question as early as elementary school. I was immensely puzzled by the question. How was it even possible to decide to be beautiful? Brains were rather tempting, but then again, who wanted to be ‘ugly’? I couldn’t conceive why there had to be a decision, but I made one regardless. With my lofty life goals in mind, I selected brains. In all honesty, the decision was more difficult than I’d like to admit. If only I knew that the all-important question that I was faced with was nothing more than a lie. You don’t have to pick. Unfortunately, many women still haven’t been told that. They alter themselves to meet the rigid standards of the Beautiful and the Brains. I dream of a time when girls know that they can be both. That they are both.
My name is Grace Brandt. I wear a skirt and headband to school everyday while carrying a Michael Kors purse in the crook of my arm. My favorite movie is Clueless and I play a princess at children’s birthday parties. Pink is my favorite color and going shopping at the mall (preferably J. Crew) is one of my favorite activities. My hair is rarely left natural, my lashes are never devoid of mascara, and my lips are constantly a cheery shade of bubblegum. This is me.
My name is Grace Brandt. I have a 4.0 GPA and hope to attend Wellesley College. At Wellesley, I plan on studying law in order to become a successful politician. Last year, I was the student council president and I am currently a member of the my high school quiz bowl team. I am the only youth member of my school district’s Health & Wellness Board and I was a member of a state-wide youth board against tobacco in which I was named an Outstanding Advocate of the Year after only my first year. I am currently reading Emma, Pride & Prejudice, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and Anna Karenina simultaneously. This is also me.
Yes, I love Disney Princess movies. Yes, I own far more skirts than jeans. Yes, I’m a cheerleader. Yes, I read Cosmopolitan and Teen Vogue. Yes, my top used emoji is the sparkly pink heart. Does this make me any less of a feminist? Does this mean that I can’t one day change the world? Does this mean I couldn’t care less about politics? Not in the least.
Mae C. Jemison, the first African-American woman in space and chemical engineer is also an incredible jazz dancer. Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and HeForShe representative, is a fashion designer, actress, and yoga teacher. When not serving as Secretary of State or running for President, Hillary Clinton is fond of gardening and watching Dancing With the Stars. These successful ladies all enjoy partaking in “feminine” activities, and are all rather lovely. Are they any less beautiful because of their impressive accomplishments? Due to their enjoyment of these pastimes, are they somehow physically unable to partake in any activities requiring intelligence? Contrary to what many young girls and women are made to think, you can accomplish remarkable feats while enjoying things that are considered to be girly or feminine. Finding joy in those things doesn’t magically make your brain disappear and your knowledge vanish.
To all women, young or old: Don’t hold back your interests for fear that they might cancel out your accomplishments. You can be feminine. You can be masculine. You can be whatever you want to be. No matter what, you can do anything. Be an astronaut, an activist, or a politician. Watch your reality TV shows and take your dance lessons. Learn karate and be a member of science club. Wear your makeup and go to the mall. Watch Doctor Who and read comic books. Maybe be like me and watch Doctor Who in your makeup. You are beautiful and you have a brain. It’s not an either/or situation. You don’t have to choose! That’s the beauty of it. The only thing you have to choose is whether or not you’re going to get out there and do YOU.