When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I would often hear my teachers, parents, some adults and some of the boys in my school refer to some of the girls in my age group as beautiful. I would look into the mirror and try to convince myself that I was also beautiful. Around that time, I was quite chubby and round and so I wondered if that was the reason no one seemed to see me as a beautiful girl. I tried enhancing my beauty by making sure I was always neat in school, even when my optometrist recommended that I wear sunglasses because of my eyes, I refused because I felt they were not beautiful enough and would highlight my ugliness even more. I only hide to wear them and one time my schoolmates teased me that I looked like a blind girl in them, I stopped wearing them altogether. I got a small container and fetched some shea butter from our kitchen into the container. I used the butter to shine my lips often. I would also put some powder on my face, but I still did not get the ‘you are beautiful’ compliment.
When I did not get that recognition, I tried sports, I tried playing football but I was never selected to join the school ladies’ football team, I gave up on that too. When it was time for inter-school cultural activities, I tried to find my feet there but I was neither selected for the dance nor drama. I wasn’t even considered for poetry. I had one last opportunity to prove my worth, which was in the march past competition that schools took part in every 6th March (Independence Day). That too, I was never selected and so I was disappointed. How would I get to be recognized and accepted by all the people around me? Then I remembered that if I wasn’t good enough to be recognized for my beauty or to be outstanding in sports and other activities, then maybe I should channel all the energy into my studies. After all, that was why I was in school. If I studied hard, then maybe someday, I would be able to impress my teachers and parents. Not that I was a poor student, I was average and I believed that I could improve upon that if I put in more effort. To cut a long story short, I did stand out in the Basic Education Certificate Exams (BECE).
After that, I did not struggle to fit in, I wasn’t that girl you would pick first out of several girls after looking at our faces or body shape, but if you engaged with me, you would want to engage with me again. I just needed time to prove my worth. Maybe if I was told I am beautiful at that time, or if I had excelled in sports and other extracurricular activities, I would have had the recognition I sought and would not have put much effort into my education then. One thing I forgot back then was that, I could be beautiful as well ass intelligent at the same time. For one reason or another, I was convinced that beauty with brains was a rare trait that only a few women possessed. While beauty or brains alone can help one to sustain a social life, there are limits to pursuing one at the expense of the other.
You may have heard the phrase, beauty with brains, or probably used it before. Why did you use it? What made it use it, and who did you say it to? Let me make a guess: you use it for a female who did something incredible, and you just wanted to appreciate her intelligence but wanted to acknowledge her beauty as well, right? If not the same reason, I’m sure your reason for using beauty with brains on that female colleague, coursemate, sister, mother, or a random female was similar to my guess. Well, it might not be such a bad idea to acknowledge a female’s beauty and intelligence at the same time. If that is the case, why am I ranting in this post? To a lot of people, beauty with brains is just one of the many compliments to give to a lady who in their view is outstanding in beauty and in intelligence However, a lot of people also see this to be a stereotype. A stereotype because beauty with brains seems to suggest the presumption that, a beautiful woman is not often supposed to be intelligent, and only ‘ugly’ women are supposed to show intelligence. Thus, it is rare to find these two important qualities in one woman. Is that, however, the case? Not at all, because first of all, beauty and intelligence are not two parallel qualities that a female can only possess either, she can have the two and even more outstanding qualities. There are a lot of beautiful women all over the world, they are not just beautiful but are also intelligent and occupy high and sensitive positions. Do you want me to give examples?
There are several movies all over the world and advertisements on various media platforms where we see the villain as a beautiful girl who is well dressed, in makeup, with beautiful groomed long hair who everyone wants to associate with and so on. The girl on the other hand who will save the day is not well dressed, has messy hair, hardly wears any makeup and has little or no friends at all.
Secondly, who even determines beauty? Even before the makeup and plastic surgery era, you still
could not call someone ugly because what you are seeing as ugly may be seen by another as beautiful, ever heard beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder? In this era where makeup can transform someone, addressing someone as ‘beautiful with brains’ is baseless because even if someone were to be regarded as ‘ugly’, plastic surgeries and makeup are capable of making them beautiful. Thus, the beauty with brains phrase has been demystified. There is this popular joke among Ghanaian students that Science students, especially female Science students are usually not beautiful. This is because many see Science and Science related subjects to be challenging and be a field for males, hence any female who is found rubbing shoulders with her male counterparts in these fields is seen to be super intelligent. Many also believe that since the subjects in the field are challenging, the female students in this field are always studying and hardly have time for themselves. They don’t have time to dress up and wear makeup, they have no time to engage in any extracurricular activities, in short, they do not have a social life.
Have you ever heard anyone refer to a man as handsome with brains? Have you ever wondered why? Next time someone refers to you as “beauty with brains”, instead of smiling and blushing and saying thank you, think about it carefully. If society still insists that beauty with brains is a compliment, then we can also start referring to men as “handsome with brains”, or you are studying a Science programme and you are this handsome? Or you did such a beautiful analysis and you still look good. Beauty with brains suggests that women are being boxed into two major characteristics, beauty and brains and we are made to believe that you can belong to only one of these characteristics and not both.
Beautiful females may feel that they are dumb or stupid, they may be confident when it comes to dressing up and going to parties but their confidence takes a back seat when it comes to analyzing issues to come up with solutions to a challenge even when they have the solutions. I just want you reading this to understand that beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive. To any lady reading this, remember we have a world to change, so go out there, brush your hair, wear your makeup and win in whatever field you find yourself in. You can be both beautiful and brilliant unapologetically. CHEERS!!!