Thursday, December 15, 2016

Boobs And Brains

This is one article that has been on my mind since the beginning of this year and I am glad it took this long to write. I will explain.
I have always been conflicted when it came to how I presented myself to the world. I always believed and still do that what I put on my body says a lot about how I feel about myself. I cannot wear a hijab because I do not feel like a hijab wearing girl in my heart and I cannot walk around in a bikini because I do not feel like a walking-around-in-bikini girl.
So as a female entering into an almost exclusively male dominated world of technology (I am a software developer for those that don’t know), I was conflicted when it came down to how I presented myself to the world.

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“Not too much lipstick, I do not want them to think I am shallow”, “No heels, so I do not look like all I know how to do is dress up”. I found myself equating how I looked with my intelligence. I wanted to be taken seriously as the only female engineer at my office. I pride myself on my ability to evolve and unlearn the misogynistic ideologies that I have been indoctrinated in. It took me a whole year to pause and realize that I did not have to choose between looking/feeling beautiful for myself and being intelligent/good at my job. With or without my attire, I am beautiful and intelligent and that should be enough. I remember Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk where she talked about how she was conflicted about her attire on her first day teaching. I have watched this particular TED talk at least 10 times and it never occurred to me that I too was doing exactly what Adichie did on her first day lecturing.

It is naturally assumed that beautiful women are not intelligent. Women in the modelling industry are assumed to be shallow and dumb, which often times reminds me of Tyra Banks and her show America's Next Top Model and whey she had a college edition. It was to break this stereotype that beautiful women are not intelligent women. 

This year, America almost had it’s first female president and amidst all of that debacle, I was noticing how Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe was carefully chosen. Her team always chose attires that people would consider “serious” and there was not much in the way of accessorizing. Do you see the pedestal they put women up on? I bet none of the other male candidates had to worry about how they looked, heck, Trump did not even have to sensor what he said but alas, the people chose. It took me until the end of the year to understand that I still had more unlearning to do.

Growing up, I remember I myself, looking at other women who loved to dress up as inferior to me intellectually. Most of the time, they were not. I was conditioned to think that due to the way society judged women. Today I have little sisters who are growing up to be very confident, smart and daring women. One of them told me how she would be a kick-ass humanitarian lawyer and look “as bom as Amal Clooney” while doing it and you know what, that is just fantastic. Smart and stylish women run the company I work at, I am learning that intelligence quotient and beauty/style are not mutually exclusive. Women do not have to choose between looking good/feeling confident (I believe these go hand in hand) and having a high intelligence quotient. I know very beautiful women who deliberately dumb themselves down so as to seem more appealing to men. 
We must begin to unlearn this the moment we awaken to the realization that we are living by misogynistic ideals. 


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