Folks in school loved calling me ‘beauty with brains.’ I was frequently at the top of the class and all the teachers absolutely adored me. I’m also 5 feet 10 inches tall. I’m somewhat thin and my complexion is lighter than that of the average Indian. Aunties loved me. Especially the problematic ones. Of course I was advised to give modelling a shot. However, behind all the praises of me just existing, doing the bare minimum, all of that seemed unsettling. The connotations of that term, the implications of it, didn’t sit well with me.
Largely, this stems from the fact that the intersection of beauty and intellect is considered an instance so rare, and society’s belief that the twain shall never meet is so set in stone, most people are taken by surprise should a remotely attractive woman display an iota of intelligence. Brace yourselves for the upcoming rant as to why the term ‘Beauty With Brains’ needs early, urgent retirement.
This term/ trope in popular culture is a byproduct of extremities and poor writing and the absolute handing over of all reins to define pop culture in the hands of men with an extremely limited understanding of anything female (or intellectual, TBH). First, we were offered the blonde and bimbo character, fueled by a one dimensional and misogynistic interpretation of femininity. Then, they conceptualised the ‘nerdy girl’ (with glasses of course) to undo the damage. And the makeover scenes, designed to serve the male idea of beauty. Ugh, peak cringe. When those went haywire, they came up with something that could, in my opinion, be considered as the pinnacle of faux wokeness- the beauty with brains trope.
The conversation around the definitions of beauty, ageing and constructs of femininity has only been picked up in recent years and people are pointing out the problems with phrases as deeply flawed as ‘beauty with brains.’ But a large majority remains blissfully oblivious to the negative connotation associated with the term. My parents may have referred to me as ‘beauty with brains’ at some point in time, but their intentions remain pure. This problematic conditioning unbeknownst to many is deeply alarming and really sad to say the least.
What’s up with this obsession of wanting to pigeonhole women up in illogically demarcated subtypes? Is it because of society’s perverse fixation of pitting women against each other? Divide and rule. Is that what’s happening? Whatever may be the impetus behind such regression, it can only be countered by speaking up. The path will be laden with its set of challenges. You’ll be termed as a radical feminist or worse, a man hater, but you know who you are. So do you.
Do you think Brahmāstra has the potential to become a hit? Read more here.