Tuesday, August 19, 2008


FIRST I JUST WANT TO CHANGE THE NERDY GIRLS TITLE...I DON'T LIKE THE WORD 'NERD'...NERLIES? GERDYS? (No, sounds too gastrointestinal) NERGILS? I'll sleep on that one.
I was perusing the Talented and Gifted Family forum and come across this article, Smart=Sexy. Smart=Sexy is a snartastical response by Jennifer Ouellette to the negative comments aimed at Phil Plait at Discover Magazine and his post here about supporting the Nerd Girls website. Many of the comments on Phil Plait's post are in response to his supposed chauvinism and whether or not the Nerd Girls are qualified to call themselves Nerd Girls. But here's my favorite comment:

"I am all about equality of all kinds. However, there is one line I wish to comment on. Not sure where you were going with it, so I will just add my piece.
'It (can be) hard to promote this. Society can sometimes just see women as sexual objects, which is unfair.' (Phil's quote)

It is not unfair that sometimes women are seen only as sexual objects. It is their wish too. If I walk down the street and can:
A- See your belly button ring
B- See what color/style underwear you have on
C- Do a 3/4 visual breast exam without you removing your clothes
etc, then that is exactly how I will see you, as an object for my sexually viewing pleasure."

I was told there were people in the world who blame women for their chauvinism. But wow, here's a real life example for me. I would have understood had he said "Hey, I'm a man and when I see a woman, I often see her as a sexual object," because at least he wouldn't be blaming his behavior on women and what they wear.

I know nothing about Phil Plait and won't comment as to whether he is chauvinistic. His support of females in the science industry is cool. 'Nuff said.

I do, however, get caught up in the topic of whether girls should concern themselves, as they are growing up, with makeup, clothes, jewelry and such other toxic items that might objectify them as...wait for it...FEMININE! And yes, the many double standards that us girls and women have to endure make me cringe and then other bad bodily things happen because I'm getting old. Really though, studies show that good looking people are taken more seriously than their ugly counterparts yet, admit it...many people assume if a woman is pretty...she must not be that smart. If a girl or a woman explores her appearance is she shallow? Is she asking to be objectified? Does it dilute her intelligence? Those are rhetorical questions.

My concern is this: How do we raise girls in this culture and era to find their identity and feel confident, happy, grounded without the fear that looking pretty too is just asking to be degraded?

I grew up a (here it comes...look out) "Nerd", caring about my appearance, liking girly things AND boyish things. I learned as a 13 year old Amer-Asian girl that dying my hair blonde (which turned out orange) to look like Madonna was a need to explore how I felt about not being the stereotypical blonde, blue-eyed girl-next-door (literally) and a way to accept my Asian heritage and beauty among mostly Caucasian peers. I also piled on the blue eye shadow and pink lipstick 'til there was a shortage in the makeup industry, testing my perspective of what pretty was. And the mini-skirt I wore that one day, attracted the wrong kinds of guys, ew. All this while doing independent studies in calculus. These were extremely valuable lessons for me. THANK YOU MOM! I know it gave you arthritis.

Children will explore their gender identity - like my friend's 5 year old son who is curious about dressing up in a tutu and my daughter who wants to wear her brother's clothes one day and a princess costume another.

Let girls discover who they are without judging them. Let girls explore their intelligence while exploring their femininity. We can't make assumptions as to what it means from their perspective - then we're proposing we are all-knowing, and we aren't are we? You can't discount the psychological process of exploring one's appearance as part of exploring one's personality and identity.
Do people who criticize the exploration of femininity have children? Because there is a great lesson in raising kids: Some things are innate.
There are groups of people everywhere who are happy and confident with who they are and want to tell about it. GREAT! If we have a problem with that, we need to take a hard look at ourselves and ask, "What is it about me that elicits the need to focus energy on criticizing others' confidence and choices in appearance?"
I understand that makeup, nice clothes and jewelry do not make a girl. But if a girl wants those things that does not make her a sellout. We have too many stereotypes in this country. Men who like to dress well and use hair products are metrosexual...huh? Girls who wear baggy jeans and short hair are dikes...wha?
Are we assuming that the young women from NERD GIRLS were held down against their will, smothered in makeup and forced to pose for a picture so the blogger could make a point?

When we start dictating what girls should or shouldn't be doing with their appearance while exploring their identity...that's when the problems begin. Let a girl try out blue hair and focus on teaching her to be kind, honest and trustworthy. You know, girls will find a way, no matter what anyone tells them to do, to express themselves through their appearance. Boys too. It's a natural part of growing up. And if we focus on supporting their confidence, some of them will look back when they're 30 and say, "Why the hell did I wear all that makeup? That was a phase I learned from." And some of them might say, "Thank God I was allowed to explore my identity...I am a happy healthy adult because of it."

If a girl wants to declare that she is smart AND likes makeup, jewelry and clothes - and it makes her feel confident...THEN LET HER BE!

And as Jennifer Ouellette says in Smart=Sexy, "But just because some guys can be immature jerks is no reason to teach our young girls that therefore, they shouldn't wear pretty clothes and makeup because it's just asking to be harassed and/or not be taken seriously. If the guys' attitudes are the problem, why are we placing the onus for behavioral modification on the girls? We should be enlightening the guys instead, not making excuses for them ("That's just how men are"). Dudes! It's the 21st century! Evolve already!"
I second that emotion.