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Assuming that beautiful women cannot able be intelligent and capable, or vice versa is another way in which patriarchy attempts to lock women into stereotypes.
The news broke recently that former actor Mayoori Kango, is now a top executive at Google. This is news that should be celebrated.
However, there were the usual comments about how she must have “slept her way” to the top, as it always happens with successful women. This is open misogyny. There were also some comments though, which looked like compliments, but which made me think – isn’t this sexism too?
I’m talking about the comments that went, “she is a real beauty with brains,” or variations of that. I could not help wonder why. Many male actors have gone on to be businessmen too, but no one has ever commented on how they are both handsome and capable. Somehow, because they are men, it is assumed that they can be both.
For women however, there has always been a stereotype that if they are beautiful, then they must be “bimbos” or “airheads.” And if a woman is intelligent, she must be an “ugly duckling.” As this article points out, “While attractive men may be considered better leaders, for instance, implicit sexist prejudices can work against attractive women, making them less likely to be hired for high-level jobs that require authority.”
As she herself points out in the article linked to at the beginning of this piece, “I have to prove myself in every new meeting as people have a notion that actors are not intelligent. I have worked hard to make people take me seriously.”
That is why her rise is truly commendable. She not only chose to make a drastic career shift –something that many people, especially women, hesitate to do, but also excelled at her chosen field. This is truly inspiring!
She also goes on to make another very pertinent point, “People should complete their education before they come looking for that big break in Bollywood. Especially the actress, their career in the industry lasts only around ten years. Have a backup option.”
This advice – that women should complete their education, goes not only for those seeking a career in Bollywood, but to every woman. Often women are married off before they can finish their studies; or sometimes even if they continue their studies after marriage, they become pregnant and their education comes to a standstill.
Nothing empowers a woman more financial independence, which comes from having a job. And the better the education, the better the job.
Calling women “a beauty with brains,” is not really a compliment, because it limits them and forces them into stereotypes. Rather, let every woman have the freedom to define herself; to gain an education; and to explore her own talents.
Image is a still from the movie Papa Kehte Hai
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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a
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