Growing up my role model was Hermione Granger. Today she still is, at least as far as fictional characters go – with regards to role models that actually exist Emma Watson is quite high up on my list.
One of the most important qualities of J.K. Rowling’s books is that readers actually got to grow up with the characters. We weren’t just thrown into a world with Hermione a quirky and awkward young woman who is secretly beautiful – she’s a real person. She goes through bullying because of her longer than average teeth and her bushy hair; she was relatable. The most prominent portions of her story arc do not focus on her looks, with the exception of the Yule Ball, she is portrayed as a person, a person with a mind and an aptitude for all things magical.
She taught girls that it’s okay to be smart and that it’s even better to be proud of their intelligence. Nowadays a great many television shows, films, and novels have been attempting to diversify their female characters; unfortunately, many have fallen short of their goal. It seems that if a woman possesses any form of intelligence whether it be in a book, a movie or a television series there is a high chance that she will be depicted as conventionally pretty or sexy.
If she isn’t, she will most likely be mocked for certain physical attributes and be portrayed as having lacking self-esteem or being awkward. Eventually, she will either fall in love with a someone that makes her feel complete or realize that she is beautiful after a makeover, a prom or another large and meaningful event.
Why? Why do intelligent woman need to be portrayed as desirable and attractive? I have nothing against people feeling comfortable in their own skin, in fact I highly encourage personal comfort with one’s own body. What I take issue with is that being clever has become almost synonymous with being appealing in a physical sense – but not in the manner of the “Smart is the new sexy” movement.
The attachment of beauty to able and savvy female characters may not seem like an issue, but that’s all the more reason to call it a problem. In general, the more feminine one acts, the weaker others perceive one to be. Although those assumptions may be incorrect, just look at Kacy Catanzaro, the 2014 winner of America’s Ninja Warrior, those judgements are still going to be made and they are overwhelmingly still accepted as fact in our modern world.
Female characters are being forced to undermine themselves by focusing their story lines on their sexual lives, their image, and their body – while I do not debate that women do spend time thinking about sex or spending time at the gym these qualities are not all that make up a person. By playing into the stereotype of having a brainy librarian who can take off her glasses, let down her hair, and suddenly become a seductive temptress, women are being fed a message that their outer beauty helps to define them.
Yes, there are beautiful police officers, lawyers, doctors, custodians and baristas in this world, but their portrayals on television and in film focus more on emphasizing their vulnerability and femininity in order to undermine their intelligence.
The aforementioned tactic is used by the Capitol on Katniss, from Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, The Hunger Games which has been made into a film franchise, starring Jennifer Lawrence. The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen is constantly being forced to undergo traditionally feminine rituals such as waxing, dress fittings, hairstyling appointments, and makeup trials so that when she goes on television she appears to be less of a threat, she appears to be just another woman, no – another girl. The residents of the Capitol do not look past her appearance, she could have been the most intelligent or dangerous person alive and all they would have remembered is her dress or her shoes.
Intelligence is beautiful. Do not let people tell you that you have to act a certain way when you’ve got something to say, stand up for you and your abilities – speak up like Katniss, make your mark like Hermione, and smile like Blair Waldorf. Most importantly, believe in yourself. Every woman is powerful, don’t let wearing a skirt make you feel less of person in your office or allow your sex life to make you feel as if you are inferior. You are not the problem. You are the solution.
Intelligent and beautiful women of the world unite – you are not characters in a novel or a television show – you have the power to write your own story.
Write your own script, define your own character and do it now, because you’re worth nothing less than the best.