When I was in 5th grade I vividly recall being absent one day and having to make up a test the day I came back. I was sitting at my desk, trying to melt into the ground and walls so I could potentially make it one hour without being bullied by a group of girls who tortured me that year…when my teacher yelled across the room smiling, “You got a 99 on your test!” Everyone stopped and stared at me. By this point in the school year my classmates knew I was smart. They knew I knew the answers before they did, and they knew I got A’s on almost everything. Because kids just figure that shit out even when you try to hide it.
I tried to sink lower in my chair if that was even possible and shrugged my shoulders up and down in as little acknowledgement as humanly possible to this A announcement. My teacher then said, “A shrug? That’s it! You get an A and you’re not even happy?” She was very loud and happy and warm, and completely unaware of the torture I received on the regular right under her nose. I put my head down on my desk. I knew this would not go unpunished.
Later that day I was surrounded by the group of girls at lunch and was told that I was arrogant and that I had a big head and getting good grades didn’t make me better than them, and I was ugly, and I had to wear glasses…and whatever else all the shit mean little girls say to other little girls. Now these girls were not dumb. They didn’t graduate in the top ten of our high school class, but they were definitely not dumb. If they applied themselves who knows maybe they could have been in the top ten of our class. (By the way…our number 1 and number 2 in my graduating class were female. I was somewhere in there, 6th or 7th I think.)
But early on it was clear. Intelligence is not sexy. In fact it is a weakness. For a female to show intelligence is to put everyone else down. For a female to be intelligent and not just quietly sit in the corner and do her work and quietly get good grades…well that’s just disrespectful to the males who are not as smart and to the females who want to be seen as sexy for their looks not their brains.
The years of 5th grade to 8th grade for kids in general are torture. For smart girls? Freaking horrendous. I regularly see kids in my practice in middle school who hate themselves because they can’t kick a soccer ball. But they get A’s on tests or they are amazing artists or writers or gymnasts or dancers or any number of non-school based athletic activities that can’t possible define a popular and successful girl. Eventually I was able to scrape by with the popular crowd because I could kick and catch (goalie) a soccer ball and I could throw a basket-ball with fairly decent aim. I didn’t mind getting dirty and I loved diving in the mud to save a goal when it was pouring rain.
But I knew I wasn’t going to make a name for myself as a pro-athlete. In fact NONE of the people I went to high school became pro-athletes. A fact I regularly remind girls of who cry and want to kill themselves because getting straight A’s and being beautiful is not good enough to be popular.
It’s not just kids though. It’s adults too. An intelligent well spoken woman is “intimidating, bitchy, arrogant, just needs to get laid…” etc. I’ve received the message loud and clear that my boobs and my brains just don’t go together. I’ve reached an age and a level of self acceptance where I just don’t give a shit anymore about society’s expectations.
I want to be the role model for the girl getting bullied for being smart. I want to tell her “Look at me!” I graduated with a 3.8 from nursing school, I got a job in a very competitive department at a hospital where only about 15% of applicants get hired. I received my master’s degree from an Ivy league school, and I then worked for that ivy league University. Now I am a successful business owner who continues to dream big and make moves with a female business partner and a female wife and all the people threatened by our success…well I’m not sitting in the corner sinking into my desk anymore.
I am proud of my accomplishments as I should be. I am ecstatic I have the brain I do and honestly I’m not sad about my boobs either. I think intelligence is sexy as does my wife obviously (I mean she doesn’t complain about the boobs either).
What is the first thing we say to girls “Oh you are so beautiful” “Look at your hair it’s gorgeous!” We never compliment girls on their brains or their bravery or anything else beyond their looks. It starts as babies! Think about the last time you complimented a female baby and a male baby. What were your adjectives?
Think about how you compliment girls. Think about the presents you buy them. Do you buy them glitter and sequins? Or legos? Or barbies? Things they can build or things they can dress? It’s not wrong, I’m not trying to shame anyone, I’m just making a point that our society values women who are beautiful and silent. Strong, intelligent, opinionated, with boobs? Well that generally means you’re a bitch.
Think about the messages you send your daughters and nieces and granddaughters. Send them the same messages you send your sons and nephews and grandsons. Send them the message that intelligence is a gift to be nurtured and valued. That intelligence and courage and speaking out is beautiful.
I mean maybe if more women had received this message then 51% of female voters may not have voted for #45. Just saying.