Monday, March 03, 2008

Dumb Women

Jilly posted a link to a Washington Post essay (I hesitate to use the term "article" as that would imply it is actually factual) by a woman named Charlotte Allen who thinks she and other women are "dumb." She a list of silly things women do--watch Gray's Anatomy, buy Celine Dion records (though I can't say I fall into that camp...), read Eat, Pray, Love. Easy shots at women, silly women with their fancy hairstyles and their cooking and cleaning and fainting at Obama rallies.

It's annoying to be judged and generalized by others. And it's so easy to put people into groups. Too easy. So I wrote this response to the article--


I'm sort of shocked to find how my women sisters and I have been generalized into the dumb category--and all because of Eat, Pray, Love, Oprah, and Gray's Anatomy? This is enough to be dumb--well, that and 5 fainting women. As for yelling "I love you Obama," given the right scenario, I could easily scream out "I love you Hillary!" or "I love you,_____ insert any democrat's name" after 7+ years of the Bush brigade. I actually think I may start every morning yelling out my window--"I love you Barack and Hillary, please run together," a sort of rooster call to my political neighbors.

But I think whenever we generalize--Women love The Notebook, gossiping, and buying shoes, while men are messy, sport and pornography addicts who do not listen--we run into problems. There's an interesting attempt in the media that I've noticed recently where the writers or journalists become a sort of cultural scientist with their "Because of this then this" theories. I've started calling it the "If/Then" essay that reaches for the general outcome. Example: If women are fainting at Obama rallies, then women are overly-emotional and obviously the weaker sex (and apparently dumb). (And who is to say these women were "swooning," maybe they were just hot, overwhelmed, or dehydrated.) But again, it's this "if/then" belief by the author that -- If women watch Gray's Anatomy, then they must only be interested in trash TV and not intellectual.

It's truly a problem when we judge each other based small actions of a bigger life experience. Buying a Celine Dion record and watching Gray's Anatomy does not determine a woman's intellect. It is a small part. I imagine a woman listening to Celine Dion as she drives downtown to volunteer at the homeless shelter, or a woman watching Gray's Anatomy as she grades papers for the college class she teaches. X does not equal Y. We are complex individuals who may have a copy of Proust on the seat of our car as we take our kids through the drive-thru of McDonalds. We may be researching Mesopotamia then leave to watch "Knocked Up" with our partners. We are more interesting for our paradoxes, for our unique, peculiar, and refreshing characteristics of loving shoes and/or loving poetry. We can be feminists, intellectuals, and just generally smart women and still wear heels or Doc Martens. There's not a dress code or a list of rules.

We are only dumb if we buy into the package that there is only one way to be smart, to be intellectual, to be a democrat, to be a feminist, to be a poet/writer, or a woman candidate.

I'm still not sure the point of this essay except that the author wants to believe she is not entitled to be called smart because she doesn't know how many shoes are in her closet (honestly, what woman or man does) or she's not strong at math. (I'm incredible at math and accounting, so I'd be happy to sit down with her one day). She's welcome to find herself a field to count the daisies one at a time (and then stopping at 4 apparently), but not to assume that we are all in that field, even the fainting women. We cannot be grouped so easily.

Thank you for listening. I promise to never judge you for your Celine Dion records, your addiction to Gray's Anatomy, or your fainting at inappropriate places.

Kelli

(who has X number of shoes in her closet, one daughter, a large library, a master's degree, and who watches Gray's Anatomy on Thursdays.)

3 comments:

Sara said...

Kelly, I watch Grey's, love Celine Dion (when the moment calls for her) and have never swooned over anyone--politician, musician, anyone--but I do love a good romance novel. And I don't think I'm dumb at all. Thanks for standing up for us!

SarahJane said...

It comes down to this: do things that men typically do and you will be considered smart. Do things typical of women and you will be seen as dumb, ie men set the standard so get with the program. It doesn't matter if watching sports is more mindless than watching Grey's Anatomy (which I've never seen but which I imagine is more storyline than the adreniline rush of football and grunting) or that launching wars does more damage than gossip.
Well, come to think of it, that is a pretty dumb "article," and I have the manly urge to kick the shit out of Charlotte Allen.
smile

Julie Carter said...

"We are only dumb if we buy into the package that there is only one way to be smart, to be intellectual, to be a democrat, to be a feminist, to be a poet/writer, or a woman candidate."

Yes yes yes! There are as many ways to be smart as there are smart people.

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