Sunday, October 26, 2008

Those glasses make you look so . . . smart

That would be a lame compliment, wouldn't it?

Because for a woman, looking, and being, intelligent is a violation of the rules. The unwritten assumptions of our culture assign two kinds of strength to men, physical and intellectual, and one kind of strength to women: spiritual. A good "feminine" woman can be strong in emotional intelligence, endless service to others, religiosity, and the sort of grit it takes to get up in the middle of the night and clean up after a sick kid when you're sick yourself. These attributes support men and family life, and do not compete like intelligence does.

When I picked out my current glasses, I was looking for something that gave me a good field of vision, weighed nothing, and didn't obscure my face or call attention to itself. Imagine my surprise when Sarah (who? history will ask) turned up with similar glasses, titanium with unframed lenses. They have been called "librarian" glasses. At least my lenses are not squared-off like hers.

Sarah gets away with squared-off lenses, a very intelligent look, and one she has stuck with throughout the campaign, though the NY Times reported that she owns six [six!] pair of glasses, which amazes me, for these are expensive frames. How do you do that with five kids and only one steady income? Don't ask. The hairdo alone has already cost the campaign $23,000.

Sarah wants to look intelligent -- but not masculine. So the librarian (bookish) glasses are combined with an elaborate bridal hairdo, higher heels than most middle-aged women who spend that much time on their feet could possibly wear, legs sticking out of a too-short skirt fitted to curve in under her butt in a way you do not see on grownup professionals. I might look smart, it all says, but I’m really a beauty queen.

In fact, she is today's perfect woman, who exemplifies the modern masculine fantasy. Womb personified, pushing out children, dragging the baby along on the campaign trail, never dreaming of an abortion, hey, being pregnant is no big deal, and not letting the mother thing get in the way. She runs the home and is chief breadwinner, and is beautiful. While her confidence is of a caliber rarely seen in a woman, she supports male values constantly, in a casual reference to Joe Sixpack (a regular guy who drinks a lot and that's okay), in her willingness to hunt a moose and drag it to the car. It's what mainstream culture has done, unfortunately, to the feminist ideal. Humans always screw things up.

I could write a book on wearing glasses, on refusing to wear them as a girl, on enduring the dangers and discomforts of hard contact lenses, then soft, then on and off with reading glasses. Since I am a little older than the oldest Baby Boomers, glasses were not fashion items in time to save me from myself.

What was my problem? I didn't know, that's the truth. As a girl, I thought glasses made me ugly. They just didn't go with the pretty, curvy (feminine) look we tried for in the fifties. Nobody in the movies wore them.

I woke up today with this on my mind, recalling that I wrote yesterday that I had given up looking pretty and decided to go for looking smart as I dressed for my doctor visit. Hmm, I thought, this morning, that was probably my mistake. On some level people know that smart opposes compliant, and compliance is a key part of the feminine ideal, not just among doctors.

It was okay to get A's when I was in high school, that was part of being a good girl on the college track. Being smart was another story. There was only one really smart girl. Poor Martha. She was fantastically good in science, I recall, and wore glasses a lot like mine and Sarah's, while the rest of us wore harlequins. This was back when geek was not a compliment. I don't think it is even today, applied to a woman. It might be okay, though, if her tee-shirt is very tight and cut very low.

The picture? Me with a third eye stuck on my forehead, a picture taken by Becky Jean Genie. Art groups get a little funky sometimes.

No comments:

Post a Comment