Let Us Play Dumb

by Freddie Storm.

Freddie Storm is a Filmmaker currently based in the Vancouver Area. Born and raised in India, she has kept herself aware with the feminist issues in the South Asian part of the continent while understanding the challenges that women in the western society face.

I was out for a coffee with a female friend of mine. We were discussing regular topics such as latest Red Dragon Camera and how it shoots 6 K footage, converting a file into AAF, benefits of Seido Karate on physical and mental health, you know all that stuff women talk about. She went up to get the coffee when a very handsome man in his late 20’s walked into the coffee shop. He sat down close to us, my eyes met with his and we both exchanged a friendly smile.

Soon my friend was back with two Lattes, complaining how she had to pay 60 cents extra for Soy Milk which she thinks is discrimination towards Vegans in a blatant manner. I nodded. She sat down and of course had to notice this stupendously well-dressed man sitting so close to us, soon her demeanor changed, our conversations turned rather uninformative, she started asking me about the clothes I have bought recently and how she hated her curls although everybody who met with her loved it. Soon enough, I knew whatever my friend talked about was intended for this young man to overhear, in some weird way she was actually flirting with him. I later brought up the whole incident to her while we were walking down the Granville Street; I asked her why our conversation turned so shallow when she knew there was male scrutiny on us. She first denied it, and slowly admitted to acting dumb to gain the male attention. It was shocking to me, knowing how she was one of the very intelligent people I knew resorting to being dumb because that got her attention, it was almost an irony.

I being the feminist I am, would not let this pass, I asked her how she thinks men find dumb women attractive, she said to me more so confidentially, ‘I am sure men have told you how they love a smart woman, but honey that is a myth, they like it dumb, unintellectual,” and that is when I got assertive and asked her why she would even enjoy the company of men who do not see women for their minds but merely for their bodies. She chose not to reply.

I went back home, and got reminded of Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication to the Rights to the women’, somewhere she had said that men like their wives to be innocent, almost as innocent as a child, and later in life when their beauty and youth starts to diminish, they lose interest in them complaining they have nothing to talk about given the difference in the level of intellect.

The term “blonde” does not describe a person or a type, “blonde” is now an idea in itself. It is synonymous to a woman who is stupid. When you type in “blonde” on Google, after the first three description links, you will be surprised (or not) most of the other links are sexual jokes on women with blonde hair and how stupid they are.

Society has been fed in with this idea for generations now. One of the jokes I read a couple of months back was that:

Don’t mistake me, I do find this joke hilarious, but, think about this way, not talking to other countries would be way logical and smarter than war, and the joke actually lies in the irony of it.

Also, let us not forget about the representation of women in Media. I truly believe society and media are mirror reflections of each other, almost catch 22 it is, society represents media and vice versa.

Let us talk about Mean Girls, the 2001 movie directed by Mark Waters. The movie starts with a popular group of girls in an American High School, the most popular girl in class in school is Regina George, who is blonde (hair wise), not so bright, sexually extroverted and cunning. All these qualities in her give her the title of the most popular girl. And then there is a new girl in class whose name is Cady, she is smart, culturally aware and very good in Math. Aaron Samuels is the popular guy in school, and both the girls in one way and the other want to win him, the instantaneous solution that Cady comes up with is to fail in her Math test, pretend to be stupid so Aaron would shift his attention to her, and, viola, it works! She asks him to tutor her and he does.

To compete with Regina George, she had to come down to the same level of stupidity, some people may call Cady smart because she understood being stupid was the clever thing to do, but hello, really? 

This movie was made for 17 million dollars and grossed more than 200 million on the box office; this confirms that the idea of female stupidity sells.

 

 

I am going to explore more on the history of western literature in propagating this idea. Starting with Jeffery Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Tale, critics have often debated whether it is feminist or plain misogynist. The story deals with a woman during Middle Ages. She is very clever and flamboyant, her name is Alisoun. She has been married 7 times, and has managed to win the wealth and fortune of all her previous husbands. This story is a success story; the only problem is that she has used treachery to be able to convince her husbands into letting her have her way. She has pretended being stupid or weak in order to be attractive to the men. Alisoun is well aware that this kind of behavior is requisite in her marriages, and although very clever, she trains herself to behave vulnerably in front of the men, who enjoy this attribute of her.

Women have always been represented by men in western literature. We have learnt about women’s experiences and behavior for over hundreds of years mostly by reading books written by men. Great poets who wrote about their love interests such as Edmund Spenser or John Donne either sexualized them or criticized them. Women in literature have been mute until recently. The image created by the male writers becomes a margin for what women should behave and act like. The female characters in the books were mostly handsome, chaste and naïve. When women started writing, they had to unlearn everything about women they had read in the books to be able to pen down the genuine nature and experiences of women.

The women writers who started talking about their experiences, these smart women were/are often endorsed with a pinch of madness. For example Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf or Emily Dickenson are always seen as these “crazy” distressed women who did not enjoy life. Who perpetuates these ideas about them? It is those who cannot come to terms with the fact that smart and beautiful women are not a myth.

A lot of young girls are being trained by society (media, literature, social ideologies, etc.) to accept the idea that being stupid is equivalent to being more attractive. It is not true, period. We do not have to either be stupid or pretend to be stupid in order to be popular, in fact it is men who need to be trained that to accept that intelligence is not something they can have monopoly over. Women need to have opinions, ideas and confidence against the popular demand. Women need to think for their own good, whether it is about the way we conduct or the way we are. Patriarchy is internalized not only by men but also by women, and it is a responsibility to fight any kind of suppression, although initially it is as hard as giving up cocaine or the thought of an ex-partner. I would like to conclude this article with a funny picture I found online with hopes that we will all fight the demons of internalized patriarchy in us.

 

One Comment on “Let Us Play Dumb”

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