Monday, July 30, 2007

It's Cool to be Smart

Occasionally, when the subject of blogging comes up, my friends who blog will ask me how I can manage to blog for so many places, or why I've chosen to blog where I do. It's always a very easy answer for me: I see the blogs I write for each filling very different niche's for my creative and academic work. And in specific, I write for this blog because I very strongly believe in the mission of the Women's Bioethics Project, and the idea of having a strong and collective voice for women in not just bioethics, but the sciences in general.

As Ariel Levy noted in her Colbert Report appearance earlier this year, our culture is starting to revere the female chauvinistic pig; young girls idolize Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, and the media shows very few positive role models for girls - or at least what I would deem positive, showing that you can be both pretty and smart, or that your worth isn't in how small your clothes are and how blonde your hair is.

I don't want to idolize my youth, and say "things were better when..." - after all, I'm sure my parents thought Cyndi Lauper and mid-80s Madonna were as bad as I view Hilton, Lohan and their ilk these days. But I don't remember there being this overwhelming focus on it being bad to be smart, or desirable to be seen as dumb as a post. And I take some relief, today, in noticing via Wil Wheaton's blog, that I'm not the only one who thinks this: Danica McKellar, who some of you might remember as "Winnie" from The Wonder Years, has a new book coming out called Math Doesn't Suck.

CNN is running a short profile on the book, talking about the book and quoting McKellar's motivations for writing it:
The book includes tips to avoid mistakes on homework, ways to overcome test-day anxiety and profiles of three beautiful mathematicians. "I want to tell girls that cute and dumb isn't as good as cute and smart," she said.

I'm not in a position to write a book to inspire girls to be cute and smart. I'm not even in a place right now where I can do any one on one, big sister style participation in a local girl's life. But I am in a position where I can participate in a blog like this - and so I do, and hope that by adding my voice, we are all strengthened.


Alexandra said...

There's an article on Danica McKellar and her book in GOOD Magazine this month too:

Linda MacDonald Glenn said...

When I was in high school (in the early seventies), my guidance counselor told me that if I wanted to be a scientist or a doctor, that I would never be able to get married or have children, that it would be a very lonely about discouraging! Although I'm not sorry I became a lawyer, it's an experience I've never forgotten and has inspired me to encourage women to pursue their intellectual passion, whether it be math or science or something else -- thank you, Kelly, for sharing your passion and creativity!

Anonymous said...

One of the comments at about Levy's book is that it "is imbued with hope – hope that women can celebrate their uniqueness instead of their ‘hotness’, explore their sexuality as delight rather than consume sex as currency, and succeed professionally because of their brilliant minds and personalities, not because of their brilliant bodies" -- one can only hope.

Kelly Hills said...

Linda - my aunt, now estranged from my family, wanted to become a doctor when she was young; or a veterinarian. Her father (my grandfather) told her repeatedly that the only way a woman could work in medicine was to be a nurse. This was the only proper "nurturing" role for a woman in the medical field.

The last time we talked, some 16 years ago, she told me, point-blank, to never believe what anyone said a woman could or could not do; advice I didn't listen to a the time, but I'm still glad she said.

I just wonder where we went off the rails - people my aunt's age really seemed fiercely committed to the idea that girls of my age could do anything, and we could do it in high heels and a pencil skirt, if we were so inclined. At what point did brains get dropped from the equation?

Emilie Clemmens said...

Thank you, Kelly! I've been largely MIA since the arrival of our baby boy on July 3, but your post makes me want to shout from the I had to drop in and say hello. I'm so glad you DO blog all you do, and thank you for this inspiring post.

I remember, though, in college, I was so sensitive to wanting to succeed on my own merits and not because or in spite of being female, that I was disinclined to join "women's" groups, like the Society of Women Engineers (yes, I was an engineering major). Now I see that I had it a bit mixed up and am delighted to be a part of this group and engaged in raising women's voices.