There is no surer way to end a conversation with me or get me ragey than to start commenting on my looks. I was lucky with the genetics, whilst I’m not a stunner, I have a good figure, hair and skin tone that means absolutely zero work and I’m good at pretending to have an amazingly sunny disposition (sometimes whilst imagining a multitude of ways to get rid of you…) But all of that doesn’t mean that I don’t have other good attributes. Something that often gets forgotten.
Only a few weeks ago, I got the comment “But you’re too pretty and nice to be smart…” I was talking with a customer about the fact that I’m doing a PhD. Since I was at work, I couldn’t do anything but laugh. Because I’m sure in some convoluted way, it was meant as a compliment… but what I REALLY wanted to do was ask “what the fuck do you think a smart person looks like?” “Do you think that we’re all mean, dungeon trolls?” Honestly! And that made me think of all the other times I’ve been treated like I’m dumb or faking it because there in so many people’s minds, there is no way that a woman who is not unfortunate looking could possibly be smart.
I look back at high school and the fact that my “friends” used to say that the gifted education teacher wanted to sleep with me… which was apparently the only reason that I was able to start attending University while still in Year 12. Never mind that I had passed three Year 12 subjects with flying colours in Year 11. Or the fact that I had to go through a reasonably intense application process to get into the program. Or the fact that I worked my arse off, and generally beat out every single one of my peers when it came to grades… no… somebody wanted to have sex with me, and therefore I was in extensions.
Flick forward to University. I was constantly being told by the people in my classes that I must be wrong because we got different answers. Or being asked by male classmates if I wanted their assistance, even though I had finished my practical 10 minutes ago and was chatting about my weekend with a friend. There seems to be this underlying assumption that to be pretty means dumb…
So next time you want to tell someone that they can possibly be X because they look Y… think again. If you say it to me when I’m not trying to be kind and professional at work, I will probably scream… and definitely contemplate giving you a Gibbs slap to knock some sense into you. Honestly.