One of the most insidious effects of living in our patriarchal society is the gender roles which it imposes upon us: men must be tough, stoic and emotionless; women must be sensitive, delicate, beautiful and quiet. The more you think about it, the more absurd this seems: no one person embodies all the stereotypical traits of their gender, and why should they? These roles serve no discernable purpose other than to perpetuate stereotypes (and cissexism, because what about the people who are neither male nor female?), and yet they persist.
So when I saw the following image, I felt compelled to write about it.
There are so many things wrong with this “quote” that it’s difficult to know where to begin, but the overarching message seems to be that a woman cannot be both intelligent and sexual. This is, unfortunately, quite a common way of thinking: in the media, the nerdy girls are always “unattractive” and the hot blondes are air-headed and idiotic.
But the problem I have is this: why should we not blow minds and guys? Why can’t we open books and our legs?
Of course, it’s worth pointing out the fact that no woman should have to do anything sexual just because it’s what is expected of her, and if I were to demand that you were both intellectual and super-sexual, I’d be no better than the very quote I’m criticising. So if you don’t want to blow anyone (or if you’d rather concentrate on the ladies or whoever the hell you want — because of course the quote wouldn’t be complete without a healthy dose of heteronormativity), then that’s okay.
This may be brand new information to some, but women are not Sims; there is no sliding scale that will give you more intelligence points at the expense of your attractiveness, or vice-versa. In other words, there is no causal link between intelligence and attractiveness, so it’s absurd to pretend that they’re mutually exclusive or demand that any woman should be one or the other.
I’m an intelligent young woman, I go to one of the top 10 universities in my country, I volunteer, I write and edit for Feminspire, and I enjoy sex: and none of those attributes condradict any of the others. I’m not alone: the amazing site bookznslutz shows a multitude of people, in various states of undress, enjoying a good book. Their description reads, “Created in response to the particular kind of slut shaming which suggests that the-oh-so-slutty behavior of taking nude photos of oneself and/or enjoying sex and sexual attention is at odds with reading and other ~intellectual pursuits~.”
Slut-shaming is a big reason why that quote doesn’t sit right with me — aside from the fact that it asserts that you can’t be clever and sexy at the same time, it also implies that blowing guys and opening your legs is somehow inherently wrong. Women are often derided for having and enjoying sex, which is weirdly at odds with the fact that we as a gender are often portrayed as sex objects; these stereotypes and assumptions are nonsensical and often contradictory, and no woman can or should fulfil them all.
The Madonna-whore complex plays a part in the assumptions made by the quote; simply put, the complex is said to arise when men desire a whore, but can only love a virginal Madonna. Freud, who first identified the complex, said “Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love.” Now, I will admit that I’m not Freud’s biggest fan, but to me this is just another way of putting women (and men!) into unyielding boxes based on incorrect assumptions — I can personally attest to the fact that there are men who can love a slutty woman (and I use that word in a complimentary way, because I see nothing wrong with promiscuity), and to the best of my knowledge there’s no proof that men cannot desire a “virginal Madonna” just as much as the aforementioned whore.
And you know what? Some women don’t want to read books, and that’s okay too. There are no tick-boxes that we have to check off to prove our worth as a person, let alone ones that come from a poorly thought out quote circulating around Tumblr.
Written by Kaya Harridge
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