Pretty or Smart? What’s Wrong With Being Both?

After the expression of many parents’ outrages,  long time retailer J.C. Penney took action August 31 and  pulled off its web site a long-sleeved girls’ T-shirt with the saying “I’m too pretty to do my homework so my brother has to do it for me.”

However, J.C. Penney isn’t the first to come under fire for such controversial apparel. Not long ago, parents also expressed strong disapproval when a white T-shirt that read in pink bubble letters  “I’m too pretty to do math.”  was being sold by David & Goliath, followed by yet another shirt with the saying, “Future Trophy Wife.”

Even in the twenty-first century while many parents are trying to instill into their daughters that beauty isn’t the be all and end all, it’s irritated me – and apparently others – that retailers can design and sell clothing with messages that a female’s looks trump everything else, the only quality women should place emphasis is beauty, and leave intelligence to the boys and less attractive girls. Shameful, but it’s happening around all of us.

Is it not enough that the media crams down our throats that a girl/woman is not “perfect” unless she’s blonde, blue-eyed and a size 0? While I’m not placing total blame on clothing or the media, one has to stop and think of why so many women under age thirty are opting for plastic surgery, eating disorders run rampant as early as elementary school age, and girls have mentalities that they can only be popular if they’re “dumb?”

I’m not saying prettiness isn’t what it’s hyped up to be. It can be a good thing – if there’s something else to back up the looks, and that training begins at home. Parents need to take the time to emphasize the importance of doing well in school, getting a diploma, developing one’s talents and skills

Though I had baton lessons, went to modeling school, day camps, traveled and had acting/singing lessons throughout my childhood and teens, my mother emphasized women should get a good education, be intelligent, and have a strong work ethic.

While my parents paid for all the lessons and activities, as well as had me in Brownies to help overcome my shyness, the underlying message was clear: there are more important things to think about than one’s looks. Considering they’d done all the aforementioned with good intentions, I hold no resentment toward my parents; as a matter of fact, I’m very grateful for all I was taught and opportunities given me in my early years. I can also thank them for the contribution to my above-average IQ and outlook on the world.

Despite being proven those more attractive can obtain employment with less difficulty, how much good does physical beauty do in order to keep a job, especially considering the present economy, where downgrades are happening more often and employees are more expendable – unless their goal is to be a Playboy model or porn star? Even the shelf lives of those careers aren’t long.
Sitting at the front desk looking pretty while not knowing as much as how to turn on the computer, work the phone system, or unable to operate the fax machine won’t get one very far in the long term career wise.

Even men with degrees of emotional maturity and confidence who were initially attracted to striking women get tired of the “bimbo” routine after a while. What would she have to offer by the way of conversation? Her latest hair extensions, breast implants, or someone taking her favorite spot in Pilates class? The latest episode of Jersey Shore?

Contrary to popular belief, some guys do like women with intelligence. Even though I’m not in the “striking” category, I also don’t break mirrors or scare children. In any event, I’d rather discuss the stock market or the latest books with my date than listen to some imbecile going on about the latest TV reality show. If I had a daughter, I’d place emphasis on having her to do the same.

In addition to the T-shirts mentioned, I don’t support the concept of child pageants. Kids grow up too fast without being made up and their hair styled to look like street walkers. If little girls want to do child pageants, fine, but I’ve seen too many parents literally force their daughters into them.

In my honest opinion, there should be an age limit when girls can enter pageants; for example, age sixteen, or at least when girls are old enough to understand what’s involved and can make an informed decision on their own.

One of the most appalling child pageant moments I’ve seen is the following clip from the TLC program Toddlers and Tiaras where a four-year-old girl is sporting a padded bottom and fake breasts. A child of four should be enjoying preschool, watching Spongebob Squarepants , playing with dolls (or in the sandbox),  still thinking boys have cooties, and not even thinking about butts and breasts until at least age fourteen.

On the other hand, I recently viewed a television ad by Fruit of the Loom sending a positive “I’m Flawless” message to viewers which includes the line spoken by an attractive, plus-sized African-American model: “I can’t imagine how your embrace would be any warmer on a 20-inch waist. I’m flawless.”

Needless to say, I was delighted to see an ad delivering a strong, yet positive message to potential and present consumers.

Another aiming the “looks aren’t everything” to girls is designer Melissa Wardy, who launched  Pigtail Pals, her own clothing line,  in 2009.  Wardy’s  latest shirt design reads, “Pretty’s got nothing to do with it” on the front and “Redefine girly” on the back, complete with stars, swirls and a rainbow of colors.

I have to give Melissa Wardy, Fruit of the Loom and the composer of the “I’m Flawless” song major commendations for developing advertisements and merchandise that speaks all women – and girls – are flawless/perfect in their own ways.

Beauty eventually fades – but what we all (girls and boys, men and women) contribute to life in other forms will last a lifetime. Shouldn’t we instead emphasize such to our sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, friends, spouses and significant others?

It’s time to start accepting others for what they are – not for what some media hound says they should be. True beauty comes through a healthy attitude and solid self-esteem, and not just what is seen on the outside.

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