This is not a recent trend. It’s been going on for AGES! And unfortunately it goes right back to patriarchal notions about how men’s fragile egos are the center of the universe. I’m someone who loves to watch mindless television and I admit that I actually enjoy it (sometimes) but by watching these tv shows I also have a lot to talk about in Women’s Studies discussions. I know some people are going to cringe and ask “WHY?” but I’m actually going to use some of the media’s so-called dumbest celebrities to show what I mean.
Nicole “Snooki” from MTV’s hit reality show Jersey Shore is a great example. This girl says things that make a three year old sound like Einstein and on the show she’s created this dumb little character that she plays so well. But in reality she’s smart enough to make it to college (believe it or not, she’s a veterinary tech major), she’s business-minded because she is making one hell of a profit from her trademark look (the pouf hairstyle and those fluffy slippers she wears everywhere) and on top of that she released her own fiction novel (which sounds a lot like a biography but apparently its fiction). I realize she has had a lot of help from people in the industry to make these things happen, but it shows that at the very least she has a brain (which I think a lot of people doubt after seeing her on the show).
Another person off the same tv show is Jenni “JWOWW” who is known for her trademark breast implants and tough attitude. But beneath this exterior the girl is a nerd by our definition of the word. She studied computer programming and later opened up her own graphic design business. And like Snooki, she has become very business-minded with the success of the show and now has her own bronzer and clothing line as well as a dating book. These’s girls are raking in the money!
These two girls went from being completely unknown to being international icons mainly because of their acts. While some may argue it is because of their attention-seeking personality that they have become so successful (alongside the help they get from professionals who get a share of the profits) and not because they are by any means smart, there are other examples of smart/dumb celebrities.
Remember this quote, “Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish? I know it’s tuna, but it says ‘Chicken by the Sea’”? It was said by none other than Jessica Simpson who may seem like a stereotypical dumb blonde, but this woman is smart enough to know that if she can’t make money from music she has to find new ways to pay for all the big fancy things in her life. She started her own clothing, shoe, handbag and accessories line and has actually been quite successful (none of her products have ended up in Canadian dollar stores like Sarah Jessica Parker’s clothing line did).
Paris Hilton is another great example of this. Though she was born into a wealthy family, she inherited more than just money from her parents. She is incredibly business-minded and has launched successful men’s and women’s perfume lines, her own book, a handbag and accessories line, even tried her hand at releasing her own music album (though I still question why she did this…) and has starred in her own hit tv show about her quest to find a new best friend. The woman who thought that Wal-mart sold walls branched off and made a name for herself.
If you’re still not convinced that these women are actually smart and are only playing dumb for the sake of satisfying the media, society and whoever else out there that’s threatened by women in power, why not look at the opposite side of the spectrum—women who are smart and assert themselves. When Hilary Clinton was running for president in 2008, many thought she was a strong and independent woman who was brave enough to finally stand up to everyone. Feminists and non-feminists alike supported her for her political stance and the fact that she could very possibly have been the first female US president. But of course, the media jumped right on it and made sure to label her a crazy, old, “bitch” because she voiced her concerns, she knew exactly what she was talking about and simply because she is a woman. To have a woman in power is threatening for men who have always had power and who can’t accept change or give up even a fraction of their power (even if it’s for the sake of improving their society).
In this sense, the US or any other developed country with this mentality is just as backwards as any developing country (such as Afghanistan, because people love to pick on us and tell us our society is “backwards”). I could go on about how Western society is just as “underdeveloped” as countries in Central and South Asia when it comes to women’s rights, but maybe I’ll save that for a future post.
But my main point here is that when women act dumb society likes and accepts them. When women act smart and make it known to the world, they are labelled “bitches”. How often do we call men who act smart “pricks” and dumb ones “one of the top 100 hottest” whatever in our magazines? Yes, it happens sometimes but not at the same scale when you compare it to women. The same society that tells women “if you act smart, you’re gonna look like bitch” (as in the case of Hilary Clinton) also tells us about stereotypes like dumb blondes and bimbos. I just feel like we’re going around in circles with no end in sight, it’s like there’s no way for women to fight this battle. Either you play the game and act dumb for the sake of being successful (in business, movies, tv, etc.) and gaining attention while still being called a dumb blonde, air head, bimbo, etc. or you retaliate with knowledge by asserting yourself and your power and you get slapped in the face with the word “bitch”.
It just reminds me of this quote on a button that I wear on my backpack, “courage in women is often mistaken for insanity”. So unfortunate yet so true.