Being Femme in Stem

If I were to tell you “There are stereotypes in my desired field of interest,” it wouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone. We’ve all tragically grown up in a society that tells us who we should and shouldn't be, no matter the field of interest. But I’ve made it my life’s mission to constantly defy stereotypes. However, in the process of doing so, I’ve found that my biggest obstacle has also been the most complex.

It’s a common trope throughout the entirety of media that the “smart” girl can’t also be the “pretty” girl, so much so that when someone is perceived as intelligent and pretty they are deemed a threat, and they are greatly despised. To my own disappointment, I’ve been the girl who despises her closest friends for “being everything she wasn’t.” Though, it wasn’t until recently that I realized how toxic this ideology is. The problem was never me, the problem was the multifaceted, integrated idea that women should be *insert stereotype here,* and if you don’t fit into that box, there is something inherently wrong with you. The other problem lies in the standards for beauty and intelligence. It is universally known that a well-educated man is incredibly attractive. Yet, when a women is well versed in a subject, she is “nerdy” or “pretentious”. These double standards, and the ancient ideologies of a what a women should be, creates a perfectly damaging storm.

As a young girl, I was often told by my parents that I was the smartest and most beautiful girl in the world, and for the longest time I believed it. Similar to many others, my confidence slowly degraded throughout my growth into adulthood. Nevertheless, my intelligence had always been something that I had prided myself on, and it wasn’t anything that seemed to hold me back. And it wasn’t until high school that I realized that societal standards had set up a very different life for me. From there on out, it would be a battle between being feminine and being intelligent.

For some peculiar reason I couldn’t be both smart and pretty. I had to be one or the other. I couldn't have my cake and eat it too. Furthermore the idea of being in touch with my own sexuality was mind blowing. It was a constant battle in high school, and it didn’t help that all of my female friends are traditionally attractive and intelligent. Our frustration only grew as we got older, we wanted to be appreciated not only for our beauty, but our intelligence, too. As we all began our separate paths towards college, we were forced to determine what in ourselves we value most, and what we want others to value the most. As much as I thought we had evolved beyond this tragic black and white culture, I was forced to realize how pervasive this ideology was.

It occurred to me that the only way to break this vicious cycle is to redefine beauty. While this may seem cliche, it is absolutely necessary. In order to ensure the safety and utmost confidence of the young girls that follow us, it is vital that media shifts its standards of beauty. Thankfully there is already a large push to redefine beauty. But it’s time we show the world that smart is the new sexy, one women at a time. I hope that you will join me on this mission, and remember that your self-worth doesn’t stem from the opinions of others.