The Vagenda

I’m Fed Up of Being Told I’m ‘Too Smart’ To Fall for Body Fascism


Collage via Enjoy Your Style

“You’re a smart girl, surely you don’t fall for that thin crap.”

I am a smart girl, or rather, an intelligent person. I read things. I think about things. I write things, and sometimes they make sense. I use long words even when I’m drunk (or perhaps especially when I’m drunk). Like the time I slipped the word ‘smarting’ into conversation at a party and not one person knew what it meant, or my recent attempts to bring back the word ‘chaste’, which everyone promptly misinterpreted as “chased”. I am, by most people’s standards, quite intelligent.

I’m also a recovered anorexic. I worry about cellulite, hate it when people touch my stomach and have recently looked up where one can procure Spanx in New Zealand. And I am sick of hearing that only stupid, shallow people buy into the unrealistic expectations society has of women. Because as much as I try to fight it, I often buy into them. Does that make me shallow and stupid? Is it therefore MY FAULT that I feel inadequate sometimes – because if I was more intelligent and not so vain, these expectations wouldn’t affect me, would they?

Saying “You’re a smart girl, surely you don’t fall for that thin crap.” is well intended – people are trying to appeal to my logic, my intellect. They’re saying, you know there is more to life than a thigh gap. You know that your value as a person is not dependent on the size of your jeans, that happiness is not dictated by a scale. You had the reading age of a 12 year old when you were 6, surely a picture of a skinny girl has nothing on you!


Okay, sure. I know these things on an intellectual level. But the images that tell us on a daily basis that we are not good enough – not thin enough, not tall enough, not smooth enough, not insert-adjective-here enough – they speak to something far stronger and far deeper than our intellect. Images are our first language. Before we processed the world in words, we took it in in pictures. Images transcend words, they transcend logic. They hit us where it fucking hurts, without us even being aware of it. So is it any wonder that even the most intelligent, least vain women are affected by the thousands of pictures of ‘perfection’ we see every day? And more than that, is it their fault?

Saying that worrying about the way we look is vain and stupid creates a mentality of blaming the victim. If I was smarter and less self-centred, I wouldn’t feel bad about myself? Yes, I can see now that I’m the source of this problem. Thanks for pointing that out.

As well as that, it raises the bar even further. Calling the impossible standards women are subjected to stupid or shallow doesn’t make them go away. Now, instead of just expecting women to look a certain way, we expect them to look that way naturally and with no obvious effort. So yes, you’re still expected to be a size 2, but if you admit to wanting that, if you admit to dieting, if you admit to not liking your body, suddenly as well as not being thin enough, toned enough, good enough, you’re self-centred and dumb.

How many times have you read an interview where a celebrity is asked what her diet is, or what her exercise regime looks like, or some other boring bullshit question about the way she looks (My favourite question to avoid falling into the trap of asking people the same cliché crap? How they would choose to die if they couldn’t die of natural causes. My personal answer is suffocating from laughing too hard. I happen to think Jennifer Lawrence would have a great answer to this one), only to have her say “What, the gym? I hate the gym. Sometimes I go for walks.” or “I eat whatever I want.”

Guess what, I GO FOR WALKS TOO. Sometimes I even go to the gym, and I look nothing like you! The fact that many women are now covering up the lengths to which they go to look ‘good enough’ really shows how twisted the standards have become.

So to the people who say, “You’re a smart girl, surely you don’t fall for that thin crap.” – I need your help to change these expectations, not your comments that insult my intelligence as well as my body.

- EV

Emma’s blog is here

21 thoughts on “I’m Fed Up of Being Told I’m ‘Too Smart’ To Fall for Body Fascism

  1. This is so true. Any time I feel unhappy with my body I feel equal parts upset that I am ‘being stupid’ and society really reinforces the idea that actually being affected by the messages we are bombarded with is a sign of a lack of intelligence!

  2. This article is so spot on. Like you, EV, I’m a recovering anorexic, set to get a 1st at a top uk uni. People telling me that I’m clever enough ‘not to fall for the thin crap’ in today’s media climate is like having someone throw rocks at you while telling you to build a rock-proof umbrella from your common sense.

      • hmmmmmmmmmmm but. honestly that aspect of the media etc isn’t about to change. and what’s most within your control is you. yeah? isn’t that all they mean by that comment.

        • also wanted to add that it’s not just about the kind of intelligence that gets you top grades as school, it’s about developing and applying emotional intelligence. when people say you’re too smart for this thin crap, they’re not just saying “hey I thought you got an A in math”. anyway, good luck.

  3. This article is a mirror image of me. I took a test at school in grade 8 (age 13) and found out I had the reading/writing age of a 17 year old!! LOL!!

    I love to read, write, and research things, and indeed I am a self-proclaimed intellectual. This may be due to the fact I’m an introvert by nature and an only child…

    But with that aside, I myself also had trouble with food. I was not bulimic or a puking anorexic, but I had a very nasty relationship with body image during my teen years. Even now, despite trying to eat better, I still sometimes have issues on ‘fat days’.

    Like the article implies, the collective media (the tv, movies, and magazines when I was a teen in the early 2000s) impacted me. With the clothes and airbrushed models, it was markets selling fakery

    It impacted me psychologically. I dunno how I got thisfar in life, but I do congratulate myself on such a success.

  4. I find it`s even more confusing than that. Our weight matters because it affects our health – how many times are we told to eat a healthy diet and exercise or we’ll get fat and die young of a heart attack? We’re told we’re stupid and vain if we try to keep ourselves thin and care about our weight, but we’re told we’re stupid and lazy if we don’t. People seem to completely ignore the fact that sexual appeal was originally about trying to find someone healthy – we’re attracted to signs that the person has good genes, a good diet, good hygiene etc. So we do have to learn what a healthy weight looks like for our body and we should aim to keep it. Is it our fault if society is filling our heads with all the wrong measurements? There’s only so much a smart girl can figure out on her own!

  5. Why does seeing a picture of a beautiful woman in the media make you feel bad about yourself? I don’t get it. Why do you compare yourself to media images?

    • One “picture of a beautiful woman in the media” is not the problem. It is hundreds of thousands of images of impossible, airbrushed images, everywhere you look – on billboards, on the front covers of magazines you do not buy, in adverts on the internet, wearing clothes in the online catalogues of shops you like to buy from. In the midst of a culture that is (remarkably hypocritically) very prudish about real-life nudity, as a woman, you see one type of body; your own, real, lumpy, contains-organs-in-the-right-spaces type of body, and then another – flat, smooth, and represented in every single image you see of a woman’s body in the media.

      The human brain is a remarkable thing – it processes information without us even consciously realising it. It isn’t about conscious comparison; it’s about your (remarkably clever) brain processing hundreds upon thousands of images of perfect bodies and going “huh… none of them look like mine – must be a problem”. All the *conscious* awareness of the ‘magic’ of photoshop etc will not get rid of that subconscious perception.

    • Advertisements are particularly damaging. As an example, Facebook thinks I’m a woman in my late fifties. The adverts always include at least one that tells me to sort out my wrinkles, and one that tells me to sort out my fat. No matter how hard you ignore it, no matter how sure you are that that “one weird trick” will not magically flatten anyone’s stomach, It gets into your head. This is the filthy, polluted sea in which we swim.

  6. Thank you for writing this.

    I’ve also struggled with eating disorders and while I’m currently at a ‘healthy’ weight (some extra padding) and am generally okay with that, I am also occasionally aware this is the biggest I’ve ever been and sometimes wouldn’t mind to lose a few pounds.

    Anyway, in my experience people’s reactions if I say I feel fat is always something like ‘don’t be stupid, you’re not fat/I’m way fatter than you’ etc etc. I get that it’s well-intentioned, I do, it’s just not helpful at all. Great, now I feel fat AND stupid. Resulting in lower self-esteem and making me want to lose weight even more.

    That being said, I am totally guilty of the same thing. If a friend (skinny or otherwise) says she wants to lose weight/feels fat, my first instinct is always to tell her otherwise, even though in the back of my mind I know that it doesn’t help.

    What would be helpful would be some understanding for a change. Even a simple ‘I know how you feel/I’ve felt like that too’ helps as it makes me feel like I’m not totally crazy for feeling like that sometimes, that other people (who *I* can see are beautiful and healthy) also have insecurities. But I think people are afraid to show understanding because they don’t want to seem like they agree with you. But trying to use logic with a feeling that is illogical in the first place (I know in my mind that I’m not obese, but rather it’s a feeling of being too big) will never work.

  7. It’s interesting that as women, our sense of worth comes from the way we look; the way we dress, the size of our dress; our shoes, our hair, the colour of our eyes, our makeup, our intelligence; what we do, how much we do, being the best at what we do; who we are with, the image we put out…

    All of these things bring us something back – we get feedback from people around us all of the time… and, we play a game (consciously or not) to put out something that will give us the feedback we want to receive…

    When did perfection = our ability to be worth something in this world, and being worthy of love…??

    Is it possible that our wit and intelligence have not brought us everything we ever wanted?

    I strove to be perfect for most of my life – being the smartest never brought me everything I wanted, and neither did being the thinnest… I went from one thing to another in the hope that I would feel content… but in the end, everything ‘I tried’ was still not accepting that I was enough to begin with.

    I too suffered from anorexia, and my incessant need for perfection drove me to no end. My perfect model body, was still not perfect for me, and I always found something to criticise. I was trying in every way to be satisfied, to feel enough, and to be recognised.

    Truth is, there is absolutely nothing I can do to be enough… I have to feel it first, otherwise everything I do is an attempt to get the feedback that I am enough – and, if I do get the feedback I want, I probably won’t believe it anyway…!!!!

    Why is this whole world set up to make us feel like we are not enough…?

    Do we ever wake up and just feel that we are amazing, and whatever we do will be that too? For most, this is not the reality.

    Do we wake up and honour what our body wants to do? Do we listen to what our body wants?

    Or do we listen to our head and what we think we need to do?

    Do we jump up in a hurry to go to the gym, or start our routine so that we are good enough for the day…? Do we have a list of all of our ‘have to’s ‘…

    Where does this come from?

    Is the problem that our intelligence has only come from our head, and not from the intelligence of our body, which knows who we are and how to live…

    If we ignore the intelligence of our bodies, then what happens? We end up eating too much or too little, exercising too much or too little, working too hard or too little, and not in the right way. If we ignore how our bodies feel, to make them look a certain way, we will most definitely feel an emptiness that comes from ignoring ourselves.

    Our bodies crave being adored by us, and cared for deeply.

    The only way I was able to break free from the prison of anorexia and the thoughts that ruled the way I lived, was to listen to my body, and to seriously work on my self-worth.

    We all deserve to feel enough and to feel our true worth.

    And when I feel enough, my body will always be enough – for me…

  8. I am so happy I came across this. I also considered myself as intelligent and I’ve spent the last few years thinking beauty standards imposed by the media as ridiculous and that I am too intelligent, too ‘strong’, too above it all for it to affect me. But since going to uni and having my body change shape I suddenly feel pressure from the constant beauty expectations thrown at me to change. That I am not good enough as I am and it honestly made me feel weak. I look at the media and think ‘you know that it’s photoshopped’ but despite knowing this I still don’t feel good enough. When my ‘intelligence’ is one thing I thought I had over this topic, allowing myself to give in to these images just leaves me feeling silly and unattractive. WELL DONE MEDIA.


  9. even reading this, knowing that it’s true and being an “intelligent” person, I cannot quell the voice in my head that is screaming “YOU’RE CHUBBY AND MAYBE THAT’S WHY YOU’RE ALONE!! LOSE WEIGHT YOU BIG FATTY!”

    I hate that voice in my head. Shusht now.
    The irony is that I know I’m probably fitter than I have been in a long time but I weigh more and I feel fatter and seeing pictures of me looking all frumpy makes me feel sad… and I really do berate myself for feeling this way because I know I am relatively quite smart and should not be so affected by it. Ugh.

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