Op 4: Beauty vs. Brains

A woman walks down the street. She knows she is beautiful, and her family, friends, and nearby strangers agree with this knowledge. However, despite the fact that she is proud of her perfect hair and perky nose, she does not want to advertise this fact because she is afraid she will seem shallow. Two weeks ago, she was hired by a fortune 500 company, and although she is smart and competent, the reason she got hired is because she has big boobs and a pretty face. She is ashamed of this fact and she has not even disclosed it to her closest friends. She would have said no to the job, but the economy is bad, and people must do drastic things during a recession. She enjoys getting compliments for her looks, but if someone tells her that her beauty is her best feature, she will be highly offended.

Her best friend goes by the nickname little Einstein. She has always excelled in every class she has taken, and she usually does not need to study before a test. She knows she is smart, and the only thing that keeps her from boasting about it every three minutes is good social skills. Many people tell her that with her brain she can accomplish anything, and she never gets tired of hearing these words.

Society respects intelligence,  and  although admiring attractive people is considered shallow, both these traits come from the same source, genetics! Why are brains considered more admirable than beauty? Perhaps it’s because a person is born with beauty, but they must work for smarts. This logic only has one flaw, we admire people with natural intelligence more than the people who worked for it. Sure, we may respect the kid who did eight outlines of a chapter to make an A on a test, but we are in awe of the kid who was able to achieve that same A after only skimming the chapter. Also, any woman with manicured nails and designer eyebrows will tell you that achieving beauty requires money, time, and pain.

Perhaps we admire brainpower more because beauty fades, while intelligence stays till death. Unfortunately, anybody who has visited a nursing home, will disagree with that statement. Also, thanks to the wonderful breakthroughs of science, we can now battle gray hairs and wrinkles for over six decades( which is why actresses have longer shelf lives).

I believe the reason people have different attitudes about looks and smarts, despite the fact that it’s something most humans have no control over, is because of guilt. It only takes five seconds to decide if a person is pretty , and people feel guilty respecting a trait which they can identify that easily. At the same time, it takes at least two minutes of conversation to figure out if a person is smart (one minute if it’s Einstein), and therefore people admire the smart person, not for their intelligence, but because of the effort they put into deciding if that person was smart. Perhaps it’s also genetics that dictates how we prioritize the good characteristics of people. Why do you think brains is considered more admirable than beauty?

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8 Responses to Op 4: Beauty vs. Brains

  1. Thought-provoking post. I think it really is because of the belief that beauty fades, stupid is forever. I believe it. People are afflicted with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. It has nothing to do with their baseline intelligence. Plus, there are those elderly people who are lucky enough to be as sharp as they were when they were younger. The same can’t be said for appearance unless we can put an older person’s brain into a hot 21 year old’s body.

    • Thank you for reading! Even if they don’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia, people over a certain age usually have diminished cognitive skills. Intelligence does last longer than beauty (perhaps that is why it’s admired more), but it also fades.

  2. JT says:

    Interesting Hypothesis, although the thing that bothers me about both extremes is this is driven primarily from a social value scale. We constantly make make value judgements and comparisons out of a need to feel valued and affirmed and yet, the shallowness of these judgement’s and comparisons only serve to limit our ability to know and value someone and they to know and add value to us. If I see a beautiful woman I may admire that beauty, however upon talking to her if she has the personality of a troll, no matter how attractive she may have first appeared, I will no longer see the beauty on the outside as the inside ugliness will over shadow it. Equally the same can be said of brains. Just a thought.

    • Thanks for reading! I agree that with that statement. Once you know a person, a single trait such as beauty, smarts, or even a personality trait does not matter. However, when it comes to admiration (the way one would admire a writer/singer/politian), people tend to admire smarts more than beauty.

  3. I totally agree and have always found this quite weird. I think the reason people are quicker to think that beauty is something shallow is because, in a society that prizes looks over everything, people are more jealous of beauty and it makes them feel better to call it shallow.

    It’s also probably easier to secretly think you’re really intelligent than it is to think you’re beautiful – so again less cause for jealousy.

    Obviously this is a generalisation, but generally I have found that when people call something shallow, what they mean is that it’s out of their reach. Hence people are always saying that models don’t have two brain cells to rub together when really they’re no less likely to be intelligent than anyone else.

    • Thank you for reading! I also think that jealousy could cause people to be more shallow. Also there are things a person can do to achieve more smarts, but when it comes to beauty, the only way to drastically change how one really looks is to do plastic surgery (and most people are not that drastic).

  4. Have you read “The Picture of Dorian Gray”? It deals in depth with this question.

    • I have read it before, but it was a long time ago. I remember how it deals with the beauty aspect of it, but I don’t remember how it deals with the brains aspect. What was Oscar Wilde’s conclusion?

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