A New Perspective: Intelligence and Beauty

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Over the last few months I have been dreaming and thinking about this upcoming adventure to Spain and Morocco. It will be my first time traveling internationally, I have tons of borrowed expectations from others, but still I have no idea what to expect. I started to think about the academic side of the trip and felt a bit overwhelmed. I have never been the best at grammar or writing in general, so eight credits in a writing class felt a little intimidating. Sometimes I feel as if my knowledge is not as deep as others, at times I feel inadequate. However, reading Fatema Mernissi’s book Scheherazade Goes West, a small quote changed my perspective, Mernissi at this point is speaking of the fact that she had never read Immanuel Kant’s work: “Since I never lie in order to hide my ignorance, because to do so is to miss a fantastic opportunity for learning, I confessed bravely that I have never read him” (89). The way that Mernissi looks at ignorance as the chance to know is beautiful. All that we don’t know, we are able to learn, each new piece of information has the power to change our mindsets, attitudes and outlook on life!  Learning is in fact a fantastic opportunity, a gift indeed. I have turned my feelings of being inadequate, into a position of open arms-ready to receive the gift of learning. I am prepared to soak in facts, knowledge, history and perspectives, in order to widen and expand my world view.

The entire concept of Scheherzade Goes West and Mernissi’s in depth study of the harem in the East versus the West was quite fascinating. The final chapter, Size 6: The Western Woman’s Harem, wrapped up the book so nicely and at the same time left your jaw dropping to the floor from all that she uncovers. She proposes that the Muslim veiling when forced as a political statement is equal to the standard of “size 6” for women in western culture-both are imposed restrictions. Mernissi suggests that the western man is in charge of time and light, and he has declared that to be young is to be beautiful. This western idea enforces Immanuel Kant’s view on women “to be beautiful women have to appear childish and brainless. When a woman looks mature and self assertive, or allows her hips to expand, she is condemned as ugly. Thus the walls of the European Harem separate youthful beauty from ugly maturity”. (214) This idea that youthfulness is the definition of beauty is terribly limiting and just plain wrong. In this way western men are “veiling” mature, older women in “shrouds of ugliness” (214).

Reading the final chapter made me think about the cosmetic industry and how much the idea that “youthfulness equals beauty” is imbedded deep within its DNA. There are thousands of products on the market that promise renewed skin, the look of youth and for wrinkles to disappear. Each and every one of these products support the ideal that youth is beauty and vice versa. This beauty ideal is unrealistic and so restricting, it states that one is only able to find beauty within the certain mold that the western man has created. Once again I believe this is wrong, there is so much beauty to find in a mature woman’s wisdom, her wide hips which gave way to life and the lines and wrinkles that lie on her face.

So why do women try to erase these lines and wrinkles with crèmes, serums and even to the extreme with surgery? These products promise to take ones face back to the time of their youth, when they once felt beautiful. But I say that there is tremendous beauty within those wrinkles. The lines around your mouth tell the story of all the times there was joy and laughter in your life. The sunspots whisper of the sweet rays of sun that kissed your face every summer. Faint lines encasing each eye speak of the emotions and expressions you exhibited day in and day out. The wrinkles, the lines, the spots are all trying to tell of the adventures, laughing, crying and the life that you have lived. The ideal of youthfulness has warped the definition of beauty. It has caused the western women to try and fit into the size 6 mold while her face is trying to proudly proclaim the life she has lived, while she is focused on erasing it. Now it is up to women, are we going to take this beauty standard and try to continuously run back into the days of youth? Or are we going to take a stand and proclaim that there is beauty in each stage of life and act, consume and live in a manner that supports that statement? 

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