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Val123's avatar

Regarding women (not men) in the family, have you heard the phrase, "She got the beauty, I got the brains" as if the two are mutually exclusive.

Asked by Val123 (12694points) March 11th, 2010

Further, the woman who “got the brains” always sounds rueful, like, “OK. I’m not pretty, but I’m smart. But I’ll settle for second best.” First, what was the original assumption/stereotype and where did it stem from? And why?

Second, why did you never hear those same stereotypes applied to the males in the family?

Further, it wasn’t that long ago that it was considered “unbecoming’ for a female to show intelligence, so in that type of restricted, backward society, which of the two would have been the most advantageous?

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14 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

These are all very interesting questions – I think it is a relatively new phenomenon that one of the sisters even gets ‘the smart one’ label.

Val123's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I don’t think it’s new. I think it dates back to the days (last 400 years in America, anyway) when beauty was the only thing that really counted, and the “ugly step sisters” had to find a way to….redeem themselves, even if it meant further ostracism from the society. I need to look further.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Val123 oh no the ‘ugly step sister’ thing did occur but they weren’t explained as smart until later.

Val123's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Something to look into!

ella's avatar

i like to be known as or referred to as nice-looking or “pretty” (who doesn’t, honestly?) but given the choice, if i only get one descriptor, 100 times out of 100 i prefer to be known and described as smart. and if i get both, i’d rather the smart comes first.

as far as the most advantageous trait back in the days when women were supposed to “be seen and not heard” – certainly appearance had it’s purpose to serve, but i’ve never known anyone that was harmed by literally being “too smart for their own good”. which is to say, how could being “the smart one” so to speak, ever leave one too much at a disadvantage? being “the pretty one” can certainly leave a girl hanging in some pretty important or embarrassing situations, depending on just how lacking she is in the brains department..

this answer has become a rambling mess. must sleep…

Val123's avatar

Welcome to Fluther @ella! Sleep on it, see what tomorrow brings! :)

Pandora's avatar

I think it just comes from old times when women were considered of higher value if they where pretty and men if they are smart. Then the pair would be considered a good match for possibly passing down those traits to their children.

Val123's avatar

@Pandora I have yet to research the “old times” in this country….I mean. I agree with what you’re saying, but at what point (in Women’s Lib) did the distinction start taking place?

Pandora's avatar

@Val123 I don’t think there is any documented record of exactly when it became fashionable to make this comment.
As too when did it become unfashionable to say it, I would have guess it came about during WWII when women left their homes to work for the war effort (I’m only guessing). When men returned for war and women were being ushered out of doing mens work because they weren’t seen as smart or as equals to men.


I only use that expression when I’m with my wife. Lol.

tranquilsea's avatar

I’ve heard that said in other families. In ours, my mom and dad always heard, “how did you and Bill end up with such attractive girls?” There are 6 of us, 5 girls. We all used to roll our eyes when we’d hear that as we all have pretty good brains between our ears and that was more important to us.

susanc's avatar

Only the dumb one in the family ever says this – leaving the beautiful one standing there humiliated in public.

thriftymaid's avatar

I’ve never heard it. Maybe we have neither brains nor looks.

Val123's avatar

Come to think of it, the phrase probably DID come into being in the 20th century, because before that a woman wouldn’t dare to suggest that she actually had brains!

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