I Don’t Need to Be Beautiful, I’m Smart!

im smart

Join entrepreneur Ellen Burton as she tackles every aspect of a personal branding makeover with The Image Studios. Today, she talks about reconciling long-held ideas about intelligence versus beauty, and what a real feminist looks like.

I’m not tall, blond and thin. The world has told me that I am the smart one, so I invest in developing my mind instead of my looks.

I am being challenged to see myself differently. I have to admit, it’s been a little uncomfortable and very surprising (usually the case when one is being asked to shift a 30-year-old paradigm). I’m being called to sort of grow up some old ideas about what a feminist looks like–now. A feminine feminist! A contradiction in terms, if you ask me.

I’m a child of the 60′s. I’m the generation of young women who were expected to have a career because so many other women fought for that right.

As a developing teenager, my role models didn’t wear bras, let alone makeup. We were to be women of choice, and we wanted to be valued for our brains and ability, not just our sexuality. So I believed that if I wanted to be taken seriously and respected professionally, I should focus on accentuating my brain, not my beauty. I believed that I should be valued for my training and intelligence; therefore, my hair and clothing should not be a factor.

For better or worse, this is not entirely true! Brains and accomplishments are not the only way we’re judged. I know this. I judge people all the time. Whether on the red carpet or in the grocery store–so I’m not sure why I thought I was exempt.

I think I have to re-evaluate my definition of strong, feminist, accomplished women. I have to re-think what it means to be successful and have choices, and what does that look like 40-50 years after the “women’s movement”?

My question is: how do I remain a feminist, strong, accomplished woman, and feminine too?


Choose to be strong, accomplished, feminist and feminine.

This is interesting. I consider myself a feminist. Oxford defines it as “a person who supports feminism.” Wiki does the word much more justice. And yup, I’m a feminist, too.

Why are women taught that we have to choose whether we will be regarded as smart or beautiful? Author Dr. Christine Whelan said, “Yes, the media likes to scare [smart women] into believing that they have to choose between career and family, between being smart and being feminine.” But I believe that this is not what Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique (1963), had in mind.

Wouldn’t it be great if our daughters grew up with permission to be smart and beautiful?

Smart is beautiful! If we are smart and beautiful on the inside, why not look, sound and behave it on the outside? To do anything else is hiding out, and that’s silly for those of us feminists who want to have impact.

The feminist is smart, powerful, beautiful, divine and ought to be celebrated, not hidden.

Choose to be all that you are, not just some of it.




About Kali Patrice

Kali Patrice is the founder of The Image Studios, a Chicago-based firm that specializes in branding and image communication. She blogs through “Successful Expression” to share fresh ways to share insights about image, personal branding and self-expression.