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my mind is not a mini skirt

My skirt length is not proportional to my IQ.

I would have thought this much would be a given in this day and age. I mean, there was such a thing as third wave feminism right? That wasn’t some sort of whacked out fever dream, right?

And yet… I remember being 15 and having my history teacher tell me, ‘you’re a very bright girl, but no one’s going to take you seriously in those clothes’. I remember all the many, many times my grandfather was more proud of my weight loss than my academic successes (patchy and sporadic as they may have been).

And then there was a few months ago, when I opened my university’s usually very enlightened and entertaining magazine, and came across this article: ‘Leggings Are Not Pants’.

Now on the surface, that sounds fair enough right? I, as a fashion concious, worldly young woman who is still highly uncomfortable about the size of her arse, am not only offended but a little bit terrified of the whole leggings-as-pants phenomenon. A rant against the whole fad is something I could totally get on board with.

But no. That’s not what this lovely young lady was talking about. Instead, this was a surprisingly offensive personal rant against girls who have the utter gall to want to go to uni looking their best. I mean, of course the only girls who would want to look nice at our university – which, by the way, is located smack bang in the centre of the CBD – must be uneducated prostitutes, right? Obviously! Everyone knows that girls are either smart or pretty, never both!

So I read this article, fumed for a bit, ranted to my friends (who were nice enough to pretend to care) and then attempted to move with my life. But I kept coming back to it – to this article, to my grandfather’s obsession with my weight, to my history teacher’s blatant sexism – and it made me think: am I wrong to assume I can be both pretty and smart? I’d like to think not, but the evidence against me seems to be mounting.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, despite a myriad of insecurities, I’m fairly cute. Not Australia’s Next Top Model, but nice enough looking and with a slight clothing obsession. I like to look nice. I’m also a law student who came in top of all my classes in high school. I’ve won scholarships, debate championships, essay awards – not to boast, but I am sort of a run of the mill geek girl. Most of my friends are the same – attractive, well dressed, devastatingly intelligent young women who, when asked by the universe if they wanted to be pretty or smart, picked ‘all of the above’.

These girls are everywhere. It’s not a rarity. I’m at uni with a girl who’s not only a brilliant law student who got amazing grades at school, but also happens to be an international model. We’re a generation of ‘perfect girls’ who insist on having everything. Why is it still seen as so bizarre?

These aren’t questions I’m presuming to know the answers to. I’m sincerely confused, and a little worried. The article in my university paper is especially worrying, because it wasn’t written by an uninformed middle-aged man. It was written by a girl my age, who presumably is receiving roughly the same education as me, as are many of my adorable peers. Every single women’s magazine, every single bullying book, hell even Tina Fey, has said it, but it bears repeating: when will women stop trashing each other?

No one wants to sound like a paranoid ‘feminazi’, but let’s face it, we insult each other so much, and hold each other back so often, that it feels like we’ve essentially absorbed the ideals of the patriarchal society we really should be working harder to change. It’s a roadblock between us as a society and the equality that every human being deserves. I don’t want to get all ‘sisterhood’ on each other, but come on, sisters! Let’s band together! Let’s support each other and our killer fashion choices and even more killer brains.

So you see some girl in a tight tank top and low cut jeans walking around campus? Don’t instantly assume all she’s carrying in her book bag is condoms and lip gloss, because for all you know, you’re power-judging a future CEO, brain surgeon, prime-minister. And even if all she is carrying are condoms and makeup, good on her for being well protected! Stop being so judgemental!

So here’s the deal. Stop trashing each other, wear what you like, be a genius (or don’t), and maybe – just maybe – we can make it out of our 20s relatively unscathed.

My name is Ruby Niemann, and my mind is not a mini skirt.

(Image credit: 1.)

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