Dumb is cute.
As the old saying goes, women would rather be good looking than smart because most men see better than they think.
The feminine tradition of choosing to play dumb, to try and not know what we know, or at least to not show what we know has a long, long history. There is a power in being underestimated, in being seen as helpless and cute.
With the push for more women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), we are working hard to change the idea that men don’t make passes at lasses in glasses. Smart,nerdy men have learned that smart women make good and valuable partners.
Still, some dumb is delightful. That giddy, lightheaded feeling when someone sexy focuses on you and your brains just fly out the window will always be a delicious treat. And what woman doesn’t enjoy having her brains fucked out now and then, being left purring in a lover’s arms? The return to feral, wild, primal and basic, getting out of our head and into our skin is always refreshing and nourishing.
The choice to play dumb in the world so that you can be popular is always a costly one. There is a reason the word dumb used to be used as a synonym for mute, without a voice and unable to speak what is inside of you in the world.
Playing dumb puts big constraints on your voice. You have to police yourself all the time, working all the time to keep the smart, together and challenging bits of you hidden. This leaves you coming from a place of neediness since your every expression is calculated to get affirmation and sympathy from other people.
If you are the dumb one, you are always the follower and never the leader. The only way you can take power is passive-aggressively, through techniques like pouts and tantrums. This may lead people to care for you, relieving you of responsibility in the situation, but it also means that you are always at the mercy of others, always depending on their kindness and intelligence.
The legend around transgender suggests that we are either self-centred monsters or abject broken people. Given that choice, if you want to connect with other people, making the choice for dumb is completely sensible. We are formidable enough in our walking out of the norm, so softening that image with sweet sighs may seem like the only way to stay loved, the only way not to be left lonely.
As transwomen, we often feel pressure to conceal any traces of our experience being seen as a man. One way to do that is to lower our voice, surrendering it to the group and only looking sweet. We are often doing this, though, at an age when women born female and raised as women are reclaiming their own voices, using their smarts and strength to take powerful positions in the community.
To be trans in the world means you have deep feelings, strong enough to drive you beyond convention, and deep knowledge, an understanding of how to stay safe and aware in a world that wants to erase and crush you. While you don’t have to be intellectual to be trans, you can’t be dumb either; some level of smarts is required.
Dumb may be a useful face to put on, cute, sweet and apparently harmless, but as women over the centuries have learned, dumb only gets you so far in a life. You can only be the girl for so long; eventually everyone has to grow up or die.
Dumb may be cute, but smart, well, smart is beautiful. Smart lets you loose to be the best you can be, witty, sharp, crazy and yes, a little bit cute, too. Smart respects both you and the people around you, letting you be strong and valuable in the world.
Beauty, though, endures, smart, growing, transforming and transcendent. Trust your own smarts. The cute will take care of itself.