Friday, 1 May 2015

Clever Girl

At a function recently someone asked me what I do for a living. I explained to them in a few sketchy details. Someone responded with, "Yes, she's a very clever girl." A couple of other people chipped in and agreed that I was indeed a very clever girl.

I'm thirty three.

Had I been a bloke, aged anything over 18, I suspect they would not have referred to me as a very clever boy.

It was meant affectionately. It was supposed to be a compliment. I know this. I know, like and respect the people who said it. But this isn't the first time as an adult I've been referred to as a very clever girl. Is it indicative of a societal tendency to acknowledge and praise women who are academically interested and striving towards challenging goals, while simultaneously (whether consciously or subconsciously) applying caution that we don't overstep narrow, imposed gender stereotype? Is it the implication that my cleverness is limited to the fact that I'm female by gendering the sort of clever that I am? And then further reducing it to the level of a girl; a child. I can't just be called clever, or a clever woman (or even, at a stretch, a clever lady *shudders*). The girl aspect limits me somehow to something quantifiable. Non threatening, with all the ghastly baggage of gender stereotyping that that carries. Ugh.

Am I reading too much into a very misguided compliment?

Whatever. It may well happen again sometime and I will have to decide whether to make a scene over a thoughtless attempt at a compliment or just smile and let it go.

Either way, I will hold dear to this image from Jurrassic Park; the ranger who mutters the phrase ironically in the moments before his raptor death. Whatever gets you through.

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