He meant it as a compliment, and I’m sure he thought I’d think he was charming when he said I was “too pretty to code,” but I took it for what it really was: an ignorant devaluing of my intelligence.
PSA: You do not have to choose between looking good and being good at what you do.
From a young age, we are taught that girls should value prettiness over intelligence. We are taught to be flattered when we’re called beautiful, and offended when we’re called brainy – but (thankfully!) we are no longer in the age when women were confined to homes, we are in the age of opportunity and a push towards equality in the workplace.
One of the things I hear over and over from my mentees is, “what he said really bothers me, but he didn’t mean anything bad by it…” Well here’s the truth about that: perceived positive intentions don’t give someone a free pass to be hurtful. It’s up to us to point out when things make us uncomfortable, or to stand up for one another if we witness discrimination in action. If we don’t point out the subtle discriminations, they may never know that their actions were wrong, and the shift towards true equality will continue to crawl at a snail’s pace.
I’m not saying we should all run around aggressively confronting anyone who looks at us wrong, in fact, I’m not saying we should even think of it as confrontation. We should simply use the same confidence they have behind their ignorant comments, and feel just in replying with a thoughtful response. Or sometimes, it’s just as effective to deflect back immediately with a simple, “that’s sexist.” Trust me, it works wonders.
Bottom line is, no one is too pretty to code. That’s just stupid. You don’t have to choose between looking good and being smart, and that goes for everyone, not just women. You wouldn’t tell a guy he’s too handsome to code, right? So when someone uses your appearance to belittle your intelligence, shake it off and be proud that you’re not defined by your appearance.
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