All Power to The (Smart) People

January 2000

Dorothy Day was fond of saying that “Beauty will save the world” (a paraphrase of Dostoyevsky). That’s quite an exaggeration, but we get the drift. Although it’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it would be hard for anyone to look at a photo of the young Dorothy Day and deny that she was one beautiful dame. And she was hecka smart too.

The problem is that most of us aren’t both physically attractive and intelligent. The hunks on the high-school football team and the cute, shapely cheerleaders who root them on seldom make the honor roll. Maybe God has arranged it so that if we don’t excel in brainpower or academics, we can excel in some other area.

But this seems to trouble Thomas J. McCarthy, writing in America (Oct. 16, 1999). He bemoans “our Barbie Doll culture,” saying that “when it comes to growing up” in such a culture, “girls have an uphill battle.” Sure, some do — but others don’t. He denounces the “male domination” of the world and charges that females are “too often…subject to evaluation…based on their looks.” (Men aren’t?) McCarthy would prefer that females be evaluated in terms of how “fleet of mind” they are. But in such an Egghead culture, some girls would still have an uphill battle — no, would probably face an unwinnable battle — for it’s much harder to enhance one’s I.Q. than one’s looks. Indeed, in such a culture, smarty-pants like McCarthy would be kings whereas girls sluggish of mind would be terminal peons.

McCarthy proceeds to take aim at the Miss America Pageant, which, he charges, destroys women’s “self-esteem” by encouraging them to “seek physical enhancement in order to please others.”


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New Oxford Notes: January 2000

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