Beauty Does Not Last, Stupid Does 06-08-11-margaret.jpg

Several years ago, I was enthralled by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, which deals with how we make most of our decisions both small and momentous — usually very quickly and instinctively.

Now I am captivated by Lisa Bloom’s Think, which makes the case that too many Americans, almost exclusively young women, are so taken in by our society’s celebrity culture that we are experiencing an intellectual decline bordering in some instances on actual ignorance. Bloom, an attorney and television reporter, clearly knows of what she speaks.

As a longtime advocate for young women and the mother of one, I have long been distressed about the shallowness of this aspect of our culture; a culture in which many young women and some older ones as well are more interested in how their jeans fi t across their backsides than in their educations.

A recent Oxygen Media survey found that 25 percent of young American women would rather be named America’s Next Top Model than be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and 23 percent would rather lose their ability to read than lose their figures.

I was recently so appalled by a television clip of two American charmers, neither of whom could identify any of the three branches of our government or knew in which city more than 100 people had died during a tornado the week before, that I knew I had to see what Bloom had to say.

She makes a compelling case that this is not funny, that this is a real problem. She laments the situation, and then offers some advice on how to get our brains back on track.

First, let’s take a look at the issue for American women as Bloom describes it:

“We are excelling in education at every level but likewise obsessing over celebrity lifestyles and tabloid media, leaving many of us unable to name a single branch of government — but nearly all of us can name at least one Kardashian.

“We are outperforming our male counterparts in employment in urban areas for the first time in history, yet spending more time and money on our appearances, including electing life-endangering plastic surgery in record breaking numbers.

“In a culture that continually rewards beauty over brains, it’s no wonder that straight-A high school girls believe ‘It’s more important to be hot than smart’ as they giggle into television cameras that they don’t know how many sides a triangle has, nor in which country Mexico City is located.”

Bloom explores the issue in all its stiletto, spray-tanned, Brangelina detail, and then she offers solutions beginning in a well-titled chapter, “Reclaiming the Brains God Gave Ya.”

It is full of common sense tidbits for getting control of your life such as giving yourself some free time just for yourself and allowing your children to be bored or unhappy from time to time. As for fashion, she notes that plaids will always be in style in the fall and sundresses always work in the summer, so no need to read every publication dealing with such matters.

Most importantly to me, Bloom says read constantly, widely and well, quoting the Chinese proverb, “Those who do not read are no better off than those who cannot.”
Like Oprah, but even better, Bloom gives us a reading list beginning with Half the Sky, a Pulitzer Prize winner which details the lives of women all over the world who struggle daily for food for themselves and their families and for the basic human rights American women cannot imagine not having. These women would be flabbergasted that high heels might be more interesting to anyone than voting.

Bloom’s reading suggestions reflect her mandate of reading widely and well and include serious non-fiction works, novels both light and weighty, and just for fun reads. She also recommends quality time with friends and family and building a strong network of women friends who become one’s safety net. This has certainly been true in my own life.

Think puts into words what the lives of many American women of our time have become, and readable as it is, it is an important work. If I could, I would put this book into the hands of every young woman I could find.

Jill Conner Browne, the Jackson, Mississippi Southern Belle who wrote the Sweet Potato Queen series, recognized this issue with American women as well, and I paraphrase her pithy assessment.

Beauty, lovely as it may be, does not last. Stupid does. Fortunately, so does smart.

Photo: Author Lisa Bloom says the obsession over celebrity lifestyles leaves many unable to name a branch of government, but at least one of the Kardashians.

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