Is our “Ikaw na!” culture keeping us from becoming the best versions of ourselves?
Since when was being smart girl a bad thing?
It’s a strange dichotomy that, as a society,
we proclaim that we prize the modern woman for her brains, her go-getting spirit, her sparkling wit, her strength of character—in contrast to decades past when all you needed to know was how to keep a household as picture-perfect as your appearance and maybe how to throw a dinner party.
At the same time, we shut down as soon as someone brings up a topic apart from the goings-on in our favorite teleseryes or social media feeds, because why on Earth would anyone want to talk about a topic as unsexy as Syria, or classism, or, god forbid, any of the STEM fields? Quote a literary phrase, mention a word like “paradigm” or “zeitgeist,” or throw in a statistic, and prepare to see glazedover eyes and experience an endless, awkward silence alleviated only by a bad joke along the lines of, “Wow, ang lalim, nalunod ako.”
the BIG Idea
Two articles written by authors who pretty much embody intellectual ideals—a Palanca award-winning writer and a scientist, specifically— made online rounds a few months back, tackling the very subject. Two very different pieces, but they shared the point that it is our collective fear of the unknown that keeps us making those unfunny quips and denying any attempt at a discussion beyond what we’re used to talking about. Sure, there are other things to consider, such as personality, education, socio-economic factors, and our uniquely Filipino amalgamation of Eastern and Western culture but, at the end of the day, it’s because we’re afraid of anything we don’t quite completely understand. That’s why we veer away, why we try to change the topic back to something we already know, why we want to talk about things with universal appeal.
Many shared those stories, posted a witty caption, and called it a day. So true! we thought before going on with our lives, sharing listicles and videos of kittens, soon forgetting the pieces that moved us enough to merit social media real estate.
For some of us, though, someone finally putting a name to the feeling we get when our friends look bored at the mention of a fascinating documentary on the history of stolen art or Prideandprejudice was, in a word, liberating. Smart people have feelings too, and it hurts when we see someone roll their eyes at our newest (read: nerdy) obsession, or turn into the human equivalent of a screensaver when they hear us mention Stephen Hawking or how we champion auteur theory.
I mean, I get it. There are days when we want to talk about office gossip, or how cute that Jadine moment was, but, for many of us, there are also moments when we want to gush about that aforementioned nerdy new obsession. Believe me when I say most smart people don’t want to sound like smartasses. They really do talk like that, and they really do care about the things they’re talking about—they wouldn’t want to share them with you if they didn’t. That doesn’t necessarily make intellectuals arrogant weirdos, and somehow says volumes more about the person doing the shrugging off than about the so-called nerd.
higher and higher
Why, though, are we so afraid of the unknown? Is it because we don’t want to ask questions that might potentially make us look stupid? And is our fear really more important to us than developing ourselves as human beings? If there’s anything a truly wise person never does, it’s to stop asking questions, image be damned. All not asking questions does is keep us from learning and from growing.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be greater than who and what we are now. There’s nothing wrong with learning something new, something beyond our comfort zones. If anything, nothing says fun and fearless more than a woman who is always looking to become a better version of herself—it’s only the smart thing to do.
Is it because we’re afraid to look stupid?