Is my IQ high enough? My dress size low enough?

New market research shows that young women desire both beauty and brains.

Published July 28, 2006 11:48PM (EDT)

New market research has found that young women -- so inspirationally dubbed "Generation Next" -- are fighting a battle between conflicting forces and it has them a little confused, reports USA Today. The research reveals that women ages 16-25 feel pulls to be both intelligent and "hot."

Ian Pierpoint, senior vice president of Synovate, the firm that conducted the study, told USA Today that young women today covet images of desirable celebrities, at the same time craving independence and personal success. Also, paired with a celebrity-rag-as-bible sensibility comes validation through performance. "Young women are taught from the moment they're born that the way they should experience their bodies is as someone looking at them, as opposed from internally," Nita Mary McKinley, a professor of interdisciplinary arts and sciences at the University of Washington-Tacoma, told USA Today.

One gets the impression from the article, though, that they're not aspiring to just any type of hotness, but a very particular, drawling and inarticulate Paris Hilton sort of hot. The study's somewhat surprising stats about attitudes toward sex ("33 percent think having sex isn't that big of a deal anymore"), and attractiveness ("over one-third think they look hot when they wear clothing that shows a little skin") are a bit disheartening.

But I'm not so ready to believe that young girls' aspirations toward "hotness" necessarily equates to a desire to embody Paris Hilton. It's misguided to assume that their aspirations toward attractiveness and intelligence are mututally exclusive. It seems more an issue of balancing than choice between opposites; and there seem to be at least faint echoes here of the struggle of the generation of women preceding them to balance work and family (76 percent of the young women surveyed wanted to have both a family and a career). It's unfortunate that young women experience the stress of trying to be all and do all, but there's something to be said for the fact that they don't see beauty and brains, or desirability and independence, as so mutually exclusive that it would prevent the pursuit, however conflicted, of both.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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