Monday, August 20, 2012

"Girls Get Curves" - combining math and body positivism

Danica McKellar  charmed teenage boys in the '80s as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years has grown up to be something of a nerd heartthrob.

Having attained her math degree from UCLA, and coauthoring the paper Percolation and Gibbs State Multiplicity for Ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller Models in Two Dimensions, she went on to author a series of books encouraging young girls to be confident and pursue mathematics: Math Doesn't Suck, Kiss My Math, and Hot X: Algebra Exposed.

Recently, Ms. McKellar published her fourth, Girls Get Curves. This one appears to take on body image issues with her play on words.

It's a weird combination on the cover, though, flaunting her now-mature sexuality and offering advice on attracting "guys" more prominently than she actually pushes math.

Meanwhile, she told BuzzFeed:

People tell us our value lies in our appearance, and that's what we need to focus on instead of realizing hair and makeup and fashion — that's all fun but it's really decoration. It's not where our value lies, and it's not where our self-esteem should come from, because that's extremely damaging. Girls forget that the things that are going to make them feel happy and fulfilled are the things you do from the inside — like succeeding in math. If you look at a really hard math problem, and you persevere and you do solve it, then you build internal fortitude, and you see that you're stronger and smarter.

Ms. McKellar also comments on media and advertising:

In the book I talk about how we can’t compare ourselves to the images in magazines — they’re not real. If you want to aspire to look like somebody, aspire to look like somebody you have in your real life. 
I also have a section about how advertisements are designed to make us feel bad about ourselves, because if we’re not happy about how we look we don’t need their products. So it’s in the advertisers’ best interest to make us look less than. It’s really damaging — it’s damaging to girls and it’s not going to stop. So I’m hoping to give them a different perspective.

I agree. But I would have asked her about how this applies to the spread she did in Maxim.

Might these two sides of the actress/mathematician give girls a mixed message about where their real value lies? I'd love to hear your opinion.

Read the whole interview here.

1 comment:

  1. I think she does send a mixed message, but in the end, I think she causes more good than harm, the books started having a real slow pace, mathphobic user friendly, but now they're speeding up. It's nice that someone's directly addressing girly girls who got too caught up in the "beauty" obsessed culture.