Let’s begin with some context: When I was 13 years old, all I wanted to be in life was a corporate lawyer. No, seriously — beyond just watching Suits, I read LSAT prep books and even joined Model United Nations (because there was no mock trial) to get some experience formulating arguments and public speaking. Then I turned 15 and was introduced to astrophysics; I’d always loved physics, but I really didn’t want to spend my life looking at hypothetical frictionless ramps, and at that point I didn’t even really think there was more to it.
Astrophysics is vast; there are millions of unanswered questions, and one that really caught my attention (perhaps the biggest and baddest of them all) was what makes up 95 percent of our universe? What is dark matter, and what is dark energy?
And there began my late night Wikipedia dives into the Sachs-Wolfe effect and cosmic microwave background radiation and the subsequent rapid consumption of books by Brian Greene and Michio Kaku. Then I came to Hopkins, and my heart was full. I took classes taught by Chuck Bennett and Adam Riess and am currently taking a class in which the entire purpose is to design a space mission — what more could I possibly want?
Except last year I discovered that I could really make a career out of fashion, and the seven-year-old girl who read Vogue like it was a bible got excited again. And that’s when everything changed. I joined Marque, our on campus fashion magazine, and found a space where people took how much I care about how I dress seriously and can recognise a Burberry scarf a mile away. More importantly, it’s a place where not a single snide comment is ever made about my uniform of Tommy Hilfiger or overzealous skin-care routine — somewhere I can wear a red fur coat and no one will bat an eyelash.
So I threw myself into the work, head first, and even interned at a place where I could understand the inner workings of fashion houses and branding and, above all, where I felt valued. Working over the summer and working on Marque, I realized that there are people who are excited to hear my ideas and truly show their appreciation when I do a good job or go beyond what is asked of me. I have never been happier than when I’m immersed in art and clothes and among people who feel the same way.
Now, let’s get a show of hands: Who thinks moving from astrophysics to fashion is a downgrade? Who thinks fashion is frivolous in comparison to research in cosmology? I know no one’s going to be so blunt as to say it to my face. Well, actually, the morning of writing this, two of my friends said they wouldn’t want to be associated with it because they wouldn’t want to be “Mr. Dumb Dumb.” But most people, I’m sure, wouldn’t be as crass to my face, though I know that everyone is thinking it.
Why though? I’m still the girl who proved the science of Interstellar for my high school senior paper, and I still nerd out over hearing the achievements of the year’s Nobel laureates. So, what is it about fashion that makes me “Ms. Dumb Dumb”?
On some level, I get it; it’s objectively easier to grasp the history of a trend than the fundamentals of quantum mechanics — the fact remains that I can do both, but one of them makes me a million times happier. And even if I couldn’t, what about my career choice gives anyone the right to act superior and to look at me as if the singular point difference between their IQ and mine is where the boundary between worthy and unworthy lies?
It’s this need that we have to form a hierarchy in our minds. We can’t just accept that there are different kinds of smart; we have to constantly rank all of the majors, and the people within them, based on starting salaries after graduation and midterm test scores, and of course it drives us all insane. This kind of systematic thought process is exactly what leads to people thinking it’s okay to title someone “Dumb Dumb” for wanting a career outside of the STEM fields.
So, here’s a thought: if this “dumb dumb” industry is so frivolous and unnecessary, why is it worth trillions of dollars? Why does Vogue have 23 international editions, and why does Vogue in the U.S. circulate over a million copies? How does something so silly have the power to impact billions of people? And why are you naive enough to think you’re not a part of it?