Monday 26 October 2015

On Dating News from Huff Po

I read this article knowing at once how it would end because the article was about a study showing that men don't like hanging out with women who beat them at IQ tests. Instead of advising women not to engage in IQ tests with men, which is relatively easy to do, it suggests men need to change.

Of course, these findings don't mean that all or even most men are threatened by smart women. This study just adds to decades of literature on gender dynamics which suggests that, as a whole, there are a lot of icky complications around confidence and power wrapped up in heterosexual attraction. 
More research needs to be done until there are any practical implications.In the meantime, it's probably not a bad idea for threatened men to do a little soul-searching and think about why they might be intimidated by smart women.

So much for "born this way", eh?

When I was 25, I would have taken all this extremely seriously, especially the passive aggressive nagging at men to change. As a matter of fact, I dated guys probably not as smart as I was for years, and it was only when I was over 30 that I returned to the "Am I Too Smart?" worries.

Since then, I have come to the conclusion that there is a big difference between being an intelligent conversationalist  and embarrassing men by beating them in competitions, however informal those competitions may be. Guys have to compete with guys all the time. (In Poland male Polish wedding guests march up to male foreign wedding guests and wordlessly invite them to drink vodka shots with them. I saw incidents of this myself this month: it was very funny although, of course, not so funny for the foreign men.)  In general, guys like girls because/when the girls don't compete with them. Having an intelligent conversation is not the same thing as competing. Trying to win an argument is, however, competing. Fine for work. Not so fine for social life.

At best, girls are a lot of fun to be around. They make you feel good about yourself. They don't try to cut you down to size or to get you to drink more than you can stand or to become obstacles in your career path. Except when they do --which to many men feels like the woman are cheating. Sometimes they are particularly annoyed when the  aggressive woman is attractive because they feel this gives her power over them. Men hate it when they feel women-not-on-their-side have power over them, and fair enough. I would feel scared if men-not-on-my-side had power over me. Come to think of it, I suffered unde women managers I really couldn't stand, and they were always way harder to deal with than any male employer I ever had.

If it is a FACT that men are turned off by women they KNOW--in some agreed upon, quantifiable way--are smarter than they are, then the really smart women will not stress to the men we meet that we might be smarter than they are. We don't have to "play dumb". We just don't get drawn into "who is the smartest?" competitions outside of work. (Work is a different story although even there I am sure one can be gracious. Not everyone you meet needs to know that you went to a "Top 15" college, gag, barf.) We don't exaggerate how smart we are, and we don't nuke men with our intelligence unless we are trying to turn them off.

I once nuked a drunken chap who was making ridiculous claims about Saint Thomas Aquinas. It felt very satisfying, but then he wasn't very attractive, and he was patronizing me, and I wanted him to go away. I try to keep this sort of thing to a minimum, however, as becoming addicted to crushing men's egos would be detrimental to my social life. I prefer to be fun to be around and make men feel good about themselves. I don't want to cut them down to size or get them to drink more than they can stand or to become an obstacle in their career paths. I have my jobs, and if I were competing for the ones they want, I sure wouldn't tell them.

Occasionally I feel sad that the men around don't seem to perceive how brilliant I am, or even that I had a really good education, but in saner moments I realize that this really doesn't matter as they are not newspaper editors and are not paying me. Besides, I learn a lot of interesting things by asking men questions. Men famously love to explain things to women, which I think is a weakness that can be used for good, especially if they know what they are talking about and I can learn from them. (If they don't know what they are talking about, I can at least practice being a kindly, restful woman.)

I showed my house guest the Polish Astrophysicist my essay about Wyspiański, and the first (and only) thing he said about it was "It's Szołayskich, not Sołayskich", which was very embarrassing and therefore GREAT because I will certainly never make that mistake again. Incidentally, even if you yourself are an astrophysicist, you can always improve yourself and make yourself sound dumb/funny/child-like at the same time by learning to speak another language. You could have a brain the size of a planet and still charm some manly man foreigner senseless by saying their equivalent of "Is not dwarf star, is comet. I show maths. Where is challllk? Look, look. I am writing on boardblack."


  1. I like your impersonation of an astrophysicist. Very funny.

    About men, women and conversations as contests: I know you're right and that smart women need to remember that talking-to-win is not necessarily attractive to a man. One thing that bothered me about the article, though, is that it doesn't indicate that many women don't like women who are smarter than they are either, or any hint of contention in conversation. As for men, it need not be intelligence, or competition/argument from a woman that they find off-putting, but the kind of showing off that so many women today engage in, whether about intellectual matters or career success.

    That said, I wish there were more people today who enjoyed argument, and did not think that disagreement was either uncivil or a sign that one was bigoted or phobic or anti-social.

    Alias Clio

  2. I agree. I think men often enjoy arguing with men, for the sake of it, in the same way they like playing chess or other competitive games and sports, but they don't enjoy arguing with women as much. I have never met a woman who enjoyed arguing with a man when there was any chance of her losing; the amount of grace it takes women these days to concede an argument to a man is almost supernatural. And I am not sure women enjoy arguing with women. Women enjoy agreeing with women.

    But if you mean you wish it was still possible to believe in unpopular ideas without people treating you like an outlaw or a dangerous crazy, well, I feel for you. I wish that too. Mostly because I am a woman and love agreeing with other women. It's really sad that, thanks to third wave feminism, there is just so much I disagree with non-Catholic (or non-trad Catholic) women on. However, we must all bear our crosses!

  3. Oh, I can understand the frustration of wanting to be able to be able to engage in arguments with men, though, if you have the kind of personality that enjoys arguments/lively discussion. :) (But I also agree that it's hard to lose! Not just to men, but to anyone. :)

    I think you are absolutely right about men not liking to compete with women and your advice is spot on.

    But as someone who loves a lively (and respectful :) argument, with both men and women, I can honestly say that I hate being shut out of arguments by men. (And it makes me super frustrated to see other women being treated the same way. I've seen it happen over and over again that the men in a group will argue with each other, but pretty much ignore anything the women in the group say. I mean, sure, they'll listen while she's actually speaking, but they often don't respond as though she's made an intelligent contribution to the conversation, even when she has. I'm sure it's probably more due to the fact that they don't want to compete with women intellectually, but it comes off as though they don't think she's intelligent enough to include in the conversation. And I'm talking men and women who embrace traditional gender roles-not feminists with an ax to grind against men.)

    And, on the flip side, I will say that I love encountering the occasional man who is actually willing to engage me in conversation and acknowledge my contributions to a group conversation. Personally, I think a man who would like to win a woman's respect/affection ought also to be willing to ask a woman questions about her areas of expertise and treat her like an intellectual equal in a conversation or argument. Sure, she shouldn't be trying to beat him over the head with her intellect, either, but I'm not sure that an argument always has to be a contest of intelligence? I'm not saying that the article is right, but just that I totally understand the frustration. :)

    And yes, Clio, definitely agree!!

  4. I just can't be stuffed arguing with men or anyone much for that matter. And I don't care whether or not they think I'm smart or dumb. The truth is that I'm smart, but I'm not that smart. I've got a masters degree from a top-shelf uni, but guess what, so do about 456 000 000 000 other Australians. Plenty of men I know are smarter than me, and I seriously don't care as long as they're not patronising or condescending, which they usually aren't. However, I am not a very competitive sort. The idea of 'competition' just doesn't spur me on or motivate me. I don't mind delivering a zinger to a guy who is a genuine d-bag or who is being rude or condescending, but even then I'm more likely to deliberately play super-dumb or self-deprecating in such a way that everyone else can tell what I'm doing but the guy himself can't.


  5. It must have happened in my life that men have tried to shut me out of a conversation or slighted my opinions because I was female, but no telling examples spring to mind. On the whole, I feel my intellect is pretty well-respected by men, and I don't get the impression I am rubbing them the wrong way when I am right about something. It may help that I also happen to know what it is like to feel beaten by a sore winner in an argument, and I try not to behave that way to others. Surprise, surprise: nobody enjoys being made to feel like they are idiots for not seizing your subtle points.

    As for flattering men by asking leading questions on topics they are expert about, forget it. I will ask if I am actually interested, but I won't fake it to make someone feel important. How fragile must your ego be that you need women to fawn all over you thanks to your deep knowledge of modern German cars?

    This falls in the same category as thanking men profusely when they help you open a jar. Of course I'm grateful and I will thank you sincerely. But if you really need me to smile and bat my eyelashes for five minutes to make it worth your while, you are really not the type of guy I want to attract, and by the way, where are the rubber gloves I use when I am alone at home and need to open a damn jar? (If you help me move heavy appliances from one house to another, it is another story. Thanks guys! Want more ice cream? Have more ice cream.)

    I don't buy this thing of competing so much with other men that men are shy of anything resembling additional competition from women. Listen: I also have to compete. I have to compete with MEN, who have the innate advantage of being MEN, and are still getting paid more and being promoted faster than women in the freaking 21ST CENTURY. This somehow has not made me pathologically dread every male who happens to be more intelligent than I am.

  6. Stellamaris, I don't think that either Auntie S. or Huffpost were suggesting that men who avoid women more intelligent than themselves fail to recognize the existence of such women. It's just that they prefer not to seek out their intellectual superiors as mates. There could be a variety of reasons for this, including their wish to be the intellectual "lead" in a relationship; or the fear of feeling stupid in front of a woman and losing her respect; or simply, as Auntie S. suggested, a wish to avoid constant verbal sparring matches of the kind that they may have to tolerate from their male associates, which can get tiresome in a domestic setting. It's not a matter of "pathological dread" of competition, so much as a weariness of constantly engaging in it. Do you/would you seek out as a potential husband the kind of man who finds it necessary to remind you with every breath that he is (in his own opinion, at any rate) more intelligent than you are?

    Men have many innate advantages but are not invariably paid more and promoted faster than women in the 21st century.

    Alias Clio

  7. It's interesting about male egos---or any ego. (By the way, why do we still all use this Freudian concept? But I digress.) I grew up listening to my mother telling us how clever my father is and praising him all the time. You would think I would have talked to my boyfriends that way. However, I don't think I did. My husband, on the other hand...

    I think getting men to talk about things that interest them is an important social skill. I have been to many dinner parties in my time, and getting the taciturn guy next to me to talk is an interesting (and traditional) challenge. Interest is infectious--unless his great passion is the TV series "Jackass." I once sat through a dinner listening to a man describe his favourite episodes of "Jackass", and I never, ever want to see that man again.

  8. By the way, that is a totally fictional astrophysicist in my example, based on what I think I must sound like in Polish. As a matter of fact, all the Polish scientists I have met so far speak English really well.

    1. Never mind. Your novelistic gift was showing. That English-mangling Polish astrophysicist is now an entirely real person in my mind.

      Alias C.

  9. Speaking of which, might not your E.m.P.a. make an amusing hero/love interest in a novel?



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