Yesterday, I watched a Twitter argument unfold between two media types I follow. One – a male journalist who considers himself to be one of those idiotic ‘meninists’ – was sneering at new stats that say increasing numbers of women are freezing their eggs because they can’t find men on their intellectual level. He called these females "entitled" because they weren’t prepared to "mate down".
Someone else who can actually read words properly pointed out that he’d completely misunderstood the study; women are perfectly happy to date those further down the IQ scale, it’s the guys who aren’t prepared to "mate up".
The research from Yale University in the US found that, as fewer and fewer men are going into further education, we’re facing an ever-widening intelligence gap between men and women – and it’s causing major relationship roadblocks. A fertility director was quoted in the report saying, “[Straight] women tell us frequently that they are freezing their eggs because the men they meet feel threatened by their success and so are unwilling to commit to starting a family together.” It backs up another Irish study from just a few weeks ago, which established that “better educated single women find it more difficult to meet partners than less educated single women”.
And there you have it; the incredibly depressing truth I’ve encountered consistently in my dating life. Many men don’t like it when a woman is smarter than them (yes, yes, not all men zzzzz). I’ve been single on and off for about five years and, look, I’m not saying I’m Einstein – I have way better hair – but I am clever, and proud of it. And it’s been an issue. Pretty much every man I’ve ever dated – or even every man I’ve randomly snogged in a dark bar – has commented in odd tones about me being smart and ambitious. They’ve said "oh" with an edge to their voice when I’ve told them about my 10 years as a journalist and gone quiet on WhatsApp when I’ve mentioned having written a book. I’d find perfectly nice men suddenly turn into competitive ego-monsters at the mention of my exam results. A few of the less insecure ones have insisted they like my brains, but many more have sulkily ghosted me after another conversation-besting. A friend recently warned me that a boy I have an on/off flirty thing with had admitted to finding me “too clever” and “intimidating”. But what am I supposed to do about that? Act dumb to find a boyfriend? Stay quiet when an idiot is mansplaining my own job to me yet again? Pretend to be a clueless ditz just so Generation Sulky over there doesn’t feel too – wah wah – emasculated?
Sadly, it looks like that’s exactly what many women feel they have to do. A recent study from the Harvard Business Review found that in the presence of men, single women will play down their smarts in order to appear less threatening. The researchers called it the “Ambition-marriage trade-off”. When it was a female-only group, the women happily boasted about wanting to reach for the career stars, but when the scientist-types added men to the mix, the single ladies took a step back. They lowered their wage expectations by a whopping $20,000, and reduced their willingness to work long hours and travel for work. They played down their ambitions – but only when men were around to hear it. Isn’t that miserable?
I was watching the ever-wonderful Dinner Date recently. It was a medical student – a woman – doing the choosing and at each date’s house, when asked for their initial reaction, all three of the men muttered childishly about her being smarter than them – and how they weren’t sure they liked it. Can you imagine a scenario where a male doctor turned up on the doorstep of a woman, and she went off to the loo to complain to her friend that he was too ambitious and intelligent for her liking? The double standards at play here are incredible. It’s such a common gendered issue, but it’s not one that’s going to disappear on its own. Millennial women are officially better educated than men now (although obviously we’re still paid less, yay, thumbs up, woo), so we’re all going to need to find a way to get over this issue and over our bruised egos.
As women we’re taught from an early age to be self-deprecating, to play down our achievements or we’ll never find a man, and I’m over it. I like that I’m smart, and I like that I feel OK about saying it out loud. There’s no way I’m going to start hiding it, or pretending to be someone I’m not. And if that scares men away, so be it. Clearly, I’m not smart enough to know better.