We need you–as our fathers, brothers, friends, and lovers–to encourage us to strut our stuff. Intellectually. Academically. Professionally.
A lot of men I meet are plenty comfortable with their woman earning more.
It’s the idea of a woman knowing more–having a higher IQ, a more advanced degree–that gets them all anxious and insecure.
Maybe it’s the distrust between the sexes that’s the problem. So twentieth-century.
Maybe it’s that the last generation of fathers raised their little boys to expect women would coddle and reassure and flatter them.
Or maybe I just know some immature men, who are the minority. Could be. I don’t really have a reliable sample at hand.
But the problem is that it matters how men react to serious smarts–because women remain deeply sensitive to how men judge them (which is another problem all its own). It’s the easiest thing to make a woman insecure about being smart. Here’s how, whether you’re male or female:
- Respond well to shallow flirtation. When a friend of mine, soon to enter grad school, was approached by a cute guy, she giggled and flipped her hair and eyed him coyly. From across the room, I wanted to sidle up and say to him, “Seriously. She’s not that ditzy. You should ask her out.” But then I noticed he was digging her. Whhaa..?
- Show her you have other options (or that you think you do). During one of their dates, my housemate’s new guy eyed my ass. Really, folks? Is this the new fad in courtship? “Make Your New Lady Feel Insecure in 10 Easy Steps.”
- Give her the cold-shoulder if she looks like she might be smarter than you. The last time I spoke French in front of a customer service guy (my high school French teacher wandered in), his hands started shaking, his facial expression flattened, and he avoided me ever after. This happens so frequently when I speak a foreign language in front of American men that I’ve grown paranoid about it.
- Just be plain mean to smart women. At a dessert party, I came into the room and noticed a young man and woman talking off to the side. It looked romantic. But when I started talking literature, the guy perked up and wandered over–and the woman spent the rest of the night trying to bitch-slap me.
We’ve got to stop this, folks.
We straight women have got to stop:
A) Caring whether men have a problem with our being incredibly smart and accomplished
B) Catering to the stereotype of the ditzy flirt to draw in a man (such men are not worth the trouble because they’re dumb as a fish with a lure–imagine how they’ll manage commitment)
C) Being catty with each other when another woman has more expertise in a certain area than you do (Newsflash: This is an inevitable part of adult life)
And men need to figure out exactly what throws them so off-balance about a brilliant, skilled woman. Then, they need to deal with it. Themselves.
So please, everybody: Come back to the table when you’re ready to play nice.