Monday, November 19, 2007

Men Like Smart Women

According to Maureen Dowd, smart women need to dumb themselves down to not scare potential mates away at first sight. She noted a speed-dating study done at Columbia University:

“We found that men did put significantly more weight on their assessment of a partner’s beauty, when choosing, than women did. We also found that women got more dates when they won high marks for looks.”

He continued: “By contrast, intelligence ratings were more than twice as important in predicting women’s choices as men’s. It isn’t exactly that smarts were a complete turnoff for men: They preferred women whom they rated as smarter — but only up to a point ... It turns out that men avoided women whom they perceived to be smarter than themselves. The same held true for measures of career ambition — a woman could be ambitious, just not more ambitious than the man considering her for a date.

“When women were the ones choosing, the more intelligence and ambition the men had, the better. So, yes, the stereotypes appear to be true: We males are a gender of fragile egos in search of a pretty face and are threatened by brains or success that exceeds our own.”

That does sound familiar. But perhaps because we've all heard it repeated - many times - interestingly one of the chief protagonists of this view is none other than Maureen Dowd herself.

Christine Whelan, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Iowa, studying Census Bureau data found something completely different. In a sharp riposte two days after Dowd she skewers the "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" theory:

...As part of the Current Population Survey, the Census Bureau looked at this issue in its March interviews of 50,000 U.S. households: Among 35- to 39-year-old women, some 88 percent with advanced degrees have married, versus 81 percent of women without college degrees.

Despite these changes, the conventional wisdom remains that men are less interested in educated or successful women - and the media fuel this concern by publicizing small studies that support out-of-date gender norms.

A recent speed-dating study from Columbia University garnered national attention for its finding that men prefer beautiful, smart women, but are less interested in women that they believe to be smarter than themselves. (Cue the old saw, "Men don't make passes/ At girls who wear glasses.")

Missing from all the attention was a key caveat: This research was conducted on 400 graduate students. In other words, its significance pales in comparison to the marriage data collected on the 50,000 Americans covered in the Current Population Survey - data that tell very much the opposite story.
Equally bad: All this media focus on the odds of marriage for college-educated women detracts from some real issues facing our families: America is rapidly becoming a nation of marriage "haves" and "have-nots."

The "haves" are college graduates, who are marrying at higher rates and divorcing at lower rates than the rest of the population. The "have-nots" are those with a high-school degree or less, who are more likely to cohabitate than marry, more likely to have children outside of wedlock - and stand a higher risk of divorce if they do take their vows.

It's high time we stopped making accomplished women worry for no reason - and focused our attention on educating the next generation about the value of a college degree, the importance of marriage and the possibilities for both men and women of a healthy combination of career and family life.

More from Whelan here.

The vision of beer swigging men leering wolfishly at provocatively dressed women may have its basis in reality and easily provides Maureen Dowd and her ilk with material to argue that Men who are Pigs tend to vote Republican. The truth though seems to be inconveniently very different.

Do well educated men really want to marry a 'bimbo'? They may want to date one, been seen with one, and sleep with one but the marriage value of vapid eye candy, particularly in rearing smart children and having meaningful conversation, (gasp!) is dubious. That men value physical attractiveness more than women is not in dispute but the contention that men avoid smart women as spouses certainly is.

It doesn't hurt to be hot but it's best to be smart and hot.

Wongdoer is married to an attractive woman with a degree more advanced than his and with whom he has three really cute children. Monk calls it "punching above his weight".

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