Pick One, a Brain or a Brawn? You Can’t Have Both


Response to: If You Want a Guy, Act Dumb: How Your Education or Job Could Be Intimidating Guys check link to the right

My last blog got a lot of feedback and it raised a lot of questions in the minds of our readers. One theme that kept coming up was that a lot of women seemed very interested in my mention that men like intelligent women. I was surprised to find that many of these women were in university settings, and yet were being told that they would one day have to choose between their education level, or finding a man to settle down with. This intrigued me so Elisabeth and I decided to explore that notion this time.

I’m reminded of a particular young woman who told me recently that she had once been told by an elder in her church that if she ever wanted to find a man who would marry her then she’d better start to, “act dumber.” She’s a very smart woman who enjoys reading and politics, works in accounting, but apparently she would have to somehow turn it down in order to find a guy that would be interested. At first glance one might be tempted to just say, “Oh crazy church people,” and leave it at that because in our effort to preserve feminine and masculine rolls we can often go overboard in one area or the next because while working toward a perfect standard for male and female relationships, we are still working with imperfect tools (our brains, some of which are less perfect than others) to get us there. But then I was surprised to find that even women in highly academic settings, where nobody would even be there if not to pursue high levels of education, were being told by professors that they could choose the Ph.D., but in doing so, they would be choosing against a husband.

So what is really going on here? One might be outraged at the idea at first, or conversely, simply reluctantly say that it’s not the way we’d like it, but we’ve got to accept that as the way it ought to be. I would say that the idea is not a bad one, but it’s somewhere down the line gotten flipped and things have gotten a little out of order. Let me explain.

It’s perfectly natural for a man to feel inclined to lead, and for a woman to desire a strong and intelligent man who has leadership qualities. It’s true that a woman who is intelligent, capable, educated and strong in her own right will not easily be led by a man who is lacking in those or other areas. Well that’s an easy fix right? Just make sure that there are no women who are terribly intelligent, capable or educated. This way everybody wins. Men get to feel comfortably on top. Women get their strong(er but not strong) and (not quite as in)capable man. The planets align and the universe is at peace. Ahhh (sigh of relief). I mean perhaps the few women who simply can’t stifle their brilliance and the few men out there who get frustrated with their wife’s inability to read will have to suffer in silence for the good of society, but that’s a small price to pay. Just like government price regulation, it just makes it easier to sleep at night.

Speaking of society, how does this relationally utopian scenario work itself out? Men’s insecurities and gaps in their understanding are left to stay where they are so that they can get on with the important things in life and not have to worry about some woman challenging their already frail authority. Women get the privilege of raising children in a fast-paced and complex world without the education to do so. Girls would be fine. Not like you need to be a rocket scientist to wash dishes right, but how are weak-minded women supposed to cultivate strong-minded young boys? I suppose that dad could do it but it’s not like he is one to really enjoy a challenge, so how will he teach his son to?

Now I know I’m being a tad bit extreme. After all nobody is saying that women shouldn’t learn to read or anything close to that. I suppose what I’m getting at is that men have no business being intimidated by smart women or crossing them off the list of potential mates because they have a certain job or education level. Therefore nobody has any business telling a woman that she had better act dumb if she wants to find a mate. This view of women as the competition is wrong. The only reason for marrying or even dating a woman is because she is a help, an addition to your life, not because she competes with you in any respect. As a man you want to constantly be growing, in your beliefs, in your knowledge and wisdom, in your skills. A good and smart woman will not compete with your ability to do those things but will place a constant pressure to challenge you to continue to grow. She needs it from you but more importantly you need it from you, and while growing is a responsibility that should be personally initiated, having others to help you along the way is essential. Men need to realize that having strong women around makes them stronger too and that they are not to shy away from a woman whose intelligence presents a challenge to his. Women however would do well to realize that the competition between men and women that our society has sold us is false and while it operates under the guise of liberation and freedom it really works to hurt both sexes. Using education and money to feel as though you are better than someone else, or that you are now in some higher category of worthiness, or even to remind them of how undeservingly lucky they are to have you is foolish and will lead to nowhere but loneliness. Pursue your education, or your job and gain in knowledge, fully knowing that some men will be put off by your smarts, but also understanding that that doesn’t matter. You’re not going to emerge the smartest person on the planet with nobody around you to relate with. For as many men who allow their laziness and weakness to avert them from intelligent women there are plenty more who want nothing less than an intelligent woman. They appreciate the way that kind of woman challenges them to constantly being better and they will adore them for it.

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7 Comments

  1. I think a subtle misogyny exists that leaves women beneath a glass ceiling of sorts. Women can succeed at whatever they want unless a man can do it better, which often seems to be the case.

    As a man, I know I have little room to talk about this, but I know for certain that true gender quality does not exist, and will not unless paradigms are shifted greatly.

    While there are certainly differences between men and women, far too long have women been subjugated by the preexisting masculine culture. It’s up to us to start doing things differently.

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  2. Great, thoughtful post!

    I feel that both women and men need to reach their full potential in many areas, including education.

    I agree that we are each presented with opportunities to grow and learn along the way, and that part of our job is to encourage each other to grow and learn too.

    No matter what the education level or intelligence, isn’t that what is really important?

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    • I agree with Sheri and I think that men and women both need to uplift one another to the highest degrees of philosophy, education, health & fitness. I don’t think that a women’s intellectual capacity would stunt her options of capable men. Or, if she has her Ph.D and has been published two or three times, would she really want a man who cannot accept her for who she is? Brilliant and all?

      When I met my wife she was far more intelligent than I, but it never once crossed my mind that she was unworthy of my love or affection. If anything, it made me work twice as hard to seal the deal! I think the problem is the challenge of pursuing a woman of higher intelligence, the fear or the chagrin that somehow she would be less inclined to consider any form of relationship with a man that may not be as “smart” as she is. I think is why a man would try to hinder woman from achieving high educational goals because than, she who was once approachable, now becomes some how out of reach.

      Really, we would have to ask women who have achieve doctorates and post-doctorates what their experience has been with men who have less education, equal, or more education.

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  3. I think you were on to something when you said, “the only reason for marrying or even dating a woman is because she is a help”…

    One of the greatest things about my husband and I, is that we are the compliment to the others strengths and weaknesses. Where I am less knowledgeable in one area, Nick might know more, and vice versa. It doesn’t mean that one of us has to dumb down what we are knowledgeable in, because lets face it, there will be times when we will need to rely and be thankful for the other person’s wit.

    When you start viewing everything as less of a competition and more of a partnership, then I believe couples are more apt to want to respect and honor their spouse for who they are and what gifts they have been given.

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  4. I think that education level and income are just a way of competing with each other, and if we are ever to appreciate on another and work together as a team (which I feel marriage is supposed to be) then we have to stop competing and start working together. Right now, my husband makes all the income, and I am going to school. Hopefully will be getting an advanced degree. He is a support and an encouragement, just as I will be for him when/if he decides to go back to school. Marriage is about learning to love and respect, and if you can’t love or respect someone because they are more intelligent, then maybe you are afraid to grow. I married a man who has less education than me, and we have no problems because of that. I let him be the leader, and just because you have a fancy education does not mean you are smarter than someone who does not.

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  5. I really never understood why people even care if a man or a woman has more education than them. we are all people and we are supposed to be in an era where we are “all created equal.” However, I have yet to witness this equalness! I also believe that in some situations education is just BS sometimes experience is way more valuable than any degree!

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  6. Who would want to date/marry a woman or man that wasn’t intelligent? I find a smart man more attractive. I definetely agree with the idea that “men need to learn that having a strong women around makes them stronger.” Men that don’t see the importance of encouraging women to pursue higher education and to take leadership in the work arena are perpetuating the belief that women are subordinate to men, which can escalate into violence against women.

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