Intellect an Albatross?
by Douglas Eby
Arianna Huffington is
described by her
friend and author Sugar Rautbord [in a Vanity Fair article] as
“probably one of the most intellectually seductive human beings on the
face of the planet.
"She has such a
powerful brain, and she exudes an
intellectuality that is almost sexual."
that sort of exceptional mind have potential negative consequences,
particularly for women?
In her controversial book Are Men Necessary? Maureen Dowd claims, “If
there's one thing men fear it's a woman who uses her critical
Pretending to be less capable, less intelligent is a ploy that has
probably been used by many gifted women. When she began directing in
the forties, Ida Lupino sometimes claimed not to know the best way to
line up a shot or specify a line reading, explaining "Men hate bossy
women. Sometimes I pretend to know less than I do."
women in the
arts, such as Barbra Streisand, have endured widespread negative
reactions to expressing their intellectual and creative abilities.
A specialist in psychological issues facing gifted people, Dr. Linda
Silverman notes in one of her books: "Because of their enhanced ability
to perceive social cues and their early conditioning about the critical
importance of social acceptance, gifted girls are much more adept than
gifted boys at imitation. They fit in by pretending to be less capable
than they really are, disappearing into the crowd."
Jane Austen (1775-1817) cautioned in her novel Northanger Abbey, “To
come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of
administering to the vanity of others... A woman, especially, if she
have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as
Huffington, like many precocious girls earlier in their lives, spent
most of her time alone, reading, nurturing her intelligence.
And that was a choice, encouraged by her mother, to follow a joyful
passion. It was not, apparently, a deprivation of relationships. Now,
as an adult, she continues to pursue a wide variety of interests,
especially her blog The Huffington Post, and is a prominent leader,
media personality and friend of a wide range of other accomplished men
and women in politics, the arts and media.
Dowd wrote the supposed “threat” to men by intelligent women is
confirmed by research studies showing lowered expectations for marriage
with an increasing intelligence of women.
But those studies lead to faulty conclusions, according to a Women’s
eNews article ["Why Dowd Doesn't Know..."], by Caryl Rivers and
Rosalind C. Barnett. They note that men ”do not reject achieving women.
Quite the opposite. Sociologist Valerie Oppenheimer of University of
California, Berkeley reports that today men are choosing as mates women
who have completed their education. The more education a woman has, the
more likely she is to marry.”
But there are other issues than relationships for highly intelligent
Sally M. Reis, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Connecticut and
Principal Investigator of The National Research Center on the Gifted
and Talented, notes in her article “Internal barriers...” that high
potential and multiple interests, multipotentiality can benefit many
women, but others “often cannot find their niche, make it on their own,
or choose a vocational path... they commit to a career too quickly in
order to reduce tensions caused by a vast array of competing options...
or may have career choices externally imposed on them by their parents
She also says that women “with a wide range of personality
characteristics and perspectives often have a difficult time
understanding themselves and making appropriate choices for career and
Part of the pleasure from seeing the two TV series “Bones” and
“Commander in Chief” is the portrayal of very self-directed women who
overcome many of those kinds of barriers to realize their talents and
abilities: a forensic anthropologist (played by Emily Deschanel) and
the U.S. President (played by Geena Davis, a member of Mensa).
There are many of us men who appreciate the real life versions of such
highly intelligent and multitalented women. As musician Richard
Thompson writes in his song The Hots For The Smarts:
like a girl in satin
Who talks dirty in Latin
A girl who’s flirty
When she quotes Krishnamurti
If she likes to be goosed
While reciting from Proust
I’ll know she’s my kind of creature
Among her delectables
Must be her sexiest feature
I want a girl with a brain
The size of Siberia
With a haughty disdain
Of all things inferior....
~ ~ ~
Men Necessary? - by Maureen Dowd
The Huffington Post
Calling! - By Suzanna Andrews, Vanity Fair, Dec 2005
Dowd Doesn't Know What Men Really Want - by Caryl Rivers, Rosalind
C. Barnett -- Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett are co-authors of
the book Same
Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our
Children and Our Jobs.
barriers, personal issues, and decisions faced by gifted and
talented females - by Sally M. Reis, Ph.D.
Richard Thompson - The
Hots For The Smarts
Related article Gifted
and Expression by Douglas Eby