Thank Goodness Times Have Changed: NY Times Article on Women, Intellect, and Finding a Man

This weekend’s NY Times article titled “The M.R.S. and the Ph.D.,” detailing the sociological change in men’s respect for intelligence over the last century, can be summed up in the following quote:

“One physician explained the problem in Popular Science Monthly in 1905: An educated woman developed a “self-assertive, independent character” that made it “impossible to love, honor and obey” as a real wife should. He warned that as more middle-class women attended college, middle-class men would look to the lower classes to find uneducated wives.”

The article, which focuses on PhD-earners, goes on to highlight how our last century has, for a large part, been filled with a society that tells women to be or act stupid in order to catch a man. Women were taught to marry up, and men were ok with marrying down, so long as their female counterpart would showcase talent in two fields: cooking and cleaning.

My, how the world has changed…

“ONE of the dire predictions about educated women is true: today, more of them are “marrying down.” Almost 30 percent of wives today have more education than their husbands, while less than 20 percent of husbands have more education than their wives, almost the exact reverse of the percentages in 1970.”

However, the article goes on to highlight research done for an upcoming book on female breadwinners, where women said they wanted to be able to look up to their guy, and he would need to have an equal level of education in order for the equation, and the relationship to work.

Looking at my personal relationships, I find I’m like these women who want a man I can look up to an admire, though that’s more in terms of intellect than wealth. I don’t have a PhD or a MA, so perhaps with just a BA I’m still concerned to be less intelligent than the women this article focuses on. Regardless, I’ve found that I like to date “up” in terms of intelligence, and one of the reasons I love my SO that still gives me butterflies is when he talks to me about his excitement over physics or the inequalities of the world.

But there are still gender dynamics at play in our relationship. Even though I make more than him salary-wise (my $90k to his $20k), I’m still not “allowed” to propose to him. I have to wait for him to propose, even though we’ve been together 6.5 years. He is much less aggressive than I am in terms of asking for raises, and will remain this way throughout his life. While he is not motivated to pursue a professional life, in a way, I enjoy that he is intelligent but not obsessed with his career. This allows me to focus on my career, which is stressful and demanding, and then to come home to someone who isn’t stressed out in the same way. I’ve told him if he can cook and clean for me, I’d be ok in the long run for him to be the “stay at home mom.” I certainly understand why it’s nice to have one person in the relationship play this role, albeit not best from a financial perspective.

What do you think? Does intellect play a role in your deciding who to date and settle down with?

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4 thoughts on “Thank Goodness Times Have Changed: NY Times Article on Women, Intellect, and Finding a Man”

  1. It was important to me to find someone who was on my same level. I don't think intellect was exactly what I was looking for, but perhaps "intellectual curiosity" is a good way to put it. I wanted someone who wanted to keep learning and wasn't going to veg out in front of the tv every night. Someone who read books. I didn't need a matching education level – most of the guys I have dated never finished college, although Peanut did (and I've now earned a master's degree, so I'm still one ahead of him!). But I did need a similar level of interest towards continued learning.

    Luckily, Peanut's a good match for me in that regard. He's always tinkering with learning new ways to code things on the computer and he wants to learn how to build robots and program our house to be a "smart house". He studies things like the science of cooking (ratios for baking, for sauces, stuff like that) and how to grow our own food. We met in a book club and we've since started a new one, so he definitely reads. Our interests aren't exactly the same all the time, but it's the underlying interest in learning that fills that need for me.
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  3. Yes, I do think intelligent women need to date or marry men on their intellectual level – otherwise, they're in for a frustrating ride. But intellect and ambition have very little to do with each other. In America, we tend to expect more out of intelligent/gifted people, so we perceive that they're naturally more ambitious, but often, the opposite is so. My husband isn't ambitious, and I'm certainly less ambitious than my "average" peers who have all those fancy letters behind their names. We were both tested above "genius level" in HS, but honestly, being that bright has as many or more downsides as it does upsides. For example, we can't truly enjoy talking to people without being at least tipsy, because otherwise, we don't fit in, or start going off about some obscure geek stuff and turn people off. Also, we tend to see all the different ways that events could develop, to the degree that we start obsessing about it and get depressed. Living in the moment is very difficult for us.

    More traditional/conservative men don't like dating intelligent women because we call them on their BS. There's a whole movement around denouncing intelligent women with careers now called the "Male Rights Activists," and these bitter losers all claim they want chicks with IQs of 80, so they can always be right during arguments. I technically "married down," as my husband has an associate's to my bachelor's, and I've always outearned him manifold, but I can make my own damn money, and we don't care about titles or credentials. Perhaps you, too, chose a less ambitious guy because dating a guy whose ambition matches or exceeds your own is too frustrating? I found that when I dated guys like that, they were always in competition with me, putting me down, and needing to feel superior. My husband supports me and my career without it being a competition, and I appreciate that. The glass ceiling for women in business is rigid enough without us having to compete with our husbands for a piece of the pie, be it recognition, respect, or salary.

  4. @ Miss L — you raise a great point. I know I would not feel comfortable dating someone who is more ambitious than I am because, yes, it always ends up feeling like a competition. My last boyfriend was a successful lawyer, and at the time I was making $25k. I always felt like he looked down on me, and it got tiring, and frustrating. I'd rather my man admire me for my ambition, but also be ok if one day I decide to call it quits and "just" be a stay at home mom. I don't want my man to respect me because I'm ambitious, but he should support me no matter what I decide to do.

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