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Monday, January 03, 2005

Or it could be that not everyone wants to get married

Nah, that couldn't be the reason that as women's IQs go up, their "shot" at getting married goes down, as this study purports.

Of course, for the purposes of pitying women who are so smart they can't get anyone to marry them, we have to assume that women are naturally inclined to marry the first guy who asks. Now, as you can imagine, I know a lot of unmarried women I'd stick into the high IQ category, if I were a gambling woman. And I am. (I especially like craps.) I can tell you straight up that they aren't married for lack of male attention. They are unmarried because they don't want to be married, at least to anyone they've met yet. It's certainly not for this reason:

"A chap with a high IQ is going to get a demanding job that is going to take up a lot of his energy and time. In many ways he wants a woman who is an old-fashioned wife and looks after the home, a copy of his mum in a way."

Um, people tend to marry people like themselves, as a general rule. They marry into the same race or income bracket or religion or whatever is important to them. Again, as an outside guess, I'd say that intelligent men tend to fall for intelligent women. Sure, there's always going to be the subset of men that find intelligence threatening and those who are less interested in love and more in appearances or being coddled, but I'm not putting their numbers as high as this study's authors might like to do.

"Women in their late 30s who have gone for careers after the first flush of university and who are among the brightest of their generation are finding that men are just not interesting enough," said psychologist and professor at Nottingham University Paul Brown in The Sunday Times.

Probably closer to the truth. If there is a trend, my guess is that a lot of intelligent women, having fought for respect and individuality their whole lives, are wary of putting themselves on the line in the way that is expected of women who marry. I know bright women who have turned down marriage proposals or broken off engagements simply because they felt stifled by a man or felt like he was preparing to take them for granted or because he simply wasn't all that compelling, if you really think about it. In a culture where women are expected to subsume part of their personality in marriage, you're going to find a lot of women who just reject the institution outright, or, more likely are playing wait-and-see for a man who adamantly opposes traditional expectations of wives.

Thanks Fred.

22 Comments:

Blogger Trish said...

"Women in their late 30s who have gone for careers after the first flush of university and who are among the brightest of their generation are finding that men are just not interesting enough."

Heh. The women aren't the problem. It's the men. They aren't interesting enough. ;)

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Pseudo-Adrienne said...

Or simply, NOT ALL WOMEN WANT TO GET MARRIED!!!! Some of us don't buy into the traditional, 'Blushing Bride' crap. Some of us don't care about society's expectations of women. Some of us *like* the career-oriented life. And yeah, there are some UN-interesting men out there. But I've met plenty of uninteresting women; they're the "I want to get married right after college, have lots of babies, watch Oprah all day, drive a minivan, be on the PTA, have NO hobbies except bake, cook, and clean, I want to make my Prince-Charming happy no matter what my emotions are, and I want be the best little homemaker ever" type of women that I've already met my first year of college. And maybe, some men too, just don't want to marry either, no matter what kind of women are out there.

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

True, neo, but I am talking about a lot of women I know who aren't against the idea of marriage in theory, but in practice they can't work up the enthusiasm.

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Pseudo-Adrienne said...

Yeah. Some women have a poor selection of men and that wouldn't build up any kind of enthusiam. If you don't have any kind of interest in them then why bother.

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Brad Warbiany said...

So I'm confused. Are you saying that marriage for women is a sign of stupidity? Marriage is not a priority that "smart women" would have?

Maybe I'm not getting your point here, but that's about what it sounded like.

(Just playing devil's advocate here)

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Pseudo-Adrienne said...

No Brad. Smart women get married all the time, and they're NOT stupid for marrying. But them choosing to marry is NOT the reason why they are smart. They are smart because of their education. Not because of the ring on their finger.

And there are not-so-smart women who remain single, but the reason why they're not-so-smart has nothing to do with their choice to remain single. However, I argue that a woman who believes that she is ONLY smart so long as she gets married, is ignorant. She foolishly believes society's bullshit expectation that all women should become wives, and any woman who doesn't marry is stupid, and/or has too much education which is threatening to some insecure males.

It could be that men aren't asking women to marry them as much as in the past, men aren't accepting women's proposal for marriage, or men are avoiding marriage along with some women.

Marriage does not grant you the IQ of a Nobel Prize winning genius, and neither does remaining single. Caving into social/gender stereotypes and what society expects of you is a sign of weakness and ignorance. To hell with what society thinks!

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Brad, it's not a simple-minded thing. I reject the entire debate of whether or not a woman's intelligence is directly or inversely proportional to her sexual attractiveness. Both intelligence and sexual attractiveness are complicated things that you can't measure well.

But I do know this much--women who cultivate their intellect do so in an enviroment where they are mocked and openly discouraged by many people. Because of this, there is a tendency to be defensive of things like freedom and space, which leads one to be pickier than average about who you let in on a permanent basis.

Upon reading this, I thought immediately of the histories of a few friends, all relatively bright and independent women who have men in our histories who still would snatch them up in a minute if they wanted to marry, but in every case, these women just wanted more--they felt that they couldn't be fill the wife role in marriages to these men without losing parts of themselves they cherished.

1/03/2005

 
Blogger yami mcmoots said...

Y'know, something just feels wrong about having this discussion without talking about household economics and the pay gap and etc. I'd bet IQ is just a proxy for class here.

Ad gluteam, marriage is a more significant economic advantage for lower-income women, as unskilled "women's work" doesn't pay for shit while you've got a shot at a living wage with an equally unskilled "man's job". I know if I were barely making it on my own, the thought of health insurance and an occasional vacation would easily overcome a few misgivings about long-term boredom or stiflement. Women will accept the lousy cultural deal offered by traditional marriage as long as Breadwinning Man remains, overall, a better source of economic stability than our own careers. If there's a trend in women's rejection of marriage, it should closely track the pay gap, at least until the institution of marriage catches up - does anyone know if this has been studied?

Amanda, you seem to be implying that women who haven't fought for intellectual development are somehow less aware of the drawbacks of marriage than your bright, independent friends - or else that these other women all have personalities that can be partially subsumed in marriage without any meaningful loss. I just don't buy the hypothesis that high-IQ girls are disproportionately molded into fiercely independent women; I've read one too many accounts of smart girls who give in to social pressure as teenagers and stop being smart, or limit their smarts to acceptable (and low-income) areas like literature. The IQ tests in this study were done at age 11, which is before the serious anti-brainy-girl pressure sets in AFAIK.

Oh, and your link currently points to an article on the British government's choice of office toilet paper. Here's the Sunday Times article.

1/04/2005

 
Blogger Brad Warbiany said...

Do women actually think that they're *only* smart if they get married? I've never heard that before. As the other writer said, I don't think there is necessarily that strong of a correlation between intelligence and desire to marry.

However, as the previous commenter mentioned, perhaps the higher-income women do have the ability to be more choosy, as they are better able to survive on their own income. I have two good friends who went to school at Auburn, him for engineering, and her to be a lawyer. She's a very smart woman, and yet she wanted to get married. At the same time I know plenty of smart women here in California that probably won't be married for a very long time.

I find that where I went to college (Purdue, in rural Indiana), people get married early. People there who don't go to college typically marry by their 21st birthday. People who do go to college typically marry within 2-3 years (at the most) after college. That is as true for the smart girls as the dumb ones. However, when I came out to California, things are different. People here typically don't get married until their late 20s or early 30s. If you want to try to deconstruct a societal idiosyncracy, could you explain why that is? I've personally thought it's because Californians are wackos, but that's just my opinion? ;-)

1/04/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

No, Yami, because I don't think of being "intelligent" as just an inborn thing. I think intelligence tends to follow being independent and unwilling to make yourself dumb for approval.

Class factors into willingness to marry. That I would definitely agree. Higher class people are more likely to be highly educated, as well.

1/04/2005

 
Blogger yami mcmoots said...

I apologize for mischaracterizing your views.

Really, though, I don't think it matters much how you slice up the chicken and egg problem to produce such a link, because I don't believe that "intelligence" and noneconomic "independence" are actually correlated - particularly not when intelligence is measured at age 11 and independence is measured over a 10-20 year period in early adulthood. It's just contrary to my own experience of smart girls and women who want close, interdependent relationships and are willing to make sacrifices to get them (or else they're just smart and insecure, but I'm not generally comfortable making that call).

I could be wrong, of course, but rigorously evaluating and then reworking my intuitive understanding of these slippery personality traits would be a lot of work. If class is enough to explain the results of this study (and I think it is) then I don't see much reason to bother with the task - not when I could have the fun of questioning someone else's experience and understanding instead! ;)

1/04/2005

 
Blogger Lanoire said...

Yumi: I think there's a correlation between personality and development of potential--in other words, an intelligent woman who's also independent is more likely to cultivate her intelligence, while a not-so-independent of the same IQ won't cultivate it, and will let it atrophy.

1/04/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

I agree with you 100% that there isn't a correlation between intelligence and economic independence--most people, regardless of IQ, aim for economic independence, I think. And some have to settle for less due to circumstances. I meant more of an independent spirit correlates with intelligence, and yeah, it's a chicken or egg question.

By no means are independent-spirited women more likely to make money--I just think they are more likely to be wary of marriage, particularly those who grew up rebelling against that expectation. In fact, the women I know who were told frequently as girls that they don't have to marry if they don't want to tend to be less wary of it as an institution than someone like me, who saw it as a trap more than anything growing up.

1/04/2005

 
Blogger yami mcmoots said...

D'oh! I also was speaking of an independence of spirit. To try again: I was asserting that intelligence and the attainment of economic independence are correlated; intelligence and the desire for economic independence are not correlated; intelligence at age 3 and independence of spirit are not correlated; intelligence at age 20 and independence of spirit are closely correlated, at least in this culture. I doubt that this correlation between independence of spirit and intelligence appears much before puberty, so intelligence at age 11 and independence of spirit should be only weakly correlated. I do agree that independence of spirit will make a woman more wary of marriage, and rightly so!

If I'm reading you right, you're arguing that independence of spirit is disproportionately present among women who had high childhood IQs, and that this personality difference accounts for the study's results. Contrariwise, I'd bet that independence of spirit is found in roughly equal proportions among women of all childhood IQ levels, and the study's results can be accounted for by economic factors.

There are standard statistical techniques for teasing out muddled cross-correlations like this; if the study made good use of them we could settle the bet. But as usual, the press devotes infinite quantities of space to sexist hand-waving and none to information that would enable people to critically evaluate the study's conclusions... sigh. Based solely on the abstract, though, I think I might end up owing you a beer:
Adjustment for the effects of mid-life social class and height on the association between childhood IQ and later marriage, and vice versa, attenuated the effects somewhat, but suggested that IQ, height and social class acted partly independently.

1/04/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Close! We are in complete agreement that the three factors work together in complex ways and definitive things cannot be said.

But no, I think that independence of spirit affects adult IQ more than anything. Which is to say, I think that intelligence as an adult is a combination of training, spirit, and natural talent. Lots of talented people I know buckled at a young age. And lots of independent people I know who showed average talent as youngsters grew up to be the most intelligent people I know because their tenacity kept them from getting ground down by social expectations.

I guess I'm saying that willingness to buck authority is correlated to aggregate measures of intelligence when you are older. For instance, I would say that native intelligence is scattered pretty evenly across races and social classes, but smart kids in bad circumstances won't blossom unless they also are tenacious. A lot of my childhood friends were as smart as I was, if not smarter, but they buckled early and now they think I'm a brainiac. Mostly I just holed up and read alot when everyone else was going through the teenage transistion from being a reader to being "dateable".

1/04/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Oh and of course, the problem is in measuring "intelligence". Test scores strike me as uniquely unreliable--I test well, but that doesn't make me smarter than people around me who don't.

1/04/2005

 
Blogger lawrence krubner said...

"Class factors into willingness to marry. That I would definitely agree. Higher class people are more likely to be highly educated, as well."

People of high income marry more and divorce less. Poor people marry less and divorce more. In their 1976 study, called "On Marriage and Divorce", Carter and Glick pointed out that income is one of the most powerful predicators of marriage in every society for which reliable demographic information is available.

1/05/2005

 
Blogger yami mcmoots said...

Dang. It's so unsatisfying when arguments end with the recognition that everyone involved more or less agrees on everything.

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