We smart women must stop playing dumb to please men!

We smart women must stop playing dumb to please men! Lying about her top job. Biting her lip during University Challenge. As Kate Beckinsale is blasted for being brainy, CLARE FOGES admits she spent years hiding her intellect

  • Kate Beckinsale claims her intelligence has hindered her career in Hollywood
  • A survey found 60 per cent of women have ‘dumbed themselves down’ on a date
  • Clare Foges explores how desire to be masculine attracts men to ditzy women

Kate Beckinsale is, as they say, my girl crush. It is not just her mane of caramel hair, her grand piano of a smile, the English rose-ness that years in Hollywood have not spoiled; it is her intelligence.

She went to Oxford University; she speaks fluent Russian; she dishes out waspish quips like a 21st-century Dorothy Parker.

Intelligence is part of her attractiveness. So it raised a few eyebrows last week to hear her speaking of her brain not as an asset, but as a hindrance.

Talking to the U.S. radio shock jock Howard Stern, Beckinsale was pressed several times to reveal her IQ. On calling her mother live on the show, it transpired that, as a child, her IQ was measured at 152 — not Einstein levels but comfortably in the ‘highly gifted’ range.

Clare Forges explores how men’s desire to be masculine attracts them to ditzy women, after Kate Beckinsale (pictured) suggested her intelligence hindered her career in Hollywood

Gracefully, Beckinsale deprecated her whopping brainpower and suggested her intelligence had been more of a drawback than a help to her Hollywood career.

Cue a chorus of derision: one website accused her of a ‘cringeworthy humble brag’, another jibed ‘sounds hard to be this hot and smart’. Unwittingly, these pea-brained critics were underlining her point: that a woman must be careful not to display her intelligence lest she gets taken down a peg for being arrogant.

Beckinsale wrote furiously in response: ‘Are we really still requiring women to dumb themselves down in order not to offend?’ No woman, she stormed, ‘should feel they need to lie or dumb down under ANY circumstances so as not to be a target’.

Amen, sister. I have no idea what my IQ is but with a Masters degree, a few children’s books published and a former career as a No 10 adviser, I’d say I am cleverer than average. On many occasions, though, I have put the emphasis on the average over the clever.

Why? Because from a young age we absorb what will make us attractive to the opposite sex.

We learn that men don’t like nerds and bluestockings, know- it-alls and brainboxes. They like women ditzy and wide-eyed, clueless and cute.

Beckinsale mentioned a survey which found that 60 per cent of women had ‘dumbed themselves down’ on a date in order to impress a man. I can well believe it, because I’ve done it myself.

During my single years, I worked as chief speechwriter to the then prime minister David Cameron. Though I was proud of this position, I also knew that, to many men, it would be as attractive as halitosis. They would make assumptions: that I was unfeminine; that I would bore on about politics. Bang on about fiscal policy and, in Scooby Doo terms, you have just switched from Daphne to Velma.

Kate (pictured) mentioned a survey which found that 60 per cent of women had ‘dumbed themselves down’ on a date in order to impress a man

And so, shameful as it is to admit, I often lied about what I did for a living. On one speed-dating night, given three minutes with each chap, I told the first that I made teddy bears, the next I was a tennis coach and the third I was a secretary.

This was quite amusing until we all headed to the bar to continue our chats en masse. With one man prattling on to me about tennis and another about teddies, it wasn’t long before my fraud was exposed.

The dumbing down, I am ashamed to say, even contin-ued into some actual relat-ionships. One boyfriend used to get irritated if I called out more answers than him while watching University Challenge.

Initially, I trilled the answers I knew happily: ‘Phosphorescence!’ ‘King Richard III!’ ‘Bruch’s First Symphony!’ This was fine if he was trilling, too, but I noticed he would fall into a glowering mood if I ‘won’. And so it was easier to keep shtum, or admit to knowing only a couple of answers.

This is quite common for women, I think: we shrink to fit men’s desires. Many men would protest that they love intelligent, opinionated women — and I’m sure some do, but a fascinating survey from 2015 showed how fragile this attraction can be.

Researchers asked 105 men whether they would like to date a woman who had either outperformed or underperformed them academically. The men ranked the women who had outperformed them as being more desirable. So far, so feminist.

But in the second part of the study, the men were asked to take an intelligence test and then told they would shortly be meeting a woman who had outperformed them on it.

Clare Forges (pictured) said if some men perceive a woman to be weaker and more vulnerable, it stirs an ancient desire to defend

Faced with the prospect of a real-life smart cookie, the men ‘distanced themselves more from her, tended to rate her as less attractive and showed less desire to… plan a date with her’. The authors concluded that ‘feelings of diminished masculinity accounted for men’s decreased attraction towards women who outperformed them’.

And there we have it — the core reason why some men seem to be ‘triggered’, in Kate Beckinsale’s words, by female intelligence. It’s not straightforward misogyny. It is a desire to be masculine.

As controversial as it may be to state these days, men and women are very different in many ways, but united as prisoners of our biology. On the one hand, women often like being given the opportunity to care for someone, to mop brows and attend sick beds.

Likewise, many men are hardwired to want to protect. If they perceive a woman to be weaker and more vulnerable, it stirs an ancient desire to defend.

It follows, then, that if a woman has three degrees and speaks fluent Mandarin, she may be less vulnerable, less in need of their protection and thus less attractive.

This isn’t true of all men, of course; George Clooney happily professes he is the ‘arm candy’ for his lawyer wife Amal — and my own husband, a surgeon, likes that we are clever in different ways.

But something in the hearts of many men melts at ditziness and hardens at cleverness. For intelligent women, the answer is not to ‘shrink to fit’ as I used to do, but to be defiantly, proudly ourselves.

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