“Boys don’t like girls who are smart,” my ten-year-old brother came home from school and announced.
And my father, who is well aware that he is married to a woman of equal or greater intelligence and strength, answered, “it’s true.”
Perhaps he was merely acknowledging the fact that this mindset does exist, and felt justified by his marriage to agree with the statement, but it is in these everyday comments that social norms are grounded. By acknowledging them without opposition, we are reinforcing them.
Being the “lesser sex” all throughout history, women were never supposed to challenge men’s intelligence. This imbalance is not nature; this is a social construct. Men did the thinking; women nourished them, their children, and their egos. Men did the looking, and women were only there to appear pretty in their eyes, not to challenge. The acclaimed poet E. E. Cummings wrote, “the best gesture of my brain is less than your eyelids’ flutter.” But fluttering eyelids is not what women have to offer in this century anymore.
In many countries, it is considered shameful for men to make less than their wives. Men are still supposed to be the dominant sex, the breadwinners, the brains and brawn, and are threatened by the reminder that an “inferior being,” a woman, could outsmart them. Although especially prevalent in developing countries, these patriarchal norms are embedded in all cultures and that is the reason why feminism is still necessary. There still exist many outdated men of the first-world who do not like smarter women, because they are self-entitled and unable to confront their own inadequacy. A relationship is about mutual growth, not nourishing egos. Men who do not desire an equal relationship, a partner who challenges them, are behind the times and/or unable to keep up an intelligent conversation.
These norms are founded on everyday schoolyard comments like “boys don’t like smart girls.” Changes are not just brought around by heroes like Martin Luther King or Nellie McClung. Not everyone is a social rights leader, but we are all human. It is our duty to work towards an equitable future, a better future, and countering everyday comments is where this starts. There is no need to start a scene, or get angry; just a simple reply will do. Letting these comments pass unchallenged only reinforces that male supremacy is okay. It is not okay to go around teaching our children this. It is not okay to reinforce what’s wrong.
“The venn diagram of boys who don’t like smart girls and boys you don’t want to date is a circle. (…) Nerd girls are the world’s most underutilized romantic resource. And guys, do not tell me that nerd girls are not hot because that shows a Paris Hilton-esque failure to understand hotness.” (The ever amazing John Green)