A reader emailed me a blog post suggestion with the following comments:
You sometimes complain (not exactly the right word) that men avoid smarter women. You should expect this, shouldn’t you? Don’t you believe that, all else equal, a) a woman a man can’t credibly “lead” can’t be happy with him, and b) a man can’t credibly lead a woman who is markedly smarter than he is, due to “the truth-extracting powers of time and familiarity”? Maybe guys know enough to avoid things they can’t (by definition) appreciate anyway.
Hmm. Yes and no.
I think the key here is that a woman can’t respect – and therefore can’t feel romantic passion for, and therefore has no interest in being led by – a man of small intelligence relative to her own. If she feels that he is a dunderhead, there’s no way she’s going to put her life and well-being (and those of her future children) in his hands.
However, a man does not need to possess book smarts in order to be impressive in intelligence to a woman. Here is why: book smarts aren’t as important to women as street smarts/people smarts. A woman will be more attracted to the guy who got all Cs in high school but is resourceful, witty, and well-liked than to the guy who was valedictorian but can’t leverage his intelligence into social currency. It follows, then, that very bright women can be attracted to (and naturally soften themselves for) men who aren’t Einstein but are socially savvy and quick-witted. The key typically with smart girls is that the guy must have some aspect of intelligence that the girl admires. It doesn’t necessarily have to be book smarts. As long as the man can parlay his brainpower (in whatever form that may take) into increased social dominance, many a smart woman will be happy to follow such a man.
Obviously, there are some limits to how big an intelligence gap can exist in a couple. Educational level and socioeconomic status are reasonable proxies for determining this gap, though not absolute. For example, I’ve found that a lot of people with bachelor’s and graduate degrees, both men and women, may have “smarts” but not really much intelligence. Really, though, the “dunderhead test” is probably the most reliable. Dunderhead-ism kills admiration and respect, the two crucial ingredients for a woman’s attraction and voluntarily submission to a man’s leadership.
Finally, yes, I think that men tend to avoid women they perceive as smarter. Most men assume that they will have a hard time being impressive to such women and therefore bail without even trying.