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When good girls go dumb

Re-watching an episode of the sitcom Modern Family last week, I came across a scene between parents Phil and Claire Dunphy and their intelligent middle daughter Alex that really hit home. 14-year old Alex asks, ‘If dumb guys go for dumb girls, and the smart guys go for the dumb girls…. then what do the smart girls get?’ Her father’s answer:

‘Cats, mostly.’

It might not be the most thoughtful reply, but it sums up a question that many a clever teenage girl has to deal with in her formative years: what’s so unattractive about intelligence?

The conflicting pride and shame over being ‘smart’ was something I certainly dealt with in high school, where a friend used to helpfully reassure me that the only reason I didn’t get the guys was because they were scared of my intelligence. I watched the boys I had crushes on fall for girls who could barely spell their own name, racked with confusion as I tried to comprehend what I was doing wrong. It frustrated me even then that I should have to pretend that I was intellectually inferior to these boys just so they would like me. While now I certainly don’t think that a woman should define herself by whether or not she has a partner, I know that it’s hard not to worry about these things at an age where relationships and sex seem like the be-all and end-all for most people.

I was lucky to eventually find ...