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Here we go again
by Bonnie Erbe
Scripps Howard News Service


January 04, 2005

Here we go again! It's "let's demoralize career women" time. Only in this latest version, the criticism (disguised as social research) is coming from the other side of the Atlantic.
jpg Bonnie Erbe

It's been almost 20 years since America was disrupted by a study claiming that a single woman over 40 years of age was (quoting Newsweek here) more likely to be "killed by a terrorist" than to wed.

Those researchers, who were shortly thereafter widely discredited, gave her a 1 percent chance of ever marrying after 40 if she hadn't done so before. The not-so-veiled message to career women: trash those ambitions and hitch up soon. Luckily, researchers more devoted to accuracy quickly came along and corrected the first findings. Women over 40, they divined, were getting married, they were just getting married later.

Perhaps our British cousins forgot that we'd already been down that road. They modified the methods of the first study, but have issued new research with similar motives. The Sunday Times now reports that the universities of "Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow" have proven that a "high IQ is a hindrance for women wanting to get married while it is an asset for men."

This new study by four universities (guess one isn't enough) finds the later likelihood of marriage for boys increases by 35 percent for each 16-point increase in IQ. But for girls, there is a 40-percent drop for each 16-point rise. The British researchers base their findings on the IQs of 900 men and women between their 10th and 40th birthdays.

Psychologist and Nottingham University professor Paul Brown told The Sunday Times, "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." The Times also quoted writer/broadcaster Claire Rayner as saying intelligent men often prefer a "less brainy" partner.

Other foreign media reporting on the story wrote that "successful career women are struggling to find 'interesting men' who are interested in them. Relationship experts say professional men prefer to marry women 'like their mum' who will provide the domestic support while they go out to work."

Again, the not-so-subtle message is that if women try to succeed in the work world, romance and family must be cast aside as so much detritus.

But it's the survey itself that is rubbish and should be tossed overboard.

Granted, women in the United Kingdom seem to suffer more sexism than we here in the United States, despite the fact the women's movement is credited to have begun in England in the mid-1800s with the publication of John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty."

It is more than slightly ironic that Americans have done a better job of moving women forward than the country whence our inspiration came.

Margaret Thatcher notwithstanding (the Brits elected a female prime minister, while we are most likely still decades away from having a female president), women here enjoy more social, economic and career freedoms than do British women.

Let's hope, however, British women do not buy into the theory that females must be less intelligent, less interesting and less successful in order to marry smart, accomplished husbands. If in fact that is the case, it's not just the women who lose. It's the men, as well. After all, why would an intelligent, charge-ahead type, man or woman, want to spend her/his life with a partner so radically dissimilar and out of touch with the world the other partner inhabits? That sounds to me like a recipe for divorce.

Not all smart men find or want smart wives. Not all smart women find or want smart husbands. But generalizations that get much more detailed than this are dangerously fraught with the likelihood of decidedly unscholarly error.


Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.
E-mail bonnieerbe(at)



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