Thursday, September 24, 2009

Derrick and I both had to take the GRE to get into grad school. We both took it once, he with no preparation beforehand, me with a short course and a few practice tests under my belt. I outscored Derrick by quite a lot. Part of it, I am sure, resulted from my greater preparation, but part of it, I am also sure, resulted from me just being better at the test. In some sense, smarter.

As I type that last sentence, I feel my heart palpitating like I'm saying something wrong, or illicit; like I'm lying. Objectively (as far as a test is an objective measurement of intelligence), I do appear to have a higher IQ (though I must add fudge words like "appear" to my statement--I must have an out). What's so bad about saying it? Why are my palms sweaty and my chest tight, my head ringing and my body brimming with that sense of stillness and nausea I associate with bad things about to happen (like an imminent talk, or a poor grade, or a rejection)? Smarter doesn't mean better, just better at one thing. I have no problem saying I sing better, or I make better pie crust and bread and cookies; no problem admitting I write better (though he is closing the gap as my mind is sucked further into Mommying and away from writing).

Apparently, my inability to consider myself smarter than my husband isn't unique. We do it all the time. All of us do it all the time. To our friends, parents, children, spouses, and to ourselves. It's no wonder our world is still dominated by men when we consider them better, even when evidence suggests there is no discernible difference between genders. It's no wonder we women are more comfortable with men in charge of us--we trust them to be more intelligent, even when the evidence suggests otherwise. I wonder if this difference in perception is part of why we women are so hard on each other (and on ourselves) and so much easier on the men around us.


  1. As an old professor of mine once said, not everyone can be in the intellectual NBA. We think intelligence should be an even playing field, the way we Americans all think we're middle class. And it's just not. And it's okay.

  2. Well put Kristine. I do think that we as women tend to put our own needs and desires to the side to please others. Part of it is empathy for others, but I think part of it still comes from the thinking that we are women and they are men, so they must be better at everything other than keeping a house and raising kids.