At the end of last week, as I skimmed through a few of the people I follow in twitter, I came across a tweet from a glossy women’s fashion magazine -- it was a RT, honest -- asking for single male writers for an article on what it’s like as a man navigating the desolate wastes of the dating scene. I added the bit about desolate wastes.
Anyway. Not only do I happen to fit very neatly into that demographic -- and when I say neatly, that’s in the sense that a noose fits neatly around a condemned man’s neck – the 140 characters included the only four that matter: Paid.
What’s more, I optimistically thought to myself, as an editor for a men’s issues magazine, this might even be a great opportunity to reach out to a new audience of women and offer them an insight into what it’s like when the Nike Air Classic is on the other foot, so to speak.
So, I cheerily fired off a quick email: “Totes. Can do. Wotchuafta? How much you payin?” (Or words to that effect).
Clooney and Amal
This came the reply:
“So basically I need to find a single guy to write an opinion piece about deliberately dating women who are cleverer than him – hooked off George Clooney's comments about Amal being smarter than him, and some new statistics also saying that men deliberately date women who are cleverer than them too.
“If this sounds like something you can relate to, and you're interested, could you write me a few quick sentences about what you think on the subject and wing over a headshot, and I'll pitch you to my editors this afternoon!”
Having read and carefully considered this offer, my first impulse was to “wing over” a couple of other four-letter words, connected with a couple of three-letter ones.
Instead, I decided to ask if I could see the research she was referring to, and having noticed they were also looking for a single woman to describe her experiences of dating, I asked what angle they’d be looking for in her dating story.
Teachers now mark down boys
For some reason they ignored my questions and said they’d found someone else.
Now, I know it’s a stretch to try and base some kind of devastating social commentary on this squalid little exchange, but let's face it, it wouldn't be the first time and it's way too much fun for it to be the last, so just bear with me on this.
You see, I couldn't help but notice that just the day before the magazine’s interest in smart women and stupid men, there was a major news story that addressed exactly the same stereotypes.
According to the BBC, an international report found that not only are boys falling behind girls in education across the globe, there is evidence of widespread prejudice against boys by teachers, who are marking down boys in comparison to girls, even if they are of the same ability.
Woman rolls eyes. Cut.
In another study in 2010, this prejudice was found to start very young, with both girls and boys believing girls are more intelligent than boys by the time they are seven or eight years old.
Meanwhile, there is the near-universal media trope in adverts, TV and film, of smart women and stupid men. (It's so pervasive in fact, that there's now a visual shorthand that tells us everything we need to know in a split second: woman rolls eyes. Cut.)
So why I wonder, would the editors of a women’s magazine think their readers would be interested in reading about men who fancy women who are more intelligent than them?
Could it be that the magazine's readers now believe men in general are less intelligent than women, and despairing of finding a partner, want to be told there are men out there who don't mind this intellectual power imbalance? Or perhaps, less charitably, these women like the idea of a nice-but-dim hunk, who looks pretty but won't answer back?
Who knows. Whatever the reasons, none of them seem very pleasant for either women or men.
By Dan Bell
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