I Brake for Goth Girls

It’s a much better bumper sticker slogan than “Reading is Sexy”. Seriously, what is up with all these men who say they like intelligent women? I get that there’s a historical precedent for finding ambition or success unattractive in women, but this statement is not the solution; it continues to center men’s sexual preferences as justification for or against ambitious or bookish– “intelligent”– women, and it greatly restricts what we see as intelligence in women. While I’m at it, I am tired of reading being a personality trait or a way to look down on other people; if you read a lot and brag about it to people, you were probably well-resourced as a kid. Congrats, you’re privileged.

Honestly, I used to be a big fan of cishet men who said they were attracted to intelligence. Maybe it’s growing up as an academic oddity in the sticks, but it seemed like a good sign. It wasn’t until I had a relationship with one of these men that I was able to see how problematic this type of statement is; as someone who could be both a hacker gf and book nerd, it wasn’t until I was affected by this statement at the other end that I truly started to call it out. That is, you want to be with a smart woman until she is smarter, louder, or more successful than you. Now I see how truly creepy and unnecessary a thing this is to say.

When you say this, intelligence is seen as an exception to the pattern of womanhood. Furthermore, this exception is closely aligned to racial and class privilege; an intelligent woman is mimed as someone who can afford a university education, who listens to “more refined” music, and maybe spends her weekends visiting museums. She is taken seriously only as much as she conforms to these elitist and racist standards. Frankly, it’s disgusting! In addition, this statement basically requires that women perform intelligence in ways that align with toxic masculine displays of knowledge but are simultaneously unthreatening to them. Does a woman have to wear glasses and read Foucault in front of you to meet your threshold for intelligence? And if she does, and she knows more than you, are you really going to be comfortable with that? I have experienced both firsthand and second-hand women talking to men about communism or socialism where it’s clear all the men really want out of the conversation is to quote fancy authors and chest fluff. Non cis male contributions to the conversation are totally rolled over. Women are valued in the community at a superficial level; they are expected to have read some Marxist literature but not know enough to call you out. Furthermore, anyone who has legitimate perspective on marginalization and lived experience to contribute gets filtered out by the din of theoretical frameworks and lofty ideas. I love lofty ideas, but I think they are strengthened and more effectively critiqued by the folks who have experienced their consequences.

Also, why are we still centering men’s sexual preferences to justify how women are? Can we not value ambitious, traditionally bookish women in ways beyond male fetisization? I’m so tired of men thinking they have something novel to contribute when they say this s**t.

Written on September 14, 2021