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Do Women Downplay Their Intelligence?

  1. Feb 25, 2004 #1
    I just read a fascinating thread elsewhere on this topic, and I thought it would be interesting to see what the women who post here at PF had to say about it. I would expect that there would be no point in downplaying your intelligence in posts on this forum, but do you find yourself doing it in real life situations? On the job? In social gatherings? If you find that you do, what do you think is the reason?

    -Zooby
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 25, 2004 #2

    Evo

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    I work in a male dominated high tech field, so no, I don't downplay what little intelligence I have. :wink:

    Socially? No.

    I take it the thread was not on this forum? I am curious why a woman would feel a need to downplay her intelligence.

    Personally, I wouldn't want to socialize with a person that would feel threatened by someone who might know more. I love learning from those who know more than I do. In a work environment, I'd find another job if my boss or peers felt threatened. I could not function like that.
     
  4. Feb 25, 2004 #3
    None of the other women have anything to say?

    The thread where I saw this discussion was lively and went on for three pages.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2004
  5. Feb 25, 2004 #4

    Tsu

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    Same here.
     
  6. Feb 25, 2004 #5

    Kerrie

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    absolutely not zooby...i too work in a male dominated field-the farming and agricultural industry where the "good ole boys" rule...dealing with thick headed old men who have been raised chauvenistic has made me strive to use all of my intelligence as much as possible as they are extra skeptical when a i pull out a tape measure and caliper to measure their brushes (no i am NOT the fuller brush lady!)...interesting enough, i was informed later by my boss that he was looking to hire a woman for my position because women in the field i work make a bigger impression then men...

    just curious, what brings up this question?
     
  7. Feb 25, 2004 #6
    The other thread I read was fascinating. People really got into it and were forthcoming about themselves.
     
  8. Feb 26, 2004 #7

    Evo

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    Did these women say they were "downplaying" their intelligence? What could be their reasons?

    I thought women stopped doing that back in the 70's. Before then a woman might try not to intimidate a potential suitor with her intelligence because she needed to get a husband, so if she was surrounded with less intelligent men, she had to play dumb, I guess. But it was a stupid game then and I can't see an "intelligent" woman with any self respect playing that game now.
     
  9. Feb 26, 2004 #8

    Njorl

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    Well, I'm not a woman, but I can't resist jumping in.

    There are a lot of people who are offended by the idea that someone is smarter than them. If you ask them, "Are you the smartest person in the world?", they will answer no, but if you ask them to name someone who is smarter than them, they won't be able to. Just the idea that you are smarter than them is an insult. These are generally small minded people, so if the insult comes from a woman, it is that much worse. I have seen it. The worst was a daughter who had to pretend to be less intelligent than her father. He was denied the pride any parent should have for a child, and she was denied the greatest respect there is, the respect of a parent.

    I don't like women playing dumb just to get along, but I can't condemn them. You can't condemn "Uncle Tom" if you are not in Jeopardy of Simon Legree's whip.



    Njorl
     
  10. Feb 26, 2004 #9
    Excellent post, Njorl. I was thinking along the same lines, and then it occured to me that there may actually be some Sexual Selection involved as well. It is possible (and I am not saying that it is definitely the case) that women have a genetically predisposition to be less intelligent...if this were the case (again, I'm not saying it is) it would probably because, as Njorl pointed out, a chauvenistic man may indeed take it as an insult to know that a woman is more intelligent than they are (or, really, more capable at just about anything than they are), and so would not select them as a mate, and their "intelligence" genes would slowly become more rare...I don't if that makes sense or not, but it just occured to me as a possibility.
     
  11. Feb 26, 2004 #10

    Evo

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    The frequency with which you would come across this type of attitude probably greatly depends on where you are. I am sure in the deep south and/or smaller towns, you may run into this more than other parts of the country, so good point Njorl. I hadn't taken that into consideration. One of the reasons I moved away from the south.

    I'd be interested in adrenaline's take on this, being a female physician in Georgia and working in some rural areas.
     
  12. Feb 26, 2004 #11

    Monique

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    I never actively downplay intelligence, who would? But I don't actively show off intelligence either. I knew a person who had the unmistakable urge to show off and be better than any person in sight, which was just really annoying and offensive too.
     
  13. Feb 26, 2004 #12

    jimmy p

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    Hmmm, im male (obviously, i mean look at my name!!) but i have some problems with intelligence. People think i am smarter than i actually am!! HELP!! im not joking BTW...
     
  14. Feb 26, 2004 #13

    Math Is Hard

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    If people around here found out I was smart they might actually expect me to do some work. Shhhh...

    :wink:
     
  15. Feb 26, 2004 #14
    I think if everyone on this board were honest about this question then we would all admit that we have found it necessary to "dummy down" on occasion to fit in.

    It doesn't take many times asking the teacher if they are going to collect the homework before an intelligent person who has completed the assignment is ostracized.

    Also, I believe most people try to fit their level of conversation to the group they are with. If your friends or relatives or co-workers don't enjoy talks on physics or math, then you talk about baseball or who's seeing who, etc.
     
  16. Feb 26, 2004 #15

    Monique

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    But that is not down-playing, that is not-showing-off.
     
  17. Feb 26, 2004 #16

    Math Is Hard

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    "Oh, officer... I had no idea the speed-limit was 35!"
    That's down-playing
     
  18. Feb 26, 2004 #17

    Monique

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    no, that's just playing dumb..
     
  19. Feb 26, 2004 #18
    Not showing off is the reason why you are down playing.

    Come on, you've never found yourself talking to a person about Biology and just see their eyes glaze over and then find yourself changing the subject just so they won't be bored?
     
  20. Feb 26, 2004 #19
    Somewhere toward middle school the intelligence of young women is downplayed by educators and aggressive young men emerge with the credit.
     
  21. Feb 26, 2004 #20

    selfAdjoint

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    This used to be asserted when modern feminism was young, and I always wondered, because it had always seemed to me that boys were falling behind girls in high school, except for a few nerds (we called them eggheads). In those days there were no regular sports for girls, so maybe that was why. But now recent studies have showed that right through senior year of HS, girls get better grades than boys, on the average. And check this out, there are more young women in college than men!
     
  22. Feb 26, 2004 #21

    Evo

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    But that's not downplaying intelligence, that is the ability to talk to someone on their level of understanding or interest.

    At my job I have to explain very technical concepts to people with a large difference in technical understanding. I have to explain the same thing in "different" ways. I don't pretend I'm dumb when I am talking to a non technical person, nor do I talk "down" to them. The non technical people are usually the CEO's & CFO's of the company.
     
  23. Feb 26, 2004 #22

    Monique

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    Down playing intelligence is saying 1+6=5 or saying 'I dunno'. Why if we are having a conversation about pi in Japan, which is 3.0 over there, do I have to recite the first 15 decimals? (not that I could) When the conversation is about the historical background of this anomaly?
     
  24. Feb 27, 2004 #23
    I think that those of you that work in a high tech industry or are grad students, researchers etc. of course you wouldn't downplay your intelligence, it is your most powerful asset in such vocations.
    I am also a student and would never "play dumb".

    I probably have a slightly different background from some of you though. I grew up in a somewhat isolated, small town. There were certainly some very intelligent people there but the general population was not highly educated nor did they poses the desire to learn. So some did not seem particularly intelligent to me.

    People can be very self conscience about their level of education and perceived intelligence, so for example if you start talking to this person about the very cool things you learned in astrophys they will feel self conscious clam up thinking you are far more intelligent than them (defiantly not a safe assumption). In such situations people feel intimidated and just clam up and you will never have the opportunity to really get to know that person.

    There are so many valuable things you can learn from a person, those who you perceive to be less intelligent or less educated can posses wisdom that you may never have, you can learn from there experiences and attitude towards life or just learn more about them as a person. So if I ever played down my intellect it would only be in such situations. If people think you know so much they assume that they have nothing to teach you and you miss out on so many valuable things you could have learned from them.
     
  25. Feb 27, 2004 #24

    adrenaline

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    I've never been hindered by that concept either. In my field, being the only female doc in some of the places I practice, playing dumb would be professionally devastating. Back in the halls of academia on the wards with medical students, that would also not be too prudent. Socially, I never felt the compulsion to dumb down anything when I interact but I veer away from talking medicine and letting people know I'm a physician otherwise the rest of the conversation is dominated by the other person's need to divulge a litany of medical problems concerning themselves and the rest of their family.

    My husband comes from a traditional family, mother was a domestic engineer :smile: and father worked two jobs and they grew up on a farm in Georgia. However, I soon found out they could be traditional without being close minded and even when interacting with his family members, I never felt such a need to play down anything. However, I have met many "smart" southern bells who are still constrained by such social niceties when we go out socially. One of my friends is a Harvard law grad in International coorporate law and speaks Korean, Japanese, German and Frech fluently. Yet when we go out she plays up her sweet southern drawl and bats her eyelashes....but wait, I think she also uses this ploy in court sometimes to disarm people....(since non southerners do seem to associate heavy southern accents with probably less than average intelligence.)
     
  26. Feb 27, 2004 #25

    Monique

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    Since noone here knows I've already published first author, maybe I AM downplaying intelligence. Coming to think of it.. But the only reason is that sticking your neck out is considered arrogance in this country. But there are enough intelligent people around, you notice that when they sometimes jump out of the wave, like dolphins, I don't see any reason to feel extra special just because I read a book by Einstein.. [?]
     
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