Mrs. Sitterlee's advice to the eighth grade girls at Johnston Junior High: Play dumb. If you want to nab that cute boy, ask him to help you with your algebra—even if you already know the answers.
Despite all the talk about how men are rooting for gender equality at home and on the job, men don't like it when the women in their lives outshine them. That's essentially the finding of Kate Ratliff, PhD, University of Florida, and Shigehiro Oishi, PhD, University of Virginia, who studied 896 people in five sets of experiments.
Here's how American Psychological Association sums up the study that was released this August:
Deep down, men may not bask in the glory of their successful wives or girlfriends. While this is not true of women, men’s subconscious self-esteem may be bruised when their spouse or girlfriend excels.
So while on the surface, men might wave the banner of equality and cheer their wives' or girlfriends' accomplishments, "deep down" they are not happy. In fact, they're threatened. Ratliff tells APA "that men automatically interpret a partner’s success as their own failure, even when they’re not in direct competition." Women's esteem, on the other hand, was not affected by their partners' success or failure, says the research.
Think this is retro? It gets worse, because the research shows that men might be much more comfortable with women who are, well, kind of dumb—or at least dumber than they are: "Men who believed that their partner scored in the top 12 percent demonstrated significantly lower implicit self-esteem than men who believed their partner scored in the bottom 12 percent."
Let's do a recap: If the woman is super smart, the man tends to get depressed; but if she's really stupid, he's on top of the world!
So my gym teacher was correct: Smart girls play dumb. After all, the way to a man's heart is through his ego.
I don't have to tell you that this doesn't bode well for gender equality. If men's self-worth are so easily threatened by their significant other's success, would they really step up to the plate to support their mates' careers? Is it any wonder that men's careers almost always take precedence in most marriages—even when the wife is the smarter of the two?
Looks like that gender gap will be sticking around. For a long time.
Hat tip: Harvard Business Review blog.
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