Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why is Intelligence in a Woman So Threatening?

In general, smart people are tolerated. They are needed in society. But there's not much use for them on a personal, everyday level. Because everyone knows, that book smart people are lame and boring. Or that seems to be the fallacy. I love talking to smart people, so long as they aren't so caught up in their own self-importance that they forget to be human beings with all the flaws and foibles. I have a news flash, though. Most smart people aren't necessarily like that. We can be pretty fun to be around, in fact.

Even less tolerance seems to be given to intelligent women. Why I wonder? There is no physiologic or anatomical limitation on women being more intelligent than men. But society really seems to disparage this aspiration in girls. How many of us smart girls played dumb one or more times to get a boy to like us? Raising my hand. Yes I did it. Sadly I still find myself biting my tongue when I get ready to say something that might be construed as showing that I do have arcane knowledge that the average person might not possess (wink). Because people will just think I'm showing off, or they'll get bored with me and not want to talk to me ever again. Sometimes, I feel it's better just to keep my mouth shut and smile and nod. That doesn't always go as planned because I enjoy talking to other people. And as a smart women, I would guess this is bound to show in what I do and say. Like it or lump it.

I'm not arrogant, and I'm certainly not egotistical, although posting that I am a smart woman may come across that way. It's just a fact. God blessed me with brains. I am a humble person, so I do tend to downplay that and focus on being down to earth, and being approachable is just a part of who I am. Now I can be as absent-minded as all get out, but that's usually because my brain is off thinking about some bizarre thing completely unrelated to what I'm doing at the time. And I certainly don't know everything. Far from it. But I digress.

There is a tension that comes out when it's clear that I am an intelligent woman. That my interests go past the level of the superficial and everyday. That I do think about things that most people don't give a second thought to. I'm more likely to watch The History Channel than I am to watch E! I can spend two hours watching The Universe, and won't spend one hour watching American Idol. I don't put down people who do watch American Idol or whatever else. I'm certainly not one of those people who say that television is mindless entertainment. What a person chooses to watch is her/his choice. But it does get frustrating to be considered a weirdo because my interests extend to the universe, and how a black hole works, how the Spartans lived and fought, and if ninjas really did exist. Or the physiology of sex. Who care about sexual physiology? People just want to have it. They don't want to know how our brains and bodies are wired for sex. I find it extremely fascinating.

As an avid fiction reader, particularly romantic fiction, I sense a real bias against smart women in books. Nine times out of ten, when I read posts on a book group, the smart heroine is the one who is least liked by readers. They don't think she's realistic or she's too hard, or she's unlikeable. Or she's just not sexy enough for the divinely hot hero. That really saddens me. In my opinion, the smart women deserve to meet Mr. Right just as much as the cute girl with the fantastic shoe collection. Or the bombshell who has every man at her feet. That is not to say that the smart girl can't have a fantastic shoe collection and be a bombshell with brains. Woman can be many things at once. An author on one of my groups said she has gotten emails in which readers have complained that the characters are too smart. I had some trouble wrapping my brain around that one. I love a smart heroine. They are some of my favorite. And a hero who loves and appreciates his smart heroine is even more beloved. Think Jane to Vishous in Lover Unbound by JR Ward. Or Ashaya to Dorian in Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh. These two heroes really believe that smart is sexy. In fact, I prefer a smart, intelligent heroine to one who's always kicking butt without stopping to assess the situation. Or always getting herself in trouble because her brain doesn't consider that the macho hero might have given her some good advice. Now a girl like Sydney Bristow on Alias is the best of both worlds.

One must wonder why the smart girls come off as being prickly and unapproachable. Could it be the many rejections we have received? Being teased by other woman and ostracized because we don't fit in, or being treated as if we are unfeminine because what real woman would be that smart and not hide it. Could it be that we'd rather stay home on the weekends instead of playing dumb just to get a guy to like us? Not because we hate men or are asexual. I suggest that we are prickly and have built up the armor against the world in pure self-defense. Being intelligent and erudite as a woman is a bit of a vicious cycle. You pursue scholarly interests, get more intelligent, become more of a social outcast, end up spending more time alone with said interests, get more intelligent, and it just continues. Or some of us just give up, throw our books away and decide to pretend that we're no smarter than the man we want or the rest of the crowd. I can't tell you how sad that makes me feel.

Well I have decided that I'm intelligent for a reason. I wouldn't trade that for anything. Having a good heart and being a good person is obviously far more important. But there is nothing wrong with being smart and being a woman. The world needs us. Woman are the other half of the equation in this world. And a good scientist knows that an equation must always be balanced on both sides.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Manifesto as a Black Geek

I've been thinking a lot about the dual concepts of being African-American or Black, whatever term you prefer, and being a lifelong nerd/geek/dork. Those two aspects are very much integrated into my self.

My question is, why does the world seem to ignore us Black geeks? We are out there, probably more than would admit. We are lurking in the shadows, but we're the ones who help sell tickets to comic book movies, who buy urban fantasy, read paranormal romance novels, and who rock out to music that should be considered inappropriate for us Black people.

Why do we have to deny our geekdom? We shouldn't have to. We have just as much right to be proud of being nerds, geeks, and dorks.

Well, I have decided to embrace my nerd-dom. I never have and never will be a 'cool' Black person.

Why I consider myself a Black Geek Girl

1. I love science fiction and fantasy. Always have, always will.
2. I gravitate to the nerdy/geeky/slightly dorky characters on tv/movies
3. I embrace my right to be a smart person and not feel like I have to hide it
4. Being cool is not important to me. Being myself is.
5. I am a fountain of useless information. Heck, Wikipedia is one of my top five favorite websites.
6. I own thousands of books. And I cannot seem to refrain from buying more.
7. Any day of the week, I'd rather curl up with a good book than go out to the club and party.
8. I'd rather rock out to Interpol or sing along to Duran Duran than listen to Usher or Lil' Wayne
9. I love science. Biology is so fascinating to me. Much more fascinating than shoes and clothes on any given day.
10.The sexiest traits in a guy for me are smarts, a sense of humor, and kindness. Yes, I stare at cute guys just as much as any girl. But the personality is what keeps my interest. If I can't have an interesting conversation, whether it's about Iron Man or the Milky Way, then I don't think there's going to be a future for us.
11.I love comic books as an art form, whether it's as an adaptation into movies or books, or the originals. I'm crying right now because I am here and not a Comic Con. Sob.
12. I love folklore, legends, and myths. I get so excited about them, it's probably a scary thing to most people.
13. I embrace my inner assassin/ninja/gunslinger/Amazon. Non-violence is a way of life for me. But inside there's an inner buttkicker. Think Elektra with browner skin and more clothes on.

So, I am here to say that I am a Black Geek, and I am proud of it. I am a nerd, and nerds rule. That's what the T-shirt says. This Black girl who happens to be a nerd is claiming her identity. Watch out world!