Why everyone loves to hate clever women….

// 25 February 2009

Gail Trimble has been declared amazing in the admittedly small world of University Challenge. The PhD student from Corpus Christi College Oxford demonstrated a remarkable degree of general knowledge recall and led her College to victory. So far so good.

So how long did it take for the backlash to a woman’s achievement to start? Seconds flat. She’s been vilified and insulted. Here’s a random assortment for your reading pleasure(?)

“Each answer was met with a smug grin or a cocky smirk. My normally placid girlfriend ended half-poetically seething: ‘Not a friend did she own at school’, before physically turning her back on the screen so she didn’t have to bear this odious little smug specimen.”

From Guardian article

“‘a hateful know-it-all’ and an ‘ annoying bitch’….a ‘horse-toothed snob’ who ‘ruins University Challenge every time she is on it with her “better than thou” attitude’

From Daily Mail article

“‘so brain-rupturingly irritating and smug’ that they hoped science would come up with ‘a screen that you can reach through and punch those inside’. ” From TV Scoop (by the way this site has published a disingenious, half-assed apology here

“Bright, she may be, but the girl is “proper butters” as we say over here. I mean, I’m turned on by exceptional intellect like the rest, but it has to be carried in a vehicle of reasonable visual excellence, and this bird is considerably sub par!

Comment from Failed Muso on Riemann’s Cut

Father Jack Hacket over at Fark.com “”She is now studying for a doctorate in Latin literature.”She can’t be that smart then.”

From FastFude.com“Judging from her hair, one can only imagine the state of her vast, unkempt etc etc.”

Defences of Trimble have been interesting, another commenter on Fark.com, Perducci, hits the nail on the head:

There are plenty of smart people out there who others really like or respect (Ken Jennings on Jeopardy, Stephen Hawking, Obama, Malcolm Gladwell…). Not everyone loves them, and they have plenty of detractors, but when they’re attacked it’s for their ideas, conclusions, opinions, etc. — not their attitude.

And – they’re all male. Being male and clever isn’t seen as a problem, being female and clever is.

But perhaps even more frustratingly is that where publications have sought to defend her, it’s been by reference to her being, well female and good-looking. “Men have been captivated by “hot lips Trimble” and “tasty Trimble”, and she has been described as “a fine young lady, beautiful in a scholarly sort of way”.” The Observer. Trimble herself has been asked about her status as a “sex symbol” and her brother was approached over Facebook by Nuts magazine asking whether they could do a semi-naked photo shoot (according to Trimble on Radio 4 this morning). Quite why her brother was asked and not, say, her I don’t know – maybe Nuts believes that close male relatives are the people who can consent to this?

As Ruby at The Anti-Room points out:

Once again we have an extraordinarily bright and academically excellent woman being reduced to her physicality…Why are people threatened by others who are cleverer than them? But this case is certainly about ability as much as it is about gender and Trimble herself says in the article:

“I don’t feel I would have been treated the same way were I a man.”

It’s true. Patriarchy dictates that all the intelligence (and the centres of power that come with that intelligence) should reside in the heads of men. Women shouldn’t dare try to match – or gasp, exceed – their intellectual levels. Smart women are bitches who are too clever for their own good and are asking to be challenged, negated and put down.

So apparently it’s OK to be smart if you are also deemed heteronormatively attractive, because that, of course, makes everything OK! (One site coined the new phrase “smexy” (smart + sexy). But being smart and female is only OK if you don’t put blokes of wanting to have sex with you apparently.

Comments From You

Lauren O // Posted 25 February 2009 at 4:24 pm

Bright, she may be, but the girl is “proper butters” as we say over here. I mean, I’m turned on by exceptional intellect like the rest, but it has to be carried in a vehicle of reasonable visual excellence, and this bird is considerably sub par!

Ahhh there is so much stupidity packed into this one small comment. She wasn’t trying to turn you on. She doesn’t “have to be carried in a vehicle” of any sort, because she doesn’t exist for your titillation. And her body isn’t a vehicle, for that matter.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 25 February 2009 at 4:41 pm

In fact it is not remotely acceptable for any woman or girl to have even one iota of intelligence because intelligence is defined as masculine. Women and girls exist solely to be male sexual fodder.

Men such as Barack Obama, Stephen Hawkins, Jeremy Clarkson (yes the misogynist) are all respected because of their intelligence not because of their biological sex, but women can never escape their biological sexual definitions. This is why such virulent women-hating invective has been levied at Ms. Trimble because she appears to threaten male supremacy. Before anyone says ‘she is just one woman’ that is the point because women claiming intelligence must be nipped in the bud otherwise patriarchy will be overrun with uppity women claiming intellectual equality with men.

Likewise using women to hurl invective against Ms. Trimble is common because patriarchy commonly uses women to keep other women subordinated and ensure the hierarchal male supremacist society continues unchallenged.

Hence Ms. Trimble’s brother being asked if his sister would like to pose naked in porn magazine Nuts. Says it all really – women are men’s public and private sexual property.

Well done Ms. Trimble for proving the misogynists and male supremacists wrong – intelligence is not masculine and it does not reside solely in so-called ‘male brains.’ But the downside is such bitter misogynistic sexualised insults will doubtless deter other intelligent women from even contemplating applying to compete on University Challenge because UC is for men only as evidenced by the hysterical male backlash.

The Boggart // Posted 25 February 2009 at 4:46 pm

Personally I feel that this is related to antiquated notions of female modesty. It seems that she has been as lambasted in the press as much for her supposed “smugness” as for her intelligence.

Society has come to be at least superficially accepting of intelligent women, provided that they downplay their activities, are still second fiddle to a man or fill the role of “the smart secretary”. (Carol Vorderman is a good example of this.)

Women who are proud of their intelligence (or proud of anything except how well they can bake brownies) are inevitably treated with this sort of panicked scorn. It’s the old “he’s a stud, she’s a slut” double standard that we can never quite seem to overcome.

Overall, society still expects women to stay out of the limelight*, or to be vastly more modest if they find themselves the centre of attention. Finally, I do feel that an element of class war has also helped to ignite the tabloid-orchestrated hate. If she hadn’t fitted the stereotype of the upper-class bluestocking from a privileged background then perhaps the bile wouldn’t have been so intense.

*The exception to this is if they are in some sort of sexual role.

The Boggart // Posted 25 February 2009 at 4:57 pm

Additionally, I think that the reaction to Gail Trimble dovetails neatly with the sexual commodification of intelligence in women. It seems that intelligent women can only be accepted if the primary use of their intelligence is to sexually stimulate men.

Matilda // Posted 25 February 2009 at 5:02 pm

Yeo from the Manchester teamed behaved exactly the same way as Trimble, smirking in a satisfied manner when he got a question right. Yet this is apparently okay, because he possesses a penis and thus the right to pride in his knowledge. It disgusts me.

TRIMBLE FTW!

Oh wait, she already did.

Ruth // Posted 25 February 2009 at 5:17 pm

It’s horrible the way people are talking about her, and when I saw her in clips she just seemed happy at getting the answer right, “how dare a women be even slightly proud of any interletual achievements, the smug bitch.” is basically what is going on. And the word Smexy was around a while before this was people started noticing her.

Kez // Posted 25 February 2009 at 6:25 pm

She did seem to be pulling faces when she answered the questions, but it looked like embarrassment/nerves to me rather than smugness.

Such a shame she has been vilified like this.

Anne Onne // Posted 25 February 2009 at 6:29 pm

Thanks for posting this!

It’s ironic that men who are smug (Clarkson being a prime example, as well as Boris Johnson or David Cameron for starters) are actually applauded for that sense of smugness, even when it’s not integral or expected of their job. Whereas one might consider smartness and a certain degree of knowing that you’re smart, to be practically a requirement of being on a quiz such as University challenge. It’s what it’s all about! How can one go on a highly competitive quiz and not have a degree of knowing that they are smart?

I was apalled by how the focus is on whether or not she’s really smug, and not on why the hell does it matter (she won! and nobody is asking if Phelps is too smug, or Branson is too smug, or any other high achieving man.) and how sexist this is.

It wouldn’t matter even if she was very smug, because it doesn’t negate her achievements. But, I don’t think she was. There’s a difference between being arrogant and really rubbing it in people’s faces, and simply knowing you’re smart, and being happy you’re doing well. However, if you’re a woman, anything other than looking astounded that your poor pink-encrusted little lady-brain could accidentally recall something is seen as being too smug. Because we’re not supposed to take pride in our knowledge. Screw that, we’re not going to hide and blush and pretend we’re stupid to make the men feel better about their own weaknesses. We didn’t win the right to education, to work and the vote to play dumb.

I second pretty much all the comments here. It would not have been mentioned had she been male, she’d just have been seen as ‘confident’ and ‘charmingly cocky’ because men are expected to be arrogant.

She’s also far more than her physical body, and her achievement has nothing to do with sex. Women don’t have to be sexy in everything we do, and not every achievement is sexual in nature. She won because she was smart, end of.

@Matilda: LOL yes. Trimble for the win, indeed. I just hope that she doesn’t get put off by all the bile floating around. It’s pretty disheartening that someone can achieve so much, and society decides to lambast them for not metaphorically flagellating themselves enough, rather than lauding them for achieving so much. She deserves more than this.

Ms. Trimble, if you’re reading this: well done, you deserve it. Don’t let the sexists keep you down. You’re more than what they think you are, and you know it. Good for you. :)

maggie // Posted 25 February 2009 at 7:19 pm

What a wonderful role model she is! She has exposed mysogynist views inherent in the media and boy do they look stupid. Congratulations Ms Trimble and good luck for the rest of your studies.

Shea // Posted 25 February 2009 at 7:49 pm

I find all this irritating on class grounds- is it surprising that a anyone who has an education costing 100k plus is very very intelligent?

But I also find this reference to the way she looks interesting. Alot of the bile seems to be from women, and its something I always encountered at school. Boys & men are accepting of competition and rivalry, but women and girls have much more of a group mentality. If one of the group excels, especially intellectually, this becomes a “threat” to the others and they turn on her (that has been my experience). There is also this sense of being threatened by men, hence the attempts to sexualise Trimble and undermine her by reference to the way she looks. It is a classic tactic to humiliate and bully women who are especially bright.

I though she did really well & congrats to her. I only wish it had been a working class, Northern girl from a sink comprehensive, because then we would really be seeing something special.

Kathy // Posted 25 February 2009 at 8:55 pm

As I saw pointed out in The Independent, her perceived “crime” was not only that of being an intelligent woman, but – gasp! – having the nerve not to hide it.

I watch University Challenge regularly, and for the past few months I have been watching Gail Trimble’s appearances on it with utter joy. There was not a single “smug grin” or “cocky smirk”, what she was doing is called a _confident smile_ coming from someone who had every reason to smile confidently. (By the way, the Manchester captain had a pretty similar look on his face for the same reasons – and bloody well done to him, his performance on the show was brilliant too – and did anyone bat an eyelid?)

Dear Daily Males, what you take to be “annoying smugness” is, in fact, what a woman looks like when she’s _enjoying herself_; judging by your comments, I’m not surprised that this looks unfamiliar to you.

As for the girlfriend seething ‘Not a friend did she own at school’, well, perhaps not. That’s because friends are not _owned_. From my experience, women like Gail Trimble do have friends. _Real_ ones. Ones who do not think that not knowing the winner of Celebrity Big Brother is a fatal character flaw, and who will not ostracise you for having unfashionable shoes.

Finally, Jennifer Drew, is my toothache medication playing cruel tricks with my brain or did you just say that Jeremy Clarkson is admired for his intelligence? That’s a frightening thought.

chem_fem // Posted 25 February 2009 at 9:59 pm

That Daily Male quote was interesting seeing as on the front cover yesterday they had Jade Goody and Gail Trimble with the headline, “why is it smart to be dumb?”

As for the Nuts magazine thing, according to the London Paper they asked her brother for her contact details so they could ask her to pose for them. They didn’t ask her through him, although presumably they didn’t need to tell him that though.

Amrit // Posted 26 February 2009 at 12:36 am

I think the Daily Mash has satirised the reactions to GT rather well…

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/gail-trimble-to-be-burnt-as-a-witch-200902251601/

Sarah // Posted 26 February 2009 at 7:46 am

I also notice this has triggered a ‘debate’ about whether doing well at University Challenge really has anything to do with intelligence. Which may be a fair point – there are many other factors involved – but why does it only become a point of doubt when a woman wins?

Laura // Posted 26 February 2009 at 9:34 am

Agree with everything you’ve said, but as a point of information, apparently the reason they asked her brother was because he had it on his facebook profile (and presumably had his privacy settings low) whereas she didn’t. He, to his credit, told them where to stick it.

Amy Clare // Posted 26 February 2009 at 9:56 am

It’s disgusting the way people have treated Gail Trimble… I am really disappointed at how much of a big deal a clever woman still is in our society. I sincerely hope she told Nuts where to go.

I agree with The Boggart in that intelligence in women is sometimes seen as yet another way to stimulate men… as a clever woman myself I’ve had men say “oh but I really like that you’re cleverer than me, it’s a turn-on!” and then wonder why I didn’t rush gratefully into their arms.

Intelligence is seen as a reason to respect a man no matter what they look like, etc, but for women, it’s clearly still feared or hated unless it can be co-opted into their sexuality somehow. Sad and depressing.

Louise Livesey // Posted 26 February 2009 at 11:47 am

I was basing the Nuts comments on Gail Trimble’s interview on Radio 4. Not claiming I know exactly what happened but I’ll take her word over the London Paper’s anytime!

Louise Livesey // Posted 26 February 2009 at 11:53 am

Hi Shea, I’m not surprised someone with a private education did well on a show devised, largely, to show how much trivia someone with a private education knows. I am surprised that others were surprised a *woman* knew so much stuff and therefore vilified her.

I disagree however that a private school education buys you any form of intelligence (I’m not disputing she’s intelligent, I’m disputing this is because she went to a private school). I’d put money on the fact her parents are both scientists, stimulated her interest in reading at an early age, encouraged her *and* then went on to pay for a private secondary education has more to do with it.

Just as my parents encouragement and support had a lot to do with my achievements despite them not having the financial capacity to buy me privilege (and thank god for that!).

This Girl // Posted 26 February 2009 at 1:26 pm

Gail Trimble is a legend. I know from experience how hard it is – and as someone has already said, knowing the answer is only half the battle, the other is reacting in time. She’s phenomenal and I’m sure that as an intelliegent woman doing a non-vocational degree subject she’s used to insecure types trying to put her down. I therefore highly doubt that she gives a toss what anyone says.

I was on University Challenge twice a few years ago. I was the only woman on the team, captained by a misogynistic character who made it very clear that he thought I was the token bimbo. I’m ashamed to say that I spent an entire day trying to decide what to wear so that no one would comment on my appearence either positively (‘nice tits love, is that how you got on here?’) or negatively (‘All women on UC are ugly bluestocking frumps’) – because of course the most important thing afo a woman on telly is to LOOK NICE.

Gail Trimble, you have every damn right to look smug. You’re above all this crap. Go girl!

Jackie Bather // Posted 26 February 2009 at 4:14 pm

Gail Trimble is very intelligent…full stop.Her gender, in an equal world ,would be irrelevant . The fact that it is being discussed at all in the media , reveals the misogyny around us only too starkly.

Katherine // Posted 26 February 2009 at 4:46 pm

I think its such a pity that women can’t win.

That if they are beautiful, they are looked at but disregarded. If they are intelligent, they are put down and told no-one will like them. If they are nice, they are walked over.

And if they seem to win–say at UC–then a lot of people go to a lot of trouble to take that away from them.

I also think it’s so sad that all the comments on here are “Yes, that’s what happens to me too”, so everyone feels bad about their brains, beauty and ability to bake.

[This is not an anti-non-baker’s comment, this is because I am making a birthday cake, and would like to be proud of it!]

Shea // Posted 26 February 2009 at 8:49 pm

@Louise- I take your point. You can’t buy intellect, or “grow roses on concrete” to coin a Northern phrase.

But I disagree with you on it being able to buy you any form of intelligence. The IQ test or virtually any standard measure of intelligence has a component that measures general knowledge, so someone with a broader, more indepth education will do better.

Her parents are both scientists and yes she does credit them with stimulating her interest in a young age. But as someone who experienced both public & private education- I know the difference between the two is vast.

Its an aside to the main issue, but it does depress me, when I see public school people from Oxbridge being praised for their brilliance. Yes 50% of pupils at Oxbridge are from state schools- but when you consider the other 50% are from private schools, that only 6% of the population go to- it becomes a very different matter.

Shea // Posted 26 February 2009 at 8:51 pm

Okay- maybe that was mean. I mean I’m glad to see any young woman doing well, I just can’t help hoping to see a young woc or white working class woman captaining a team to victory on University Challenge. It seems like it going to be a long time coming.

Alex T // Posted 26 February 2009 at 9:04 pm

Blimey, what the hell’s wrong with being smug?? I haven’t seen a huge amount of the coverage so can’t say whether she’s been smug or not – but so what? I’d have an ego the size of Wales if I’d achieved what she has! Bring on the successful, smug women, I say.

Lisa // Posted 27 February 2009 at 3:17 pm

It’s a peculiar myth of anglo-saxon misogyny that a woman must be stupid. In many other cultures the stereotype is very much the opposite. It’s also an anglo-saxon myth that beauty/brains are impossible to have in the same person. In other cultures it’s seen (quite rightly) as just the way the DNA goes. In other cultures it’s assumed that the intelligent person maximises their appearance. I use ‘person’ because in other cultures men are encouraged/expected to be vain, well-dressed, handsome etc. too.

The real problem with these attacks is the message it sends (yet again) to girls and young women to limit or self-sabotage themselves. Education is THE most important task a young female must achieve at the outset of her life. It’s her parents responsibility to provide for her physical needs but from a young age only she can really work at her own education and this could be so easily undermined by viscious attacks on public figures.

Ruby // Posted 27 February 2009 at 8:33 pm

Thanks for the linkage Lauren.

If this story, and the male responses to it, weren’t depressing enough, we managed to attract a sexist troll who tried the evolutionary tack in terms of gender and intelligence. He also jumped on to our post regarding the Irish Times “satirical” Credit Crunch piece saying that women were basically vacuous bitches who just want to shop and spend their husbands money! It was so over the top and flaming that it was funny.

polly styrene // Posted 27 February 2009 at 11:22 pm

Shea, I think you’ve got a good point about Oxbridge being full of public school educated people, and to a certain extent you CAN buy success in exams. And you can definitely be coached to do better in ‘IQ’ tests. But only to a certain extent. I don’t think the depth of general knowledge Gail Trimble has could be gained just by an expensive education, she’s also obviously intellectually curious and has just read a lot, (and retained a lot).

orlando // Posted 28 February 2009 at 10:08 pm

I’m really surprised to see anyone English still thinking that an expensive education can buy you brains, when you have prince Harry’s shining example before you of its complete failure to do so.

Shea, your very valid comments about class would go down better if you could lay off blaming of women for behaviour the patriarchy trains them into. “Women are threatened by other women’s smarts” is just one more hollow sexist sterotype we can do without.

Cara // Posted 2 March 2009 at 2:05 pm

What orlando said about Prince Harry – exactly!

Trimble isn’t from a priveleged background, but an ordinary one; her parents just happened to send her to private school, maybe working overtime and making sacrifices such as not having holidays and new cars to pay for it.

Like Laura said – it’s not money or even class per se, but about the parents’ attitude to learning.

IQ tests don’t measure general knowledge (they did, true, but they have been made a lot fairer). I do think intelligence exists.

Not to say there aren’t class issues. A person of average intelligence from a middle / upper class background will undoubtedly do well, better than they deserve, and a bright person from a working class background may or may not succeed – but will have a harder time, and may not get as far as they deserve.

But that’s not the same thing as saying there is no component of natural intelligence; it’s just that intelligence, like any ability, can be nurtured and developed or not.

Absolutely agree with everyone – men are encouraged to be confident, verging on smug and arrogant (or not so much even verging). Women are expected to be modest.

lindsey spilman // Posted 2 March 2009 at 5:01 pm

Its not the men who hate her that concerns me, its the nasty comments from women. I am sorry to say that it is women who keep women like her down not men in this centuary.

orleigh // Posted 2 March 2009 at 6:10 pm

@lindsay

Women who just try to reflect the dominant popular opinion, probably. They probably think of themselves as neutral in the culture, before the oppressed of a culture – because this is how they survive.

I think women know the best way to survive every day sexism is to blend into the background and ‘become one of the boys’ (even though in the long run this doesn’t work). Any woman they see standing out and looking good, they judge and react harshly because they’re so afraid to act similarly themselves. While they might admire the behaviour it’s not possible for them, when they’re not willing to be different from what society expects.

Although the good news is, these women do appreciate a brainy, successful woman underneath the bitter exterior. They just wait for the time when they can rejoice in such a woman as an idol, whose path they can actually follow without their own attacks from each side.

But then a lot of women fall into the ‘patriarchy cheerleader’ crowd. They get more points for sullenly going along, redirecting their bitterness at poor fellow women; than they do for actually recognising they are the women the sexism is aimed at. If a guy makes a joke about women, it’s the women in the room he intends to affect with his sexism. But the women in the room force themselves to imagine some ‘other woman’, and laugh along. Or otherwise they become deluded it’s some show of testosterone intended to flatter them. I think a lot of women mistake misogyny for flattery – a form of attention from someone with a penis just dying to protect a woman really, on the inside. How wrong could they be? Misogyny is a form of hatred men get away with for these reasons.

Shea // Posted 2 March 2009 at 9:10 pm

@ Orlando- “Women are threatened by other women’s smarts” is just one more hollow sexist sterotype we can do without.”

Would that it were. Its an uncomfortable truth but a truth nonetheless. I am speaking from my own experiences here. It was overwhelmingly women that felt threatened by my academic success (in a mixed school) rather than men, and later female academics rather than male ones. I don’t hold this to be universally true and I certainly believe men are just as threatened by a clever woman (as I said) and hence the whole backlash against Gail Trimble. This is merely my own unfortunate experience and I don’t mean to imply it can be generalised.

In fact looking at the wage gap and the number of companies run by men, its still overwhelmingly men who are undermining women’s chances of success and stability.

Anne Onne // Posted 2 March 2009 at 10:42 pm

lindsey spilman, I think it’s more complicated than that. Yes, women working against each other, dividing into ‘Team Clever/ugly/frigid’ and ‘Team Pretty/Stupid/slutty’ cause each other harm by trying to tear each other down, but they do this in the context of a patriarchical society which encourages them to do so. The only power society willingly gives women is to focus on their appearance/attractiveness to men, and to tear other women down to compete for male attention

I have to disagree with your assertion that in this day and age women have to fear other women more than men. Other women aren’t likely to rape or abuse us. They don’t threaten to rape us if we say something they don’t like. They don’t pressure us into sex, or view us as ovbects made for their pleasure. They tear each other down, but they don’t stand to gain anything directly from subjugating each other in the same way as men. And their verbal attacks on females in the public eye may be scathing, but they are far less threatening. We make a very big deal about women being catty, but just look at the comments anywhere a female blogger is vocal about women’s issues. There may be dismissive or ‘bitchy’* but the scariest, most depressing, catty, disgusting comments will be from men. Men are more likely to try to put women in their place verbally or by using privilege, or simply ignoring when women are speaking from experience.

Yes, women play a very real part in competing against each other for the one thing society tells them they need: male attention. But, we can’t oppress each other to the same degree because we don’t have the social power to.

* Other people’s definition, not mine. Used to show that people think women are bitchy any time they disagree or insult each other, but of course a man insulting a woman isn’t being bitchy, he’s just expressing his manly opinion in a perfectly rational way. /sarcasm

And I agree with Cara about class/intelligence.

lindsey spilman // Posted 4 March 2009 at 1:07 pm

I did not feel like women were each others oppressors before I went to university and came out with a 1st in biology. I was a better feminist before I had other girls poke fun at the fact I was a feminist. I even had one girl tell me out loud in a lecture to go burn my bra. This was for me saying that I did not agree with the fact that most clinical trials are done on men. I observed a lot of sexism from women staff in general. There was one career adviser who had advised a friend of mine (also a biology student) to become a secretary. The same woman would not help me at all when I wanted to do further study. The most helpful person in the university was male.

It appears that many women pump all there support and approval into men with none left for women. So the only place women can get any support or approval back is by pleasing men. As men support and approve each other more then women do and also get it from women, they have the balance tipped in there favour. It is possible that many women are like this due to there mating drive. After all there is no advantage to be another way; it is just possible that women who are feminists are more evolved.

I have noticed studies like this are on the increase. The headline of this study has nothing to do with what has been found. Its as if they are trying to make women hate each other more.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16016-why-fertile-women-hate-a-pretty-face.html

Grace // Posted 4 March 2009 at 7:02 pm

To respond to some of the points raised above.

I think that women’s responses to another women’s “smugness” isn’t particularly the product of adopting a view of women which says they shouldn’t be proud of their achievements it is a general view that everyone should be humble, and a view that women are usually better at achieving this virtue. Men are seeing as having a lower capacity to achieve it. When a woman is arrogant she, at least from my point of view, has failed to live up to a positive expectation as opposed to flouted gender roles. It might seem harsher, but it has come from a standpoint which views women as being better, and therefore expects a higher standard from them than their male counterparts. That said, Trimble didn’t look smug in any of the clips I saw, and seemed quite bemused by the whole fuss in later interviews.

To respond to comments about class- I am a working class Northern girl reading law at Oxford. I went to a comprehensive-albeit not a ‘sink’ school-and I can honestly say that it really isn’t any harder to get in or do well here coming from such a background, unless you are talking about situations of extreme poverty and crime-ridden areas.

Ally // Posted 4 March 2009 at 8:26 pm

I have to say that all the fuss around her sort of angers me. Yes, there is an intelligent woman – so what? All the press she is getting really does sum up the fact that we live in a male dominated society who seem genuinely impressed that a woman has a brain. Had a male won, he would not have had any publicity. It’s double standards yet again. While it’s good that she is getting press as opposed to Paris Hilton, or others of the like… it’s bad that they feel they must publicise her just because she is a woman.

There are billions of outstandingly intelligent women out there, and they should all be considered, not just one picked out as if she is the rare few.

Plus, I do find most University Challenge Captains smug… I don’t really know why she is the only one being pointed out for it… perhaps again, because of her sex.

polly styrene // Posted 6 March 2009 at 1:08 pm

I think you’re over simplifying the situation a bit Grace. There are still far more students who go to Oxbridge proportionately from private schools than from state ones. Of the schools which send most students to Oxbridge ALL are independent apart from the London Oratory (which is a comprehensive, but a pretty posh one, since it was where Tony Blair’s children went). These are 30% of oxbridge students.

By contrast at the 30 best comprehensive schools, only a third of the pupils were admitted to Oxbridge, that would have been expected on a like for like comparison of A level results.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article2492736.ece

Alice // Posted 15 March 2009 at 2:51 pm

Why on earth are people so quick to belittle peoples’ intelligence these days? That really annoys me. I personally have far more time for people who have a modicum of intelligence, such as Gail Trimble, than idiots like Jade Goody (who I detest).

QUOTE: There is also this sense of being threatened by men, hence the attempts to sexualise Trimble and undermine her by reference to the way she looks. It is a classic tactic to humiliate and bully women who are especially bright.

Not to mention also that we live in an image-obsessed society where looks are more important than personality.

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