Sep. 17th, 2013

pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Some anecdotes I think illustrate a common thread:

  • Megan McArdle has a blog post up about how many women in Harvard Business School in particular and prestigious, demanding jobs in general drop out of the work force. The comments go off on a tangent about how high performing men who previously would have married secretaries are now marrying women much closer to their own achievement level, but post marriage logistics win out and the wives' careers are either dropped entirely or they shift into something emotionally rewarding but undemanding.
  • The "generous, discrete" business man who messaged me on okcupid, looking for "smart, beautiful, intelligent" women to "share an evening with" while he was in town for work.
  • That guy I went out with once who talked about how much he enjoyed smart women, how he couldn't imagine dating a dumb woman, but also couldn't imagine dating someone who wasn't at least five years younger than himself. He also believed all women were two drinks away from bisexuality.
  • A former friend who started dating a 19 year old college student when he was 26 and several years into a career, and claimed she was so smart and mature until the break up, at which point she started "acting her age." AKA she was smart and doing what he told her, and then she stopped.
  • Hugo Schwyzer (noted student-fucking professor), who claims he was never tempted to increase the grade of a student he was fucking because “The only students I was interested in were already A students. It’s not just a pretty face. It’s also intellectual ability.”.


That last one is extra on my my mind this week because I'm at my alma matter on a recruiting trip. I took a walk around the bookstore, and what I found myself most nostalgic for was a time in my life when the success criteria were determined by someone else and reachable via an obvious path. I could sign up and someone would stuff knowledge in my brain and I would get a reward for it. Relative to the real world, college required a lot of effort but very little executive function. Now, a good chunk of my job is deciding what my job should be and getting everyone else on board with it, and that's exhausting.

Simultaneously, what I most regret about my time at college is that I stuck to such a very strict path. I chose my first (very demanding) major when I was 12, committed to a second (also very demanding) my first semester, and had no time left over to explore. I avoided fuzzy classes both because I found the uncertainty inherently scary, and because my schedule genuinely didn't allow for anything to go wrong. I wanted a second major because otherwise all my credits from high school would have me graduating from college in two years, and I really wanted four. It never occurred to me I could use those extra two years to just explore a bunch of interesting things that might be interesting, without a clear use case for them. I was living Alfie Kohn's nightmare.

At the same time, that second major is what got me my current career, a career that has given me untold freedom in my adulthood. That's worth something too.

There are any number of reasons a very smart person could be getting less than an A in Hugo Schwyzer's class. Maybe she has to work to put herself through school or take care of family members and it cuts into her homework time. Maybe her dad died the day before an exam and she didn't know she could ask for a delay. Maybe she's brilliant in a different area and took this class deliberately to stretch herself. Maybe she did exemplary work that challenged Schwyzer's views and he lowered her grade subconsciously as punishment. Maybe she had grad school interviews that semester and they severely disrupted her study schedule. My point is that if Schwyzer is only fucking students getting As in his class, he's not selecting for intelligence, he's selecting for skill at following his rules.

That would be problematic to all on its own, and becomes worse when the perpetrator tries to mask it under something socially acceptable like an intelligence fetish. But I find it almost tragic in this case, because I'm pretty sure Schwyzer has done more to help me recognize this pattern than anyone else I've read or talked to. He is the one that explained that the sign of a good partnership isn't an absence of conflict, it's the presence of conflict that leads to growth for both parties- that "iron sharpens iron"- and that looking for less than that is a failure of moral courage. I'm not surprised he failed to live up this, because his writing always sounded like a dry drunk, but I am sad.

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