In one of the chapters, ‘Keeping errors at bay’ by Bertrand Russell, a line quotes, ‘Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men do’. Perhaps, his idea meant to claim that men outperform women in intelligence because they have more teeth that show their wisdom.
It seems as though even when Aristotle had married twice, he definitely failed to verify his wives’ mouths along with how much wisdom a woman could possibly inhibit. The generational belief that women are born for reproduction, restricts them to homemaking tasks and makes them hold themselves back.
The measure of such gendered intelligence has been prevalent for ages, even during a period when women lagged slightly behind men due to inadequate access to education. But according to new research by James Flynn, “that women in the west have scored higher in IQ tests than that of men.” The main reason he puts it is either it is the challenge that a woman goes through in balancing a career while raising a family or that they have always had a potential which got undermined for years.
At times, it seems as if both women and men are firmly convinced of the intelligence of their own gender. However, fixing one’s interest in studies should not be based on gender. For instance, women do take up science degrees, but very few of them are able to pursue them further. The default system of the social constructs constrains the ideas of women that ‘they could also be there or become scientists’. The situation is even more devastating for trans women and non-binary individuals. Not only is their brilliance debated and negated, it is also constantly invisibilised and never taken into account.
Not just that, a stream of consciousness, famous literary figure Virginia Woolf, invented an imaginary Shakespeare’s sister named ‘Judith’ in her book ‘A room of one’s own.’ Woolf was definitely unconventional in approaching literature, building up the woman’s strength in a different light. Similarly, Mary Wollstonecraft, in her work named, ‘A vindication of rights of women‘ published in 1792, argues the same idea that women have been denied and continue to be denied equal policies and opportunities. What is even more important is the realisation that women need to be extended to affirmative action policies.
We need to forget how intelligence has been measured historically and how it has been tested through IQ tests and other similar tests. This is because the instrumental aspect of understanding the intelligence of humans should be generic. This means that if women scored higher than men on IQ tests and vice-versa, there is no need to take the tests to determine how exceptional one gender is. One also needs to step beyond this gender binary.
Women definitely have had less privilege than men historically. Results are evident as today, too, very few women have been able to place themselves in decision-making levels or in leadership positions. This is the result of thousands of years of oppression which has hindered the growth of women and has relegated them to unpaid domestic duties.
Gender Intelligence Group states that, ‘the philosophy of gender intelligence is that it does not emphasise gender’. It says, ‘once we know why men and women act and think in a certain way, we become more knowledgeable about human tendencies which will help us bond to one another effectively’.
Of course, women who were historically oppressed should not only be encouraged to be brought onto the table, but an atmosphere should also be created where they could simply stay and thrive. Opportunities need to be created, and an optimum infrastructure needs to be built. After all, the study of this article is not to emphasise the gendered idea of intelligence but to convey that irrespective of the gender you are, you are intelligent in one way or the other.
In conclusion to everything, even though men have always been boastful, conceiving an idea that they are at the peak of their intelligence, which indeed is true but it cannot really be at the expense of women and other marginalised gender. They can never be so. The only way to understand this is by reminding ourselves of the human conceit over intelligence is; that as Russell defines, ‘a man is just a brief episode in the life of a small planet in a little corner of the universe and that intelligence is one of our strongest characteristics of all. That we are neither intelligent being women nor as being men. But intelligence is being human.’
Also read: The Evolution Of Women’s Studies In India
Susmita Aryal is a third-year student of English Literature and Journalism at St. Xavier’s College, Nepal. She is interested in writing about society, gender and identity.
Featured image source: Medievalists.net