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Washington Post Says Women Are Dumb

Dear Ms Charlotte Allen, offering of an op ed piece at Washington Post:

If I had a subscription to the WashPo, I’d probably cancel it today. When I first read your article , I thought it was going to be a joke. I had to read it twice to see if you just weren’t pulling my leg because, seriously, who writes this sort of thing with a straight face:

The theory that women are the dumber sex — or at least the sex that gets into more car accidents — is amply supported by neurological and standardized-testing evidence. Men’s and women’s brains not only look different, but men’s brains are bigger than women’s (even adjusting for men’s generally bigger body size). The important difference is in the parietal cortex, which is associated with space perception.

I don’t even know how many pairs of shoes I own.”

You further say that we women should just give in and recognize that we are dim and stop angsting about the male patriarchy system that seems to suppress the occasional smart woman from getting ahead.

So I don’t understand why more women don’t relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home. (Even I, who inherited my interior-decorating skills from my Bronx Irish paternal grandmother, whose idea of upgrading the living-room sofa was to throw a blanket over it, can make a house a home.) Then we could shriek and swoon and gossip and read chick lit to our hearts’ content and not mind the fact that way down deep, we are . . . kind of dim.

Listen, sister, your opinion that women are dimmer, dumber, and depressed mentally is supported by nothing more than vague references to undocumented scientific studies and anectodal stories of women acting stupid such as fainting at an Obama Rally and the popularity of Oprah Winfrey. The fact that those are the examples that you choose to point out shows how fallacious your position is.

I mean, can fainting at a rally or loving Oprah really compare to this:


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. B
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 15:06:24

    Oh my…I must send Ms. Allen a thank you! All this time I thought that the reason I felt like my fiance was smarter than me was because he’s a computer scientist and a total geek who spends hours reading up about everything. And because I’m a more internally oriented person who is more curious about things like the behavior of people than technical, academic stuff. All this time I thought it was because we’re simply different people with different interests and mine tend to be admittedly a bit more shallow than his! I had no idea that it was really because I’m a woman and therefore just plain dumb!


  2. Diana Castilleja
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 15:09:26

    I’m not worried about an opinion. So she’s a stepford wife in disguise….

    My reaction was OH SH*T to that photo!! Please tell me that was staged.

  3. Radish
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 15:24:53

    Meh. It reads like a deliberate provocation, feeble as it is.

    Subscriptions and ad sales must really be down, for the Washington Post to stoop to trolling.

  4. Caryn
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 15:26:55

    Oh, wow. I can’t believe they published that. I mean, after all, if a woman wrote it and women are so “dim”, then what are newspapers doing letting the dumber sex publish anything at all? And while we’re at it, maybe we shouldn’t let women into politics, because their brains are smaller (even though research shows that brain size does not correlate with intelligence).

    Another thing she’s missing out on is that different people are intelligent in different ways. Women, for example, tend to be better communicators. But there is a very long history of society looking down on something that women do better or are interested in while exalting men’s choices and talents.

    Thanks for pointing this out to us. I only hope that others dismiss her as crazy and not know what she’s talking about, too.

  5. whey
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 15:29:00

    Hey, don’t pick on Ms. Allen. Without the Ms. Allens of the world, I don’t look nearly as smart as I pretend to be.

  6. stp
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 15:45:01

    Dear Ms. Allen:

    Regarding male and female accidents per mile driven. You report that men have fewer accidents despite the fact they drive more miles. One might hypothesize that men have fewer accidents BECAUSE they log more mile. If men have more practice at driving than do women (as perhaps evidenced by the stats), they might, as a result, have fewer accidents. Practice is well known to make perfect. Are we comparing a population containing both the (predominantly male) trucking force and people who might only drive occasionally (like say housewives)? Or are we comparing male truckers to female truckers? Or male housewives to female housewives?

    Regarding the fact that despite mentoring, there will be more men in the work place than women, perhaps you should read Gary Becker. A family unit does better as a whole when there is a division of labor. Adults behave more efficiently when they are given a few tasks to do well rather than spreading their abilities across many venues. Generally, this means that men go out and earn the money while women take care of kids. Even women who work outside the home do more childcare, on average. Why do women take care of kids? Not because they’re stupid. In general, women do childcare because they are the only ones capable of giving birth and nursing. Even if a woman takes a minimum amount of time out of the workforce to give birth (say two months), that gives her competitors a two-month edge on her. If a woman ever has a child, she has to catch up, which leads to an overall average of more men in the workplace. Until men can give birth and lactate, this phenomena is unlikely to vanish.

    All of this can happen without any male advantage in IQ.

  7. Theresa
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 16:09:34

    OMG, the picture! Hilarious! Love the farmer’s tan on the guy standing up. It adds just the right touch of class, don’t you think?

  8. Jackie L.
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 16:26:23

    Those guys must be among the thousands who inspired the Darwin Awards.

    On second thoughts, wasn’t the Washington Post the paper looking for the romance writer’s boudoir shots for Valentine’s Day?

    Maybe the writer is basing her opinion of the intellectual inferiority of females on herself and her co-workers at the Post.

  9. Nathalie Gray
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 16:43:58

    Is this what they call “the shallow end of the gene pool”?

  10. Josie
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 17:56:31

    ‘Is this what they call “the shallow end of the gene pool”?’

    LOL Nathalie!

    In all honesty, I actually feel dumber just for having read that. Damn you Charlotte Allen, I needed those brain cells!

  11. vanessa jaye
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 19:07:37

    I refuse to take this serious. She *must* have her tongue firmly in cheek. There’s no way an intelligent being (who also happens to be female, and who is not part of some cult, or named Katie Holmes-Cruise. heh.) could be sprouting this shit for real.

  12. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 19:21:31

    Dang…. you mean when I chose to go to a female doctor, I was going to see somebody that was so stupid they shouldn’t have passed the medical exam?

    Now you tell me. What about all them women scientist folk out there discovering new vaccines, improving old ones, developing new medical treatment? How they doin that if they dumb?

    Lemme get back to my chick-litrure now.

  13. snarkhunter
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 19:24:14

    Well, someone’s been drinking the Kool-Aid.

  14. Teddypig
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 20:15:56

    Obviously not geek men…

    Wireless Extension Cords

  15. Laura Elliott
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 20:36:44

    Charlotte Allen is the type of person to marry a man who thinks a woman’s place is in the kitchen. I work with a few of these men and am always surprised they have wives.

  16. Meredith Duran
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 22:29:38

    It is a weird and troubling coincidence that this piece came out the same day as the NY Times Magazine article about single-sex schooling — part of which discusses the theory that the brains of males and females are inherently different, thus necessitating different pedagogies. At least the latter article elucidates the problems with studies that discuss structural differences between male and female brains (namely, we have absolutely *no idea* if we’re correctly interpreting the significance of these differences). I sincerely hope it doesn’t signal the start of a regressive trend.

    Anyway, thanks for calling this to our attention — I don’t normally read the WaPo!

  17. Stephanie
    Mar 02, 2008 @ 22:50:06

    OK, so, regarding same-sex schooling . . . wasn’t there a little Supreme Court decision, say, fifty-three years ago, stating that separate is inherently unequal?

    Regarding that article: what is she smoking? Could, POSSIBLY, those pseudo-scientific studies she refers to be BIASED? NOOOOOOO . . . never!

    And since she’s willing to use anecdotal evidence as proof of things, my boyfriend has been in approximately four times as many accidents as I have. So there.

  18. Nora Roberts
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 07:23:22

    Oh my, how the Mighty Washington Post has fallen.

    People like Allen jusst make me shake my head and move on. Let them be happy in their simple little world.

    But I’m really glad I didn’t move on before seeing the photo. It’s good to start Monday morning with a laugh.

  19. carolyn Jean
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 09:46:18

    This woman is not so stupid as she sounds. An awful person, probably, but not stupid.

    My guess: she’s a freelance journalist who doesn’t have enough work right now. She sees this idiotic study. Everyone knows practice makes perfect and the guys always have to drive, but she gets an idea: what if I pitch an op-ed piece to the buffoons at the Washington Post praising that study? At a buck or two a word, it probably paid her rent and then some.

    As we know, a number of women have carved out lucrative careers taking this position.


  20. Meljean
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 12:16:35

    I’d say the writer isn’t stupid at all, and neither are the folks at the Washington Post, considering that this op-ed piece comes out the weekend before another big primary, in which a very prominent woman is trying to come back after quite a few losses, and might withdraw if she can’t regain momentum.

  21. Robin
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 13:06:46

    Apparently, Charlotte Allen is a conservative author and columnist. I found a few other pieces by her, including this one, and if you look further, you can find somewhere that Anne Rice gave some endorsing comment to her one book. Here’s another article, and another — this one a seeming precursor to the one Jane highlights in this post.

    Here’s a pretty amusing response to her article from a male columnist at the Huffington Post.

  22. Sunita
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 14:47:50

    And let’s not forget the previous WaPo column, in which she inveighed against Living Wills (I had to stop reading before my head exploded, but I think the column basically argued that medical and legal professionals ask you to have Living Wills because They Want You Dead). My favorite takedown so far is at Jezebel.

    Someone who makes Caitlin Flanagan look good. Wow.

  23. Robin
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 17:55:31

    Here it is, Sunita.

  24. Sunita
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 19:44:31

    Thanks, Robin! I still haven’t figured out linkage. That article and the ones you cited all display the same characteristics: (1) take a “contrary” view of some cultural topic; (2) alternate anecdotes with apparently reliable studies; (3) contradict yourself and put forth completely illogical positions; (4) be part of the group you’re criticizing, so that your arguments sound more convincing because they’re from inside rather than outside.

  25. Randi Thompson
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 21:30:46

    Hmmm….ostensibly I’m female (I have all the parts, that is) but I’m a notorious slob in the house, children make me uncomfortable, and I don’t have a history of being affectionate towards my male love interests. Does that make me a man?

  26. Robin
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 12:22:00

    I still haven't figured out linkage.

    I can only do it in limited circumstances. Here, because of the “link” tag, it’s pretty basic. As you’re writing your post here, in another window go to the URL you want to link to. Then copy the URL you want to insert, and then come back here and highlight the text you want to be the “link” and then hit the link tab. You’ll get a window into which you copy the URL and then hit okay, and it creates some line of code that attaches the URL to the words you highlighted.

    That article and the ones you cited all display the same characteristics: (1) take a “contrary” view of some cultural topic; (2) alternate anecdotes with apparently reliable studies; (3) contradict yourself and put forth completely illogical positions; (4) be part of the group you're criticizing, so that your arguments sound more convincing because they're from inside rather than outside.

    Yeah, she’s a lightweight in her reasoning, IMO. I actually enjoy reading good conservative commentary, because it forces me to sharpen my own logic, but Allen just comes off sounding strident and like she’s really writing a parody because it makes so little internal sense.

  27. Patricia Rice
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 17:34:15

    To me this is an obviously political post aimed at the poor sheep who still think the natural order of things is that men rule and if it weren’t for Eve, we’d still live in the Garden of Eden, so keep the women in the kitchen and out of trouble where they belong. Unfortunately, there is a very large segment of society that still thinks Big Daddy ought to look out for them. It’s so much easier to be TOLD what to do than THINK about it, isn’t it?

    And to think, I spent all those years wasting my time fighting for equality. Really, maybe I am stupid.

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