Why Don't We Value Intelligence Anymore?

Gail Trimble has recently been called an "annoying bitch" and a "horse-toothed snob." And why is she the target of such vitriol? Because she dared to show off her brilliant mind on national television.

Trimble, 26, appeared on the British tv quiz show "University Challenge," and consistently blew the other contestants away, Ken Jennings-style, with her ability to answer nearly every question on the board. She led her team, from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, to victory by scoring nearly 2/3 of their points, and has been called "the brainiest woman on British television."

Yet some viewers find Trimble's intelligence annoying, dubbing her "cocky," "smug," and, as India Knight of the Times of London notes: "brain-rupturingly irritating." Her brain isn't the only thing viewers seem to be interested in, as her looks have also gone up for debate: "I'm glad that people are being nice about me rather than nasty," Trimble says, "but... I very much think this would not be happening if I was a man. People would not feel it necessary to comment on my looks so much."

Knight explores the Trimble phenomenon by asking where the other Gail Trimbles of the world have gone; surely they are out there, Knight argues, but society doesn't value them, and so they remain overlooked and underappreciated. The Gail Trimbles of the world are hard to find, Knight argues, "not because they don't exist, but because braininess is no longer considered much of a female virtue or even an asset. So they've been tucked away."

My friends and I often have this discussion: when did it become so cool to be dumb? Perhaps it's just because I'm a big nerd who ran with a crowd of big nerds, but my school experience was much like Knight's: "Everyone I knew felt the same way: the acquisition of knowledge wasn't regarded as naff or nerdy; being clever was seen as cool, and being thick as embarrassing." It wasn't considered a badge of honor to be a complete idiot; being smart, or at least working hard in school, meant that you had a better shot of getting the hell out of my shitkick town, and people respected that.

Knight argues that women are currently going out of their way to hide how smart they are, lest they be judged like Trimble; nobody wants to appear "stuck-up" or "smug," when one can be like, totally awesome and whatever, you know? In a world where Paris bloody Hilton is seen as a role model to teenage girls, the incentive to study hard and be proud of your smarts gets drowned out in a sea of baby-voiced dreams to become the next American Idol. God forbid you open your mouth and be branded an elitist, Smarty McGee!

Trimble, by the by, has been offered numerous makeovers and even a photoshoot with a magazine called Nuts (classy!) which, I believe, is a Maxim-esque magazine that would surely feature her in the standard sexy librarian pose with a headline like "Brains and Booty!" or some stupid crap like that. Trimble has turned such offers down, preferring to concentrate on her studies and continue living her life as awesome smart kickass Gail Trimble, no makeover required.

The "makeover" offers are an insult as well: this incredibly intelligent woman is being asked to sex herself up a bit, to make herself more palatable to the general public. Her brains, clearly, aren't good enough: a message that is being sent to young girls, who, like Knight suggests, will continue to find ways to hide their intelligence in order to appear more "fun" and "sexy", as the media seems to believe that women can't and don't have both.

So how do we fix this issue? How can we teach young girls to stop hiding their smarts and be proud of their intelligence? For the world has millions of Gail Trimbles out there; we just need them to stand up and be seen.

University Challenge: Gail Trimble Leads Corpus Christi College To Victory [Times of London]
Why Don't We Like Clever Women Anymore? [Times of London]