Let's Have A Moratorium On "Geek Chic" Trend Pieces, Okay?

Today, another piece on "geeks getting the girls," nerds being "hot" and general nonsense that equates "intelligence" to "nerd" and acts like a dame giving a man in specs a tumble is some new trend. And it's infuriating:

Queries New Scientist,

Is smart sexy? Our knee-jerk reaction – reinforced by cultural stereotypes of Star Trek-convention attending geeks and a seeming obsession with ditzy, pretty starlets – would argue otherwise. Nerds are, well, nerds...But consider Peter Orszag. As director of the US Office of Management and Budget, he is the nation's most powerful pencil-pusher. Yet Orszag was recently named one of the hunks of Washington DC . "He's made nerdy sexy," Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said of the 40-year-old, glasses-wearing son of a maths professor.


This sort of thing irritates me as a woman, a dater of smart men, a glasses-wearer and an English major. First: I resent the careless lumping -together of the words "nerd," "smart," and "geek." These are all different words that don't mean the same thing. Second: who is it who has these knee-jerk reactions? Cartoon cheerleaders? 80's movie jocks? Because I think we need to learn to acknowledge when a stereotype has evolved.

The piece - most of which is perfectly reasonable and fact-based, I should add - is based on new findings that "linked a male's cognitive performance to his luck with the ladies." According to one behavioural ecologist, male (birds) with better "problem-solving" skills, unsuprisingly, do better in the wild. Another study asked women to watch videos of guys demonstrating feats of cognitive and athletic prowess, and rate their desirability; the good problem-solvers were perceived as attractive. There's genetic basis for this, too, most likely, since some tests have found that more intelligent men have better health, more robust sperm.

Every couple of years, we're informed that geeks are "chic" or something, because Seth Rogen wears glasses or a tech multimillionaire has a hot girlfriend. The "nerds" in question generally resemble Superman incognito. "Dating trend" stories are, as a rule, ludicrous anyway, attempting as they do to codify the emotional and sexual habits of entire populations. Did aggressive glasses frames become de rigueur in the last decade? Sure. Did the beginnings of silicon valley probably see an increase of tech dudes with "trophy girlfriends?" I wouldn't be surprised. But most of us don't need studies or hints of superior genetic function to find an intelligent man attractive: that's what smart women are drawn to. It's not a phase or a trend: that's what we do. And this brings me to my other point: world, do please stop equating "nerd" and "smart." "Nerd" may not be an insult, but it's also a specific description that generally implies superior intelligence but suggests any number of other characteristics, as well, and shouldn't be tossed around and diluted. Yes, in high school, the two are classically conflated by philistines; this doesn't mean we should perpetuate the lazy misconception.

Also, Rahm: Peter Orszag, recently named may be brilliant. He may be competent. He may be a wonderful person. But "sexy" he most certainly is not. Sure, we take Politico's list in the spirit it was intended (Hitchens is on there, people.) But tet's watch our diction here.

Why Geeks Get The Girls [New Scientist]
The hunks Of Washington
Nerds Rejoice: Braininess Boosts Likelihood Of Sex [New Scientist]

Intelligent 'Have Better Sperm' [BBC]

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