The sex appeal of brainy women

This is yesterday’s news (last week’s news, actually), but perhaps you haven’t heard the story about the Delta Zeta sorority at DePauw University, in Indiana. A review conducted by the sorority’s central organization found that 23 of the 35 sisters were insufficiently committed to recruitement, and they were purged from the organization. Coincidentally, those 23 included all the overweight and non-white members. Half of the 12 white and thin survivors were so outraged that they quit. The NYT article has more on the story. (Inlcuding the story of a recruiting event in which thin white sisters were bused in from another university.)

Although the writer means well, the article itself rubs me the wrong way in a couple of places. For example, I can’t even begin to count the ways the following paragraph is wrong:

Despite those incidents, the chapter appears to have been home to a diverse community over the years, partly because it has attracted brainy women, including many science and math majors, as well as talented disabled women, without focusing as exclusively as some sororities on potential recruits’ sex appeal.

And then

“I had a sister I could go to a bar with if I had boy problems,” said Erin Swisshelm, a junior biochemistry major who withdrew from the sorority in October. “I had a sister I could talk about religion with. I had a sister I could be nerdy about science with.”

Because, see, what would those nerdy, unappealing, math and science majors have to say about boy problems, or what would possess them to go to a bar?

And this is in an article that decries stereotypes about women.

12 thoughts on “The sex appeal of brainy women

  1. As the previous poster said, the second paragraph is actually a quotation, and I think the author intended the first paragraph to say something like “potential recruits’ sex appeal as perceived by her sorority sisters.” There is a certain (inane, boring, plastic, LA-style) standard of beauty that smart women don’t often adhere to, primarily by choice based on what that image projects, and conforming to this standard is what sororities often base their judgements on. I suspect that this is what the author is referring to. Certainly a writer for a high-brow publication like the Times must realize that brainy girls are the best lays.

  2. It’s true that the second paragraph is a quotation, but a reporter typically has hours upon hours of interviews from which to pick a sentence or two, so he (or she? Sam could stand for Samantha?) can use quotations to say whatever he wants.

    And the first paragraph, with the casual grouping of math majors and the disabled, as two examples of being unappealing, is unforgivable, whatever exactly it was that he was trying to say. (And, needless to say, it is offensive both to the disabled and to the math majors.)

    This kind of casual (not mean-spirited) insensitivity reminded me of a quotation from an upper-class British lady (on Prince Harry dressing up as a Nazi) used in this article for comic effect:

    The good lady continues that her own son’s dressing-up as the Queen in a grey wig “is certainly not disrespectful . . . no more disrespectful than for a white man to dress as a black man. I myself went as a penguin.”

  3. I think it’s quite conceivable that the paragraph Luca found so objectionable is intended to be sarcastic. The writer wrote “chapter appears …”, indicating that he (generic use intended) may not necessarily agree with the impression of diversity. To explain how he arrived at this impression, he quoted the (absurd) line of reasoning from former sorority members. Indeed, to be simultaneously so wrong and so concise requires a certain degree of linguistic flair which I’d guess many of the other sorority alumnae interviewed failed to exhibit :)

    For context, I read the NYTimes article after reading the blog entry and the comments.

  4. Subject-matter-ly speaking, do we consider brainy women have more or less sex appeal comparing with the less brainy?

  5. Brainy people are sexy when you feel that you are learning and appreciating new things when you are around them.

    Brainy people are not-so-sexy when they get into competitions about who is the brainiest.

  6. The association between brainy math majors and the disabled may simply be the word “diverse”. I don’t see any necessary negative connotation either way (on part of the writer, that is).

  7. Maybe this is off-topic, what I see from here inevitably leads to a question of equality between man and woman.

    A Disconnect on Hooking Up,
    a NYT article about the book “Unhooked” by Laura Sessions Stepp on the potentially damaging effects of “hooking up” to young women.

    Personally, have nothing against Ms. Sessions Stepp’s “romantic sex after romantic feelings”, but for.

    However, among the things bothering me is what she said
    “Really, when you look at it, hookup culture is gravy for guys, so how much are we winning?”

    So, is it after all, we only care about some sort of competition between man and woman, which is more of a zero-sum game than of producing a possible win-win situation?

    If woman and man are ought to be equal in the aspects where are humanly possible, why can’t woman and man have the equal freedom then?

    Individually speaking, a person should have one’s private victories before being able to start public victories.

    Then to Ms. Sessions Stepp, shall I say, it’s not about the hookup, it’s more about woman should find comfortable about their own sexualities.

    Along the same line, to #9, if both party are confident and comfortable about their own braininess, then their won’t be this so called “competition”.

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