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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon


"A girl with brains ought to do something with them besides think"
( Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)

Say a woman is ugly, beautiful, plain or even homely and you'll get a plethora of agreement and disagreement from both sexes.

Describe one of the fairer gender as "stupid" and the reaction will not be unanimous one way or the other. "Plain," "efficient," "house proud," "sexually focused," "man-mad," and "upwardly-mobile" will be met with anything from full concurrence to vicious contradiction.

But try this one:......

    Refer to some female as "intelligent" and you'll be met with the same poker-faced indifference as if you had described Enda Kenna as a great statesman. I can guarantee you'll get neither a "she certainly is" or a "no, she's not" reply.
    Any comment about a woman's physical attributes, attitudes, or social traits will cause anything from grudging accord to lively discussion. But any reference to her IQ and you're in no-comment country.

If you comment on the superior intellect of a male you will get anything from a begrudging, concise, if rhetorical, "what good is it to him?" to a diatribe about his shortcomings and track record with maybe a bit of, derogatory, genealogical information thrown in. BUT YOU WILL BE ANSWERED.

Recently a, female, letter-writer to the Irish Times was critical of a journalist for describing camogie players as "chicks" on the grounds that it is "......a derogatory word when used for women because its specific definition is something other than intelligent, mature, full human beings."

Of course camogie players are intelligent, mature, full human beings and nothing to the contrary was implied. But the minute anyone, anywhere says anything which could, by any stretch of the imagination, be interpreted as meaning that any female, or females, are below par, Mna na hEireann are up in arms. Yet when the opposite is voiced..........silence.

If it was simply a case of men feeling intimidated and women feeling inadequate by a female of higher than average intelligence, surely they'd argue about it. Quotes about intelligent women are few and far between. Why were thinkers, poets and philosophers so shy about lauding intelligent women; were they afraid of being ignored?

You can go through the words of "The Rose of Aranmore," "The Darlin' Girl from Clare," "The Wild Flower of the Laune," and a hundred other Irish ballads and will you find a word about their cerebral prowess? Not one.

The heroin of our songs has pearly teeth, golden tresses flowing down over a milk-white neck, ruby lips and a body to make the mouth water.

You would think that grand colleens, comely maidens, and the objects of dozens of glowing sobriquets, were devoid of thinking equipment.

And you can trawl through art and literature from "A Woman's Heart" to "A woman of No Importance" and what will you find? Maybe an ambiguous line like that of Anne Ingram, " A female mind like a rude fallow lies" but, no concrete pronouncement on any female with grey matter above the national average. Jane Austin referred to "A woman of education" but not to her IQ.

And how many would agree with Shelagh Delaney that: "Women never have young minds. They are born three thousand years old." Or Edward Fitzgerald who said, "A woman of real genius I know............But what is the upshot of it all?" Yeats saw Maud Gonne as "A woman Homer sung" but no reference to what she had between her ears. And even those, like Charles Baudelaise, who paid tribute to the older females who "Would sit on a park bench pensive and apart," gave them very little credit in the upstairs department.

Men are told (even if they don't always agree) that their spouses are: beautiful, desirable, astute, charming, etc. I even witnessed a man being informed that he had "a solvent wife" but have you ever heard anyone say, "you married a very intelligent woman" ? There's another thing......and it only struck me while watching Ann Robinson's "Test the Nation" -- I'm sure women make up at least half of the "top two percent." Yet up to the time of writing, nobody has said to me; "She's a member of Mensa."

By the way I reckon my spouse is up there with the best. Didn't Kipling say, "It takes a very clever woman to manage a fool" ?  

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Reader Comments

Name: Mary Ann Email:
Comment: Yep, we aren't always given credit for our make a lot of good points here! Thanks for noticing! I hope your article makes some think!



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