IQ, Straitjackets, and the Mommy Wars

JudgyBitch has a whopper of an observation today, but unfortunately draws exactly the wrong conclusion from it.

See this kid?


He is 15 years old and his name is Jack Andraka.  He built a particle accelerator in his basement, and it sits next to his brother’s homemade furnace, which can reach temperatures hot enough to melt steel….Oh, he also invented a simple test to detect pancreatic cancer at the earliest stages, winning the $75 000 Grand Prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  His test will save thousands upon thousands of lives, and just might make death from pancreatic cancer a relic of the past.

He’s 15 years old.

To whom she contrasts another very bright and talented kid:

See this kid? Her name is Lauren Marbe.  She has an IQ higher than Einstein, Hawking, and Bill Gates.  She is 16 years old…..

She “ loves fake tanning, having blonde highlights, manicures and getting glammed up for TOWIE parties with her friends.”  Her ambition in life is to be a show girl in the theatre.


At this point, JudgyBitch falls prey to the classic Platonic error, in which The Philosopher disdains the works of The Poets.  Intelligence is not the end-all and be-all of a person’s value.  Happycrow is of average intelligence, and has the IQ tests to prove it.  So is Happycrow’s Dad, who just happened to be a nuclear fucking engineer.  Happycrow’s thoroughly average IQ comes as a great shock to coworkers who know him as “that admin guy who plays  with swords and does all the scholarly stuff with the Latin.”  Chez Happycrow is responsible for a small number of fairly obscure scholarly papers.  In the food chain of scholarly achievement, Happycrow is plankton — but if you deal with my subject, motherfucker, than you’re going to see my ass in your footnotes — my work has greatly influenced how we go about the subject.  There are a lot smarter people than me (pretty much everybody I went to college with), who haven’t done anything anywhere near this nerdy with their brains.  Shit, there are birds who are smarter than I am

Quoth the Raven:

Intelligence is actually pretty overrated, and the human race can actually get a lot of value from the poets, dancers, and artists among us, and that includes showgirls.  It’s not surprising that a teenage girl cares about teenage girl things. What’s unusual is Mr. Andraka:  that kid’s already done more to save lives than we here at Happycrow’s Eyeball Factory ever will.  The proper reaction here isn’t to trash-talk Ms. Marbe (though the Jezebel article is fair game), but to praise Mr. Andraka to the fucking sky.  If we want more Andrakas, what we need to do is to

  1. Tell kids “hey, this kid is cool.”
  2. Back it up by making him stratospherically rich.  Because a cool kid is meh (there’s lots of them, and “cool” is subjective), but a cool kid who made himself rich by saving thousands of fucking lives will get imitators.

This is what a hero looks like.
Please imitate.

Now, to be fair, JB’s error here isn’t coming in out of the (Platonic) ether:  it’s ammunition being used as part of JudgyBitch’s campaign in “The Mommy Wars“, in which JB comes down as a Happy Warrior in favor of women staying at home and having tons of kids, especially male ones who will go out and invent all kinds of cool shit.  JB’s position is that woman’s greatest gift to humanity is in continuing humanity.  With lots of cute babies.


And we can’t really fault that in the abstract, because somebody has to stand up for the side of women who stay home to be mommies rather than chasing after a career. 

But in the process of righteously indicting the Maureen Dowds of the world, she slaps around plenty of perfectly deserving women who aren’t wrecking society, too, and that’s unfortunate.  Because in the process JB is accidentally continuing one of the ongoing class prejudices of upper-middle-class feminism.  That’s because the choice of whether to have a career or stay home is generally not a choice that most women have:  as has been conclusively demonstrated, the tax burdens on most middle-class families mandate a two-earner family.

Working-class women, of course, have never had the option to stay home:  simple necessity says “put bread on the table, or you won’t have bread.”  JB’s disdain for the world of secretaries is, however unintentional, disdain for women who are making a very smart compromise — just enough work to earn the bread, but not enough career responsibility to get in the way of taking as much care of the kids in the process as possible.  And that’s unfair.

You WILL, of course, buy those girl-scout cookies.

As is the idea, promulgated by most Happy Warriors of the Mommy Wars, that this has to be a binary affair.  Yeah, I know a lot of cool people who’ve chosen not to spawn, and that’s tragic.  But I also know lots of cool gals who have, in fact, had their cake and eaten it, too.

  • My aunt has three kids, a slew of grandkids, and is a high-level ER-and-post-ER nurse at a well-known hospital.  If you go into that hospital hurt and come out alive, there’s a good chance she was part of saving your ass
  • My cousin, who’s fourteen times smarter than I am and has worked for the NIH.  In addition to a gorgeous kid and the likelihood of several more, she’s got more footnotes than I’ll ever get.
  • Angela Zhang, who’s now 19 years old, and, uh, sorry JudgyBitch, created a Nanoparticle that Kills Cancer.

What another hero looks like.
Please imitate.

At the end of the day, it’s not IQ that’s going to be the end-all-and-be-all.

Though in this case I’m guessing it’s a factor.

I like JudgyBitch.  A lot.  But however fun it is to see somebody puncture the bloviated groupthink that passes for original thought at Jezebel, the extreme position she takes is contributing to the problem rather than helping.  The answer isn’t to demonize women who put food on the table or shove the world into a straitjacket where if you’re smart, you must therefore be a Left-Brain High Achiever(tm).  A really smart showgirl might create all kinds of artistic beauty that may not leave us living longer, like what Andraka & Zhang are up to, but artists of all stripe can enrich our lives fabulously in the process.

A better way to say it would be “you’re worthwhile, please breed,” and in the process, back that statement up by praising people when they go into exercising the talents they have, whatever talents they happen to be.  Not everybody goes all Mad Science:  some people wind up being more Abba.

and everybody knows that scientists measure human happiness in micro-Abbas.

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  1. The 21st-century problem: “having it all.” | Happycrow's Eyeball Factory
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