Tuesday, February 19, 2008

dumb and proud of it

I watch the Today Show pretty religiously. One of this morning's segments was on the dumbing down of America. Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason, made the argument that we're not only dumber than ever, but we're proud of our dumbness. And she made a compelling case. But I also don't think this is anything new. I can remember being in grade school and being teased for being smart. And I remember that the most popular girls in my high school were the ones who faked being stupid. Girls (and women) can pick out affected stupidity more easily than boys (or men) can because we see women in social situations that are mixed company and all female. Why girls are brought up to believe that the way to attract a man is by acting like you're stupid when you really aren't is beyond me, but I assure you, it's common. Sadly.

The majority of this morning's "examples" of Americans' stupidity featured stupid stupid women: Jessica Simpson not knowing the difference between tuna and chicken; Kellie Pickler making a huge ass of herself on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

Later today I was catching up on Salon's Broadsheet and Catherine Price's post: "Are we sexist in our schadenfreude?" What's interesting is the parallel here with this morning's Today segment because it's all about the way we delight in watching people self-destruct, but that women celebrities get much tougher treatment than men.

It's speculative, of course. And readers made great points, like what about Clinton and O.J. and a whole host of other men who have been as scrutinized as Britney or Paris or whatever other celebrity we happen to be collectively tormenting at the moment.

But the common thread I'd like to draw attention to is the dumb factor. No one ever thought that Bill or O.J. was stupid, and part of the schadenfreude Price is pointing to here is inextricably linked to how dumb we think these women are, and how much we're drawn to the inane details of their continual proving of our theory. It's some sort of sick cycle: The sadists feed on the dummies and the dummies provide more and more fodder. And it feels like more women are camping out in the dummy zone than men, but it could just be that the media seizes on their stupid antics more. I don't know. I do wish these women would stop adding fuel to the fire. And I do have a theory that if you act dumb for long enough you'll end up really being dumb. "Learned stupidity" which stems from learned helplessness and all sorts of other affected behaviors. Put a stop to it, girls. It's not attractive.