Recently two separate studies have come out on the pursuit of averageness. Why children take solace in it to avoid bullying and why women should court in order to attract men. The idea is that being average makes you more likeable. Or, at the very least, more tolerable.
Teenagers think that aiming for a middling grade means they can keep a low profile and go unnoticed by both teachers and their peers. That's understandable, teenagers don't attend dinner parties (nor do I, but go with it) where they will be defined by what they do and introduced with their name and allegedly interesting facts about them.
Even if they did it would not go how it does in adult life: 'This is Jeremy, he's a lawyer, snowboards and plays piano at a jazz club – not at the same time though, HAHAHA!' it would go: 'Jez's plays piano, aaaaaaah what a muppet!'
Talent and intelligence are starting to be considered as a vulnerability that puts children at risk of bullying. In a survey commissioned by the Anti-bullying Alliance 90% of the 1000 11-16 year olds that took part said they have “been bullied or seen something bullied for being too intelligent or talented.” This suggests that, in order to escape bullying, young people are avoiding high academic achievement.
While the Anti-bullying Alliance is working with schools to help students reach their potential without fear of bullying, Psychology Today is telling women to maintain the average. In the never-ending heterosexual based research to find out What Do Men Really Want in a Woman? it seems the answer is: Average.
Here's how they scientifically found out. In 1989 two psychologists conducted a social experiment at Florida State University. Young women who they deemed to be average looking or rather “moderately attractive” to “slightly unattractive” (unfair – 1989 was a very unflattering year) were sent out to ask inform male students that they found him attractive and invite him back to her room, some explicitly invited him into her bed that night.
70% agreed to go to her room and 75% accepted the sexual proposition. So, uh, hurrah! Men tend to say yes to sex with women who are only “moderately attractive.”
Sex expert (or Sexpert, depends on your own whimsy or caprice I think) and psychologist Tracy Cox sees this as something to celebrate in the Daily Mail, citing Lena Dunham as a great example of averageness winning out: “There’s something incredibly appealing about flaws-and-all ‘average’ - and despite society’s perception that they are looks-obsessed, critical creatures, men agree. They really do like average women best.”
First of all, Lena Dunham's hardly average. When your chat up line options involve mentioning a multi million dollar book deal and a hit TV show I think, even if you can be physically described as only “moderately attractive,” you rather cross that line of average.
Second of all, to back up the idea men prefer average women Cox relates a depressing conversation she had with a friend's boyfriend at a party about her friend: “'How hot is your girlfriend!' I said to him... She’s a kick-ass lawyer and workaholic but still manages to look amazing. I felt proud of her and sure he was feeling the same.”
No he did not. The boyfriend informed Cox that he wished everyone would stop telling him how hot his girlfriend was. “I want someone to love me,” he whined, “not feel like every guy in the room is trying to take the person I love away from me.”
Does that sound heart-warming to you? I don't think the idea that men might prefer women to be pretty average (or averagely pretty) is all that new to women. Rather like the teenagers dodging bullies by keeping their talents secret, women are encouraged to conceal how awesome they are.
They hide their awesomenosity – if you will - to make others feel better. But who wants to go to all that trouble just to make your miserable partner feel better about himself?
Recently Alisande encouraged UK XOJaners to celebrate their achievements, and I think the habit of concealing awesomenosity was revealed when so many people (including myself) found it really hard to come up with anything. Who can blame us? When Emily instructed us to Let a Bitch Celebrate it was made clear that sometimes it feels like everyone would prefer us to stay average.
By assuming a slightly below average version of yourself, you're essentially doing what you're told. If you don't push your talents forward, you're easier to ignore. Cox concludes that what men want is a woman who appears to be “kind, listening...trustworthy, laughing at his jokes and letting him look after you.”
I want men and women to be confident enough in themselves that they don't have to seek out an average partner to use as some sort of constant boost to look down on. I mean, look after. And laugh at their jokes. LE SIGH.
Instead, XOJaners I invite you to embrace, nay, pursue awesomenosity, not conceal it with averageness! There is room for us all to find our own unique awesomenosity, so we can afford to praise others for theirs.
Squeamish Kate will be unleashing her own form of awesomenosity on Twitter @SqueamishBikini.