It is often learned from a young age that only males can possess intelligence—you probably know Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein, but not Grace Hopper, who has just gotten Calhoun College renamed in her honor. As a young woman in the 21st century, it is disheartening and almost traitorous that I needed to ask Google about important women to get to her. In which case, one could ask: Are women truly considered to be intelligent or important?
Per psychologist Lin Bian from the University of Illinois, these fixed mindsets start at as early as six years old. Bian conducted an experiment with 240 children, aged 5 to 7, in which she read the kids a story, then had them guess the gender of the protagonist. She then asked which pictures they would associate with positive attributes such as intelligence or kindness. The five-year-old children were quick to pick a person whose gender lined up with their own. Six-year-old boys were still likely to adhere to the same confidence in their gender, whereas girls were more likely to appoint the male as the protagonist due to these implied cues, especially intelligence, which only intensifies as children are more socialized.
First grade (six to seven years old) is approximately the point at which many children start learning more about people of influence in American history, especially former presidents of the United States, and put on plays about them. This is around the time where the boys play the presidents and girls? The president’s wife, maybe Betsy Ross, and the Statue of Liberty, if they don't have to dress as a male, but once a girl is given the role of Martha Washington and an Easy-Bake oven for Christmas, the expectations have already been set and, if not combated right away, will surely last throughout her life.
Contrary to this message, both genders believe females perform better in school, but this is not seen as being relevant to intelligence. Referring to Bian’s study once again, the children were shown pictures of four other children—two male, two female—and were asked which one received better grades. The results were almost unanimous. Both boys and girls believed the girls received better grades, but the question remains as to why this is not considered a measure of intelligence.
Let us step back for a moment and recall the first names that were mentioned, men that are revered to have been powerful minds, geniuses in their own right, as they are. While it is true that the light bulb and the theory of relativity were the brain children of men, these men were not nearly as successful in school as we were told. Thomas Edison was sent home with a note as a child saying that he performed exceedingly poorly and would never amount to anything. Albert Einstein was so disorganized and struggled so much in school that he eventually dropped out, but we still know that they were extremely smart. If the most revered female minds in history were anything other than A-students and valedictorians in their respective high school classes, then they would be considered to be much less credible, with credit for achievements often given posthumously if ever.
When we differentiate between grades and intelligence when talking about men, it benefits them as is presented with the cases of Edison and Einstein, but what about women? We give men the benefit of the doubt, but why not women? Why not everybody? Intelligence should benefit everybody, no matter what body carries it--no matter what voice then projects it, and no matter anybody else's reservations or biases--but it should especially benefit the carrier of that knowledge, in that they receive the credit and praise they deserve. In order to do this, we need to ask again what intelligence is and if we're really covering all the bases.