Intimidating someone bigger than you
Among those from poorer backgrounds, the gender divide is highly pronounced, with young women who were on free school meals 51 per cent more likely to go into higher education than men in similar circumstances.‘The boys at my school mostly went into manual jobs after we left and seemed to think I had a high opinion of myself for going to university,’ says Becca.
‘They say I’m too bright for them.’Becca recalls a factory worker she asked out in a bar while home for the holidays turning her down because she was ‘too clever’ for him.‘We were having a great chat until he found out I was at university,’ says Becca.
This growing gulf between male and female attainment — the result, many believe, of the feminisation of the education system, with more female teachers, less physical exercise and an emphasis on the arts — is having troubling repercussions when it comes to relationships.
A recent study found more than 90 per cent of predominantly graduate women surveyed were delaying motherhood not to pursue careers, but because they couldn’t find a suitable man.
‘At school I wasn’t bothered about boys, but I’m at the stage where I’d like to share my life with someone.’With a working-class upbringing — Becca’s mother is an activities co-ordinator and her father an engineer — Becca was not only the first in her family to go to university, but an anomaly among her male peers in Burnley, Lancashire.In China, they are called ‘leftover’ women.‘It sounds cold and callous, but in demographic terms it’s true.There are not enough graduates for them,’ said the study’s author Marcia Inhorn, professor of anthropology at Yale University. Frustrated young women terrified of being left single and childless — and men driven by a sense of inadequacy.‘Men may claim to want educated women, but don’t know how to deal with those they meet and some say they’re intimidated by me,’ says Natasha, who grew up in Birmingham and is single after breaking up with her boyfriend this year.‘I feel I’m hitting a brick wall.’Like many arts degrees, her media and communications course is dominated by female students, and Natasha claims the few male undergraduates ‘lack the intellectual maturity to handle conversations’.‘One cancelled our date four times because he was too busy getting drunk.Most accept it although one, a company director, went on the defensive, saying I thought I was a princess,’ says Natasha.‘I think he had anger issues.’ British women began to ‘catch up’ with men’s educational attainment levels in the Sixties, when larger numbers entered universities, but only recently have the roles been dramatically reversed, with men falling behind at an alarming rate.‘In the Sixties there was a gendered way of pushing female graduates into jobs such as teaching and nursing,’ says Nichi Hodgson, author of The Curious History Of Dating: From Jane Austen To Tinder.‘And only 20 or 30 years ago a man wanted his female partner to be smart because the assumption was that she would be the primary carer, staying at home to raise their children, who would then absorb her intellect.’But now women are competing with men for the same careers — there are more female junior doctors than male, for example, while nearly two-thirds of practising lawyers in Scotland under 40 are women — their achievements have become more problematic.‘Smart women raise the issue of who would take time off when they have children,’ says Hodgson.
In class, their conversations centre around going to gigs and smoking weed at weekends, which is not what I’m looking for in a date.’She prefers instead to date older men she meets through her part-time job as a nightclub promoter.