Kate Beckinsale Having to Defend Her IQ Is Utter Sexist BS
Oof, we're doing this again? Dear reader, we are indeed doing this again.
A woman who is both smart and beautiful — in this case, the actress Kate Beckinsale — was shamed for having the audacity to speak honestly about her intelligence when prompted to do so multiple times during an interview.
On Wednesday, Howard Stern pestered Beckinsale, an Oxford graduate, to share her exact IQ, which she has alluded to in the past in conversations about navigating an industry that expects women to perform more decorative roles. "It's really not helpful to me in my career," the actress tells Stern on his Sirius XM show after revealing a genius-level IQ score she received when tested as a child. "I just think it might have been a handicap, actually."
Her comments were ridiculed by a handful of publications, which painted a picture of Beckinsale as a braggart who couldn't wait to lord her superior intellect over the simple minded masses. "Sounds Hard to Be This Hot and Smart" reads a pithy headline in The Cut.
Not one to stand for sexist bullshit, Beckinsale responded to the headlines on her Instagram, calling out not just the publications that mocked her, but Stern, too, for focusing so heavily on her IQ, as though the year is 1950 and women can be smart or hot but surely not both — so a pretty gal in Hollywood who happens to be intelligent MUST be news.
"As a woman truthfully answering a question about my own IQ, I have been the subject of a few articles trying to shame me for it," she writes alongside screenshots of unflattering headlines. "This is EXACTLY what I mean by a handicap."
She elaborates that in male-dominated Hollywood especially, "being female AND having an opinion often has to be quite carefully packaged so as not to be offensive or, as in this case, deliberately twisted into signifying one's perceived superiority or arrogance." Because if there's one thing more dangerous to a powerful man than a woman who is accomplished and intelligent while also fulfilling the industry's crude standards for appearance, it's one who is aware of her value, too! We all know how men loathe a powerful woman, insisting she be "put in her place." What makes this suck extra is she's being put in her place by other women, too. That, friends, is what we call internalized misogyny.
In addition to images of the offensive headlines, the 48-year-old also included reports about why women and girls often "play dumb" in order to please men. One sociological study from 2014 she referenced from the University of Warwick found that "girls feel the need to play down their intelligence to not intimidate boys."
"Young people try to adapt their behavior according to these pressures to fit into society," reads the summary of the study. "One of the pressures is that … being in a relationship with a woman who is more intelligent will undermine (males') masculinity." That this pathetic powerplay is still influencing the behavior of women and girls — and being used as some kind of fodder for us to judge ourselves and each other — as Beckinsale points out, is infuriating.
"I told the truth and some journalists have been triggered by this," writes Beckinsale. "Are we really jumping on women for answering a question truthfully about their intelligence or education? Are we really still requiring women to dumb themselves down in order not to offend?"
At the end of her caption, Beckinsale makes another excellent point: IQ, actually, doesn't "mean shit." In 2019, NPR's Radiolab investigated the origins of the IQ test (surprise, they're racist!) and why it's problematic to define intelligence by the results of culturally biased tests in the first place. And anyway, you don't need Kate's score to know she's smart. You can listen to her interviews or, hell, read her Instagram caption to get a sense for her point of view.
What's not smart is allowing a notably sexist shock jock to pit beautiful and intelligent women against each other. Beckinsale doesn't owe anyone an explanation to back up her cleverness — and women in media shouldn't have taken the bait to use it to mock her. Whether Howard Stern is capable of understanding this or not, we're all a little too smart for that.