The Reason Nerd Girls (and Guys) Dumb Themselves Down

We’ve all heard the stereotype. A popular girl in high school, most likely a cheerleader, intentionally acting stupid so guys will like her more, because heck, no one finds a  NERD attractive. This girl is often looked down by her peers for being “shallow” and “insecure”, and “her popularity will mean nothing once she leaves high school”

What about the people at the other end of the spectrum though? What about the self-proclaimed nerds, the people that act like they don’t care about popularity, the secret and not-so-secret try-hards?  (Massive generalizing here.) Is there a similar mechanism of “dumbing down” going on? Yes. Even if it is subtle, I see it everywhere.

The motive has nothing to do with attraction though– instead, it’s competition. High school is stressful in the sense that everyone around you wants to have the best  grades, awards, and extracurriculars, typically at the expense of others. A person’s true colors only show when there’s a cause for conflict, and high school is essentially an explosion of these colors splattered around.

However, at the same time, everyone is trying to cover up their color palettes and pretending like competition doesn’t exist, creating illusions of friendship and stupidity. It’s easier if people don’t see you as an enemy. From this perspective, the true danger isn’t in the openly aggressive person who acts hyper-competitive around others– it’s in the Trojan Horse, the people who act stupid, like they have nothing to hide, like they aren’t competitive, when deep down, they’re just like everyone else.

From personal experience, I’ve learned it’s easier to keep a low profile instead of having the world (aka the tiny group of people you know) see you as “competitive” or ever “smart,” because guess what? Then you’re just another person to take advantage of for homework help. Better act like an idiot so people don’t expect much out of you.

The inspiration for this post was a couple discussions with people that have been more frank about school than most of my conversations during the school year. The final pusher was meeting someone who fit this “playing dumb but actually smart” model pretty well who specifically requested that I didn’t tell anyone at his/her school about the things that he/she was doing outside of school.

Everything here is taken to an extreme, and in reality, people all have their nice sides, and competition isn’t always a bad thing, The main problem is that the school system encourages people to be competitive, while personal relationships thrive on mutual benefit, creating a difficult situation when the two have to be combined in an institution called “school.”

I’m not claiming a solution to this delicate social problem, because life is about coping in a world that prods at our morals in all directions. However, I did want to point out this practice of “dumbing down” in general, since I see it pretty clearly, yet it is a sensitive topic that no one want to discuss. And that’s why I wrote about it here, in order to clear it out of my head.


15 thoughts on “The Reason Nerd Girls (and Guys) Dumb Themselves Down

  1. “illusion of friendship” – I agree. But not the parts following it. I personally think it’s easier to manage enemies because you can expect that they will dislike/hate you, whereas friends have your trust, and you never know when they’ll backstab you.

    Everything else excluding the intro paragraph, I kind of disagree in the sense that when this happens: “Then you’re just another person to take advantage of for homework help,” I don’t help that much. And besides, a much easier way to be relatively unnoticed is to simply be antisocial.

    Anyways, interesting post, just like all of the previous ones. Keep up the good work!


    • 1) That’s what I meant when in the latter part where I said “the danger isn’t in the openly aggressive people,” aka your enemies. Those people are predictable, while ” the people who act stupid, like they have nothing to hide, like they aren’t competitive” are the more elusive ones.

      2) WHEE ANTISOCIAL-NESS. I can see how that would work a lot better. And not having a Facebook helps a lot too with both the antisocial-ness and the not giving help.

      3) Thanks!


  2. Hi Amy :D I JUST found out I can comment on your posts without having a blog. Yeeee me and my personal little Stone Age.
    Having studied in a Chinese mainland public school for virtually all of my education that i can actually remember, I understand what you’re saying. I just ignored it because I knew I was returning to America and I didn’t have to deal with 高考…that said, I don’t think a solution will appear any time soon. Things can go either way, and life is figuratively about toeing lots of little fine lines. (I don’t dare say ‘literally’. I’m nearsighted.)
    Anyway, this is a very relevant and interesting post, and kudos for the writing skills! :) As Kevin said, keep up the good work. Or as I say: your writing is like a breath of fresh air after Chinese fish market. See ya at The Playpen on the 26th


    • hahaha any comment from you is like a…a…a…YOU KNOW I CAN’T WRITE THIS METAPHORICAL STUFF. (although it’s actually a simile) Thanks for coming out of your bubble though! :P

      One thing I can say is that I’m really really glad that I don’t go to school in China. The pressure must be (literally?) maddening, but yeah, life is just about a bunch of small things all put together to create a big thing– life. Yay for circular definitions.

      And if you’re referring to a playpen with high spiked walls, virtually no freedom, sleep deprivation, and 3500 other competitive kids, I guess I’ll see you there too. Meanwhile, enjoy life. :)


  3. hahahah we had someone exactly like that at DeBakey *shakes head* that’s what makes life so interesting I suppose


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