The Beauty Myth: A Generational Divide?

Garance Franke-Ruta, a smart, beautiful woman in her twenties, takes issue with Maureen Dowd, a smart, beautiful woman in her fifties, as to whether men make passes at women who wear glasses.

Clearly, there is a generational divide here. I am 40, somewhere between the two women in age. My experience, at least, strongly comports with Franke-Ruta’s. Not only has it never occured to me that beauty and brains are mutually exclusive–indeed, my experience has almost always been that when it rains, it pours–but I can’t even imagine what one might do with a stupid woman on the second night. Well, certainly, the second week.

Update: I am informed by a reliable source that Franke-Ruta is older than she appears, albeit still younger than me. The descriptions and analysis nonetheless remain apt.

Update 2: The same source offers an alternative explanation: “That’s because you’re old, James.” Also quite plausible.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. boinkie says:

    Beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive…
    You see, it is because any woman willing to put time and effort into it can be beautiful…
    Maureen Dowd needs to watch Miss Congeniality a couple of times…being beautiful is hard work…
    Of course, there are only so many hours in the day…
    FYI: I am not beautiful, nor have I ever bothered to try to be beautiful (but I like men, and ma married, unlike Dowd)…but when I have a depressed teenager in my office, I encourage my “plain” teenaged patients on how to use make up…

  2. Gregory Sundborg says:

    Ilove girls with glasses! My high school girlfriend wore big round glasses and I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world-this was 1972! Greg

  3. ICallMasICM says:

    From reading the prospect post and the comments one thing is for sure…divorce lawyers are going to continue to have busy practices in the near future.

  4. Paul Snively says:

    Two words: Rachel Harris

  5. JorgXMcKie says:

    My wife of 13 years has gained a bit of weight, but her intellectual stimulation quotient is not only still there but increasing. I still love the discussions we get into and the insight she brings from her perspective. I don’t really expect that part of our relationship to ever grow dull.

    I didn’t grow in love with her for her looks (although I certainly like the way she looks) and I certainly didn’t marry her for that reason. I grew in love with her and married her because we made each other feel good so much of the time. Being around her is way better than being away from her. I hope she still feels the same.

    P.S. I’ve not only put on (quite) a few pounds, I lost quite a lot of hair. That doesn’t seem to bother her much. I hope this means she intends to keep me.

  6. Otis Wildflower says:

    Beauty and brains go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

    However, beauty and bitch go together like peanut butter and whine.

    Sorry Maureen, bitch != brains, and whining still isn’t sexy.

  7. Bill says:

    I think Otis might be on to something. Has it ever occurred to Ms. Dowd that maybe its just her that men aren’t attracted to?

  8. B. P. says:

    I appreciate Jorg X. McKie’s comments (as well as his screen-name–you won’t often see a reference to anything “non-Dune” that Frank Herbert wrote! And how we could use a Bureau of Sabotage today…)

    I, too, married a woman for her brains–although to me she is surely beautiful “on the outside” as well. We’ve been together for twelve years, had both been married previously.

    Yes, she’s a bit heavy-set, though much of that is due to a chronic thyroid condition. But she is the light of my life. I do not know how I would live without her.

    And mostly, it is because of the gentility and softness she brings to our family. We are rearing our (actually, her) grandchildren, and she is the foundation of our home.

    Next to all that, what’s a few extra pounds, a little cellulite and her beautiful “laugh lines”? Plastic surgery would only ruin a good thing.

  9. Californio says:

    Hopefully we all have witnessed an older couple who are crazy in love with each other, because of their history together, not despite it. My guess is that they are reaping the benefits of years of giving each other an f’ing break over all the drama you have to deal with just living. All those years of him not running her down about not looking perfect, or her not nagging him about his shortcomings. Dowd, et al, always talk about what they want and impliedly, what they deserve..not just treated with dignity, etc, – but a knock-out successful man who will absolutely not mind if they gain poundage and act like screws – in short someone with demanding standards everywhere in their life except in relation to THEM. How is this not as pathetic as an overweight, negative, unemployed man talking about how he will only date women who are above a high standard of physical beauty – in essence out-of-his league?

  10. Jeff says:

    Ah, well put, Californio! Bravo.

  11. Jim Rockford says:

    Dowd’s complaints are typical of feminists.

    Like say Barbara Ehrenreich who envisioned “a series of short, passionate affairs and an amporphous, free-flowing social structure to care for children,” Feminists mostly are delusional in wanting things that are unrealistic.

    People are not going to take care of other people’s children so parents of said children can flit from “self-fulfilling” sexual partner to sexual partner.

    Dowd pursued rich, glamorous, and powerful guys like Michael Douglas and Aaron Sorkin. And big surprise they did what powerful guys always do and married like Donald Trump. Younger and prettier women. If Dowd had pursued say, a New Jersey accountant or dentist when in her thirties she would have been married. Instead she set her cap for guys she realistically had zero chance of marrying and got utterly predictable results.

    Her “fabulous” actress friends in their forties? Stuck in the same box. Geena Davis finally married a guy who was NOT in the business. Others are in competition with younger, prettier actresses for the same kind of “Brad Pitt” guy who will dump one woman for a younger, sexier one.

    Feminism tells wealthy, upper-class professional women in glamour professions they can have it “all” including the trophy husband and they can’t. They have a window to marry and once that closes they are stuck.

  12. floyd says:

    heck; i wear glasses. some girls look better with them and some look better without them; kinda convenient, like built in silk screening![lol]

  13. MnZ says:


    You speak the truth. The you-can-have-it-all feminists confused the limits put on women by sex discrimination with the limits put on women (and men) by reality.

    They expected to be able to flit from gigolo to playboy to him-bo through their 20s. Then, when they hit 30, upstanding, successful, and faithful men would be waiting just for them.

    Of course, they never bothered to think about the following:

    -Why would a upstanding, successful, and faithful men want such a woman?

    -Their flitting would increase the supply of gigolos, playboys, and him-bos and reduce the supply of upstanding upstanding, successful, and faithful men.

    -Upstanding, successful, and faithful men might make due with less intelligent, educated, and successful women instead…especially if they were prettier, younger, have less baggage, and/or were more likely to be faithful.

  14. Ed Perline says:

    Woman are not intellects but a “Force of Nature.” It’s fruitless to look for “logic” in women. It’s up to the men to “husband” the process calmly and diligently, without ever quitting the relationship. Failing that, we will continue to have the present marital chaos.