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.
And I don’t think men are ready for this.’This is no surprise to Becca Porter, who graduated last year from Manchester University with a joint honours degree in history and sociology, and is now starting a masters in disability studies at Leeds University.‘The sense of achievement I derive from learning seems alien to most men,’ says Becca, 23.
‘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.
It lasted a few weeks.‘He thought I viewed myself as a big shot,’ says Becca, who admits she found him ‘monosyllabic’. When I tried to start an informed discussion — about religion or terrorism, for example — he had no idea how to react.‘He didn’t understand that my degree meant I had a head full of information and when I asked him about his work all he could muster was that it had been “fine”.‘In any case, there’s only so much you can talk about when you do the same job every day.’In the event, Becca ended the relationship because, she says, he was always at work — an unfortunate fact of life many of us might sympathise with, but one Becca intends to put off for much of her 20s by doing a Ph D in disability research after her masters.
A surefire way, the 22-year-old undergraduate reasoned, to guarantee an interesting debate.
‘I insisted I wasn’t too clever for him and he agreed to go on a shopping trip together for our first date.‘But it was awful.
I think he felt I should lead the conversation, so he barely spoke and I felt too awkward to say anything.’Her longest relationship was with a car mechanic from Burnley last year.
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.