The Trouble With Women by Jacky Fleming

Posted on 17th February 2016 by Jacky Fleming
Can women be geniuses? Or are their arms too short? Why did we only learn about three women in school? What were all the others doing? Questions like these were why Jacky Fleming wrote The Trouble With Women.

I wrote The Trouble with Women after watching yet another documentary about male genius, with no women in it. This one was about 1950s New York, so I knew women had been invented by then. I googled ‘can women be geniuses?’ and luckily found that lots of our geniuses had already addressed that very question! Including Charles Darwin, who prided himself, with some justification, on noticing things which escaped the attention of other people. What he noticed about women was that we were in a state of charming arrested development, some way down the evolutionary ladder, whilst he was a miracle of evolutionary honing - the Stradivarius of the monkey world. (What were the chances...?)

His evidence was this: that if you wrote two lists, one of eminent men, and the other of eminent women, the list of men was longer. It’s an experiment you might like to try at home. It was his contribution to making gender inequality look normal, and inspired me to write a book in response - exactly what women have been doing for centuries. The body of work referred to as The Woman Question, or if you go back to the Middle Ages the Querelles des Femmes, has a format which often goes like this: a man writes (with wit) about why education is wasted on women who are fickle, lascivious, money-grabbing lightweights incapable of thinking rationally. Then a woman gets very angry, and writes something in response (also with wit). She then gets showered with abuse or ridicule. I didn’t realise, until I’d done a lot of research, that The Trouble with Women fits into such a long tradition. 

Darwin’s contribution was one amongst many, who applied their formidable intellects to The Woman Question, stressing in particular all the things which would happen to women’s bodies if we persisted in studying - our breasts would atrophy, we’d grow beards, and be sickly and ailing for the rest of our lives. Nobody could say we weren’t warned. That’s The Trouble with Women - we just keep behaving in ways which women don’t.


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