The Clooney Effect And Why It’s Good For Smart Chicks

George & AmalTo all my girlfriends lamenting the lack of men wanting intelligent, independent, self-reliant women, I say phooey! There are plenty of good men out there looking for good, substantive women. Don’t believe me? Just ask George Clooney.

If you didn’t notice last Sunday, George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin quietly celebrated their one-year anniversary, and I for one, couldn’t be happier – happy mostly because he married Amal in the first place.

Confirmed bachelor George had his pick of all kinds of Hollywood babes: from actresses to models, to a dancer with the stars. But Amal, the accomplished international human rights lawyer, eventually won out.

Score one for the smart chick – and score one for George too – who married someone probably smarter than him.

Call it substance over style, but Amal had a little something her competitors didn’t have: world-class brains. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also f-ing gorgeous, but clearly it was her f-ing gorgeous intelligence above all else that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. If this isn’t a thumbs-up for female brainiacs everywhere, I don’t know what is.

Thanks to George and others of his ilk who want women with some smarts, we have the Clooney Effect.

The “Clooney Effect” is a phenomenon coined by biological anthropologist Helen Fisher. In her fifth annual study on American singles for reported by The Atlantic, she surveyed 5,600 singletons across the country to see what they desired in a partner.

Her findings refute the age-old economic mating theory that men are afraid of “over-educated” women. They’re not, she concluded, and I happen to agree. Men really do want to meet/date/marry women who are smart and successful – and if they happen to be smarter than they are, so what? If they’re more successful, who cares? Substance is the new sexy.

But it gets better. According to Fisher, men aren’t just looking for their equals, but for their superiors. The vast majority – 87% – said they would date a woman who makes more money, is more intellectual, and is better educated than they are.

What the study shows us is that guys nowadays are attracted to women with lives and careers just as much, if not more than, stay-at-home wife types. There will always be domestic goddesses and homemakers and the men who love them, but the new trophy wife is someone who’s kicking ass everywhere, not just in the kitchen.

There are some people though, that think the Clooney Effect is full of shit.

In the cynical, but excellent article “Ladies, The Smarter You Are, The More Likely You Are To Be Single,” writer Lauren Martin presents a harsh counterview.

“Unfortunately, for women, intelligence many times hinders our travels and keeps us from the promise land. Because, for all you bright and educated women out there, what you feel is real…intelligent women are more likely to be single.”

Her article speaks to “the broad spectrum of woes women feel as they sit alone Friday nights with no one to discuss Nietzsche or read lines from Proust with.” Now, I don’t know too many guys who want to sit around discussing Nietzsche on a Friday night, but I get what she’s trying to say: men don’t want women with whom they can converse and who challenge them.

So what do men really want? Not smart chicks, according to this article.

What men want, Martin believes, is a woman who “isn’t ever going to let her career come before making dinner and pleasing them first.”

“Deciding what kind of woman you are is like choosing between a rock and a hard place. If you’re stupid, you’re not taken seriously, but if you’re smart, you’re taken too seriously. Women everywhere are flailing under this double-edged sword. A beautiful, attractive female isn’t desirable for her mind, and those with strong characters are seen as threatening, masculine and undesirable.” financial reporter John Carney agrees in “Why Do Smart Men Date Less Intelligent Women?” that “successful men date less successful women not because they want ‘women to be dumb’ but rather because they want ‘someone who prioritizes their life in a way that’s compatible with how you prioritize yours.'”

Like I said earlier, there will always be men – especially high-powered, alpha types – who prefer to take the old-fashioned view on dating dynamics. They don’t want to be challenged, tested, or upstaged; they don’t want to have to think; they don’t want to compete. In other words, they don’t want their balls busted.

Sorry, but the last time I checked, having brains was right up there with having a nice rack. Guys dig it (just ask my husband).

Ladies, the truth is, the smarter you are, the more likely you are to make good choices, the more likely you are to have good self-worth, and you’ll set your bar higher – not just with men, but in life.

So be proud, smart chicks of the world. You’re the new trophy.



Photo credit: Eastfjord Productions /


13 replies


  1. Joanie
    Joanie says:

    This article is says it best!! Brains is the new rack! I couldn’t agree more! I love all of the subjects you write about Treva–can’t wait to read more! You rock!!!!

  2. TooSmart
    TooSmart says:

    I think you forget one other thing that Amal has… she is 17 years younger than George… I would have been a lot more thrilled if he had married a woman his age. If he would have married an intelligent, accomplished woman who was let’s say 3 years younger or 2 years older than him that would have been the statement of the century. Who knows it might actually have inspired men his age to take a closer look at women their own age differently. For the record, I (in my early fifties) have no problem with my age but I do have a problem with the fact that a considerable number of men my age can simply not imagine getting together with someone born within a few years of their own birth year.

  3. Anon
    Anon says:

    Unfortunately, it seems this form is making all the text camel case..

    Just wanted to say as a “good, smart, decently attractive” late 20s guy, I have to agree with the quote by John Carney that it’s not men don’t want smart women, it’s just that men don’t want women who make their career a huge priority. And I think women are the same way towards guys. I don’t think it’s reasonable for someone to want to date me if I spent 80 hours trying to get a new business off the ground unless she was doing the same or we were already together prior to that.

    All Else Equal, Of Course It’s Great If The Girl Is Smart And Makes Good Money. But Don’t Expect Me To Praise You For Your Career Accomplishments Or How Smart You Are (I Don’t Do This With My Family Or Anyone Else — It’s Just A Job), And Don’t Take Your Career So Seriously That I Have To Compete For Your Time/Attention. I Don’t Ask For Anything More In Return.

    Re: women being a “challenge” to men.. Uh, of course I don’t want a “challenge” after we get together! It’s already enough of a hassle trying to work, sleep exercise, have alone time, and socialize. When I come together with a girl, I want it to be relaxing and fun. I don’t need someone to try to improve me — I can take care of that myself.

    In my (perhaps non-representative) opinion, What’s hard to find in a girl is not attractiveness, but a good personality (e.g. confident, Feminine, funny). Especially the feminine part. Seems like a lot of (especially younger generation) western women have imbibed the message that femininity is weakness, and therefore try to act like/compete with men a bit, whereas a lot of women from non first-world countries seem to have retained the understanding that femininity is just a different kind of strength than masculinity, but not a weakness.

    • Treva Brandon Scharf
      Treva Brandon Scharf says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, you make great points, and I happen to agree with all of them. I think having a career/purpose is attractive, having ambition is attractive, but you shouldn’t have to compete with it as you said. For someone in his 20s, you’re very insightful.


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