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gailtrimbleOne of my guilty pleasures is that I love quizzes. From Trivial Pursuit to table quizzes, I seem to have huge spongey brain that holds on to useless info like old bathwater. As a kid, our whole family loved them and would huddle around Blockbusters, The Krypton Factor (now back on TV, all made over and not as endearingly crappy thanks to advances in technology), Countdown, Mastermind and anything else that fired general knowledge questions at us. I still love them, but don’t get as much time to tune in and can’t keep up with some of the newer style-over-substance ones. But one I always make time for is University Challenge and the current series has been riveting for one reason – Gail Trimble. Her team Corpus Christi College, Oxford are set to take on the University of Manchester in tomorrow night’s final on BBC2 at 8pm. It occured to me I might be alone in being wowed by her unflinching intellect, but an article in today’s Observer proves otherwise, dubbing her “the cleverest contestant ever”. As a team member of Corpus Christi College, Oxford she has scored more points than her three (one female, two male) team mates put together – that’s 825 of the team’s total of 1,235 points.

Included in the Observer piece are various quotes from blogs, where Trimble has become a huge discussion topic. What struck me most from the majority of the quotes, is that her looks rather than her intelligence are being focused on. Of the seven quotes included, one is negative, the rest positive. And of the positive notices, three of them describe her as “sexy”, as well as “attractive in a blue-stocking sort of way”, a “stunning looker” with a “gorgeous smile”. She has also picked up the nickname “Tasty Trimble”.

Once again we have an extraordinarily bright and academically excellent woman being reduced to her physicality. Many of the sniping internet comments refer to her as being smug, superior or condescending. I’ve seen her on three UC shows and have hugely impressed by how smart she is. Why are people threatened by others who are cleverer than them? But this case is certainly about ability as much as it is about gender and Trimble herself says in the article:

“I don’t feel I would have been treated the same way were I a man.”

It’s true. Patriarchy dictates that all the intelligence (and the centres of power that come with that intelligence) should reside in the heads of men. Women shouldn’t dare try to match – or gasp, exceed – their intellectual levels. Smart women are dangerous, too clever for their own good and are asking to be challenged, negated and put down. Gail Trimble shouldn’t be have to apologise for being clever. And in this day and age, she shouldn’t have the projected insecurites of some less intelligent men foisted upon her.

On a lighter note, I couldn’t help but think of this Young Ones scene.

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