Yeah it's that time of the month when new studies are interpreted by various media outlets as proof women are unbalanced, special bloaty yoghurty beings thanks to hormones. This month it was CNN's turn and, seeing as it's coming up to the presidential elections in the US the theme was: Do hormones drive women's votes? CNN revealed that“New research suggest that hormones may influence female voting choices differently, depending on whether a woman is single or in a committed relationship”.
Apparently when the single women were at their most fertile, with high levels of oestrogen, they were more likely to vote for Obama. Women with similar hormone levels, but in committed relationships, preferred for Romney. But why, Science? Well, CNN says Durante says single women who are ovulating “feel sexier” and are therefore more liberal leaning, embracing abortion rights and equal marriage. Settled women addled with the same hormones feel the opposite: “I think they're overcompensating for the increase of the hormones motivating them to have sex with other men.”
All fascinating, but what is more fascinating is if you go to check that CNN really did post such a report you find this:
“A post previously published in this space regarding a study about how hormones may influence voting choices has been removed.
After further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN.
We thank you for your comments and feedback.”
UH-OH. Guess you mistimed that with the collective lady reader cycle CNN. It appears women and other scientists were a little iffy about how the study could be used to imply males are immune to hormone changes and women are unstable.
However hormonal changes in women remains a popular subject. If a woman reacts a little more noticeably than is socially acceptable it must be PMT. If a woman buys a chocolate bar... it must be PMT. If a woman weeps over some sad news, I bet it's PMT. And if she's older and being demanding then I expect that's the menopause talking.
A study by Dr Sarah Romans from the University of Otago, New Zealand has suggested PMT is not necessarily real, or rather the emotional aspects are not attributable to PMT. Romans commented: “When a woman’s upset, it’s still often one of the first thoughts people have – maybe she’s premenstrual – rather than 'Is her physical health bad? Is she under a lot of stress? Is she lacking social support?'”
Any male acts of violence might muster up comments about too much testosterone. But often the implication is that this testosterone level is perfectly normal and society ought to provide more outlets for it. He is disenfranchised, she is mad. An angry man is not tutted at for letting his testosterone get the better of him. His political views are not credited to his penis or the content of his testicles.
In Barbara Trapido's 1994 book Juggling the student Christina writes an essay about Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies. It was the first piece of writing (how does one define a fictional character's essay within fiction?) I came across that discusses testosterone fuelled behaviour and not oestrogen.
Christina is instructed by a tutor to write about the comedies, all 11 of them. “Consider Shakespeare's aunt...One of a thousand suppressed nuns. Only think how easily one might have found oneself with a nun for one's mother...Consider...The Comedy of Errors.” What she comes up with was, to me, nothing short of brilliant. Which is why I am going to butcher a huge swathe of quotes from it.
If Shakespeare had given us the sequels, we would see at once that all those brilliant, bantering Beatrices, having become the wives to all those brilliant, bantering Benedicks, will be whining in back bedrooms that they are neglected, while their husbands chase the maids...
… In the conflict of gender, the women win the war of words, but the men will win the battle. The women win on points, but the men are the people who have the points. They have the last weapon against the last word. They have kisses and penetration.
… The tragedy of the Comedies is that while sex draws men and women together, gender draws them apart.”
Is whether you vote with your reproductive system or not important? Perhaps not. Is using someone's reproductive system to effectively silence them or cheapen their opinion a Shakespearian Tragedy? Yes.