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May 07 2014

Women are not machines controlled by the contents of their hips? Shocking news!

Years and years of studies by scientists trying to explain women’s behavior by their hormonal fluctuations are gradually falling apart. We’ve heard so many inconsistent, contradictory tales of how fertility/menstruation turns women into unconscious breeders or nurturing mothers, how women are driven to ‘hypogamy’ by their evolutionary instincts (that’s a big one with the MRAs), and how mate choices wobble from alpha to beta over the course of a month, and it’s all incoherent bunkum.

What do women want? Over the past two decades, scientists have endeavored to answer this question by bringing women into their labs, asking about their sexual preferences, and then monitoring their menstrual cycles to try to extract clues from the ebb and flow of hormones in their mysterious female bodies. In recent years, these researchers have told us that the status of our monthly cycle on Election Day can influence our decision to favor Mitt Romney’s chiseled individualism or Barack Obama’s maternal healthcare policies; that our periods determine whether we feel like nesting with our partners tonight or heading out to proposition a stranger; and that our cycle urges us to swing with Tarzan at our most fertile and cuddle up with Clay Aiken when that month’s egg is out of the picture. Last month, psychologists at the University of Southern California published a meta-analysis of 58 research experiments that tested whether a woman’s preferences for masculinity, dominance, symmetry, health, kindness, and testosterone levels in her male romantic partners actually fluctuate across her menstrual cycle. The answer: They do not.

The study, Meta-Analysis of Menstrual Cycle Effects on Women’s Mate Preferences, pretty thoroughly dismisses a lot of the obsessions of evolutionary psychology.

In evolutionary psychology predictions, women’s mate preferences shift between fertile and nonfertile times of the month to reflect ancestral fitness benefits. Our meta-analytic test involving 58 independent reports (13 unpublished, 45 published) was largely nonsupportive. Specifically, fertile women did not especially desire sex in short-term relationships with men purported to be of high genetic quality (i.e., high testosterone, masculinity, dominance, symmetry). The few significant preference shifts appeared to be research artifacts. The effects declined over time in published work, were limited to studies that used broader, less precise definitions of the fertile phase, and were found only in published research.

Typically, good science homes in on a stronger, clearer answer as it progresses, identifying confounding variables and fine-tuning the methodology. It’s a good sign that you’re chasing a non-effect when nothing you do improves your understanding of the phenomenon, and when other researchers struggle to find a measurement that agrees with yours; results that vary with who is producing them are something that fairly screams, “experimenter bias!”

Also telling: they looked at published and unpublished work, and any effect vanished in the unpublished papers. One could wave that away by claiming that those papers clearly did not meet the standard of quality required for publication, but let’s not ignore the file-drawer effect: one measure of “quality” is whether a paper is novel or fits a preconception well or is simply newsworthy (unsurprisingly, stories that proclaim a way to describe women’s sexual behavior are very popular). Look at the table of contents for Science or Nature any week and ask yourself whether those were selected for publication entirely because of their rigor and scientific merit. Anyone who reads the scientific literature to any degree will become aware quite quickly of the fads…and also the troubling preference for papers that use expensive instruments and reagents hawked in the advertising. (I do not think it a callously exploitive conscious bias, but more of a case of being more impressed by the shininess of the toys than the logic of the experiment.)

Purely anecdotal, but I’ve lived with a woman with hormones for going on 35 years, and I’m sorry, but except for the periodic physical consequences of menstruation, she’s basically the same human being every day, and there have been no magic psychological variations that make her prone to manipulation in different ways at different times of the month — and there were never any outward cues that would allow me to estimate where she was in her cycle. It seems to me that since women have minds and relationships can have strong consequences, it’s rather demeaning to suggest that their decision-making capabilities reside in their ovaries.

While I’m at it, I was totally shocked by a story in the Huffington post. The article had a stupid click-baity title, Wide-Hipped Women Have More Sex Partners, Controversial Study Shows, no doubt selected by the editor, but the story itself completely contradicts it. The paper does actually claim that hip width is correlated with how many men the women have sex with (the pick-up artists eyes lit up at that, I’m sure — now, to the bar to scan the clientele for broad hips!), but the content is substantial and actually takes strong exception to the claim. The paper tries to argue that sexual choosiness is correlated with an expectation of difficulty giving birth — that narrow-hipped women see sex as a greater risk.

"I honestly think there are some, I’m just going to say it, pretty shameful omissions in this paper," said Holly Dunsworth, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Rhode Island.

The primary problem, Dunsworth told Live Science, is that the distance between iliac crests does not indicate the size of the birth canal, or the internal opening in the pelvis. Nor does the iliac measurement relate to efficiency at walking, Dunsworth added — for that, you’d want to know the distance between hip joints.

"I have an obstetrics textbook here on my desk and nowhere does it say or diagram how big the birth canal is by using bi-iliac breadth," she said. In fact, she said, bi-iliac breadth is the one measurement that is consistently larger in men, because it correlates to body mass.

"They don’t give you the body mass of the women or the height of the women," Dunsworth said.

A lack of gullibility in a HuffPo article? Unbelievable. If only they could get rid of the idiot management there, there actually are some intelligent writers working within that haven of woo.

72 comments

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  1. 1
    timgueguen

    Preconceived biases are no doubt always a problem in doing science, but I’m guessing they’re especially prone to being a problem when dealing with human beings. All scientists are human beings who interact with human beings, making it even harder to start from a neutral standpoint. No one is going to be doing work on say ocean current movement regularly upset at ocean currents because they’re in the middle of a divorce from ocean currents.

  2. 2
    iknklast

    Well, I’m actually rather wide-hipped, but I had an extremely difficult birth with a not particularly large baby (6 pounds). The doctor said if he’d been even a tiny bit larger, I’d have been unable to deliver him and would have required caesarean. Of course, that’s purely anecdotal, but it is also a data point in the medical record, so take it for what you will.

  3. 3
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    but let’s not ignore the file-drawer effect: one measure of “quality” is whether a paper is novel or fits a preconception well or is simply newsworthy

    Papers that say “we studied this carefully and couldn’t find anything” are quite usually not published. Given the small amount of slots in scientific papers and the huge amount of research institutes worldwide it should be obvious that only a small amount of publishable papers gets actually published. That’s why meta analyses that include unpublished data* are so useful.

    *A good meta-analysis will look at the papers and apply a rigorous meassurement. They don’t just take any crap, but accept and dismiss studies according to the parameters they set.

  4. 4
    Desert Son, OM

    From the quoted article:

    What do women want?

    [the following is sarcasm intended for effect] Ah, yes. That famous monolith: Women. Like other famous monoliths (e.g. Men, Black People, Artists, Gay People, Scientists, Children, Lawyers, People of Nationalities, Athletes, etc.), there’s a secret hidden formula to describe and understand them, rather than grappling with the dynamicism and complexity of a given individual in a given circumstance! [/previous sarcasm intended for effect]

    Here’s an idea that might start to slowly improve certain things: What do women want? We could always try asking the diverse individuals, and trusting the answers given.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  5. 5
    HolyPinkUnicorn

    @iknklast #2

    I know it’s just anecdotal, but experiences like these seem to go against the whole idea of a creator, or at least one who has much sense or foresight. (Heck, just going by how women describe the pain of menstrual cramps it sounds like there’s enormous room for improvement on the “design.”) Glad to hear your birth went well though.

    At least the kinds of people with these wacky ideas concerning women’s bodies aren’t appointed to positions in our government…anymore. Anyone remember Dr. David Hager?

  6. 6
    ashleybell

    Yeah, and you can’t toss out Salon entirely because the awesome Amanda Marcotte has a column there. I just google her name and go from there….

  7. 7
    David Chapman

    The paper tries to argue that sexual choosiness is correlated with an expectation of difficulty giving birth — that narrow-hipped women see sex as a greater risk.

    The paper doesn’t appear to have heard of the invention of contraception.

    I find one or two of the criticisms puzzling as well, mind you:

    And in human evolutionary history, Trevathan said, CPD [ babies being too large for the pelvis ] likely would have been even less common. Women would not have had as much nourishment as is available today, so babies were smaller, she said.

    If women didn’t have as much nourishment, doesn’t that mean women would have been smaller as well?

  8. 8
    blf

    Sort-of related, The thigh-gap obsession is not new but it’s the most extreme body fixation yet:

    “I read a piece … about young women’s latest obsession: having a gap between their thighs. Surely this must be the harbinger of the apocalypse.”

    … To intimate the apocalypse you’re going to have to do better than citing an obsession with one’s legs. As all Bill Murray fans know, the only true harbingers of an apocalypse are “human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together — mass hysteria!” So until you show me any feline and canine cohabitation, I’m going to maintain you’re still OK to make holiday bookings for next year without any risk of losing your deposit due to brimstone flooding.

    However … the thigh gap obsession is not good. In fact, this column is officially dubbing it A Bad Thing. … What it is … is an example of yet another form of body hatred that has been successfully marketed to vulnerable girls and women …

    The question of what to do about it is, I’m afraid, disappointingly prosaic. No one can stop women and girls hating their bodies, no matter how many novels they read. But what we … can do is to keep reinforcing the message to young people that to be strong and healthy is a good thing and to be frail and sickly is dangerous, and that anyone who feels differently is not to be hated but to be pitied. And, most of all, we need to live by our words and set the example accordingly. Because, ultimately, a life spent measuring your thighs is a life wasted.

  9. 9
    knowknot

    Oh well. I guess we’ll have to rely on the “That Darn Eve” theory of Itsnotmyproblemism now. Life is all about adaptation change…

  10. 10
    karmacat

    My question is why do we even need this research on mate preferences and women’s hormonal cycles? Most women stay in a relationship with a man (or woman) for longer than a week, longer than a month. They are not going to a different each week.

  11. 11
    JJ831

    @David #7

    The paper doesn’t appear to have heard of the invention of contraception.

    To be fair, I believe they are trying to claim that this is a result of evolution, and it is not a conscience decisions by the woman (it’s also assuming woman automatically know their risk of gibing birth subconsciously). So the thought would be contraception probably hasn’t really existed (at least effectively) long enough to have an affect on evolutionary psychology.

    Not that I agree, just I think that’s the point.

  12. 12
    Kevin Kehres

    Women with wide hips are sluts? Because babies? Seriously? That’s their hypothesis?

    Wow. Just. Wow.

  13. 13
    Rey Fox

    now, to the bar to scan the clientele for broad hips!

    Way ahead of you.

    For extra laughs, check out the name of the writer of that column.

  14. 14
    twas brillig (stevem)

    so PMS is a myth?
    what’s your problem?

  15. 15
    David Marjanović

    Metanalysis. It’s simply metanalysis. No need to introduce vowel clusters, an awkward pause, or for that matter a hyphen. *eyeroll*

    Preconceived biases are no doubt always a problem in doing science, but I’m guessing they’re especially prone to being a problem when dealing with human beings. All scientists are human beings who interact with human beings, making it even harder to start from a neutral standpoint. No one is going to be doing work on say ocean current movement regularly upset at ocean currents because they’re in the middle of a divorce from ocean currents.

    “The closer you get to humans, the worse the science gets.”

    If women didn’t have as much nourishment, doesn’t that mean women would have been smaller as well?

    Well… yeah.

    My question is why do we even need this research on mate preferences and women’s hormonal cycles? Most women stay in a relationship with a man (or woman) for longer than a week, longer than a month. They are not going to a different each week.

    The idea here is to explore the meaning of “most”.

    Or in other words: maybe some of the male researchers are afraid of being cheated on.

    Women with wide hips are sluts? Because babies? Seriously? That’s their hypothesis?

    Yes.

    For extra laughs, check out the name of the writer of that column.

    That’s the one part I don’t get.

  16. 16
    barbarienne

    twas brillig @14:

    I’m not certain what point you’re trying to make, so I’m just going to use your comment as a jumping-off point.

    PMS is a real thing, but it is is not a fixed, definable set of symptoms shared by all women all the time.

    If a woman has a regular cycle, I would suggest that some “symptoms” (moodiness, horniness, desire to eat red meat (yes, that’s a thing)) may simply be placebo effect–she knows where she is in her cycle and if she believes in PMS, she might attribute a perfectly normal behavior to that rather than notice that hey, she has bad moods and burger cravings at all times of the month.

    Pre-menstrual cramps are a real thing, yes, but (a) not all women have them, (b) those that do don’t have them every time, and (c) they vary in intensity. For the first 30 years of my fertility I had nary a cramp. Then in my early 40s I started having them and I was like WHAT IS THAT HOW DO THE REST OF YOU DEAL WITH THIS. But you know what else? It’s not like they turn me into a murderous cranky monster (rather the opposite; I just want to stay home and do nothing for a day).

    On the scale of things, they’re no worse or more debilitating than when my knee or back starts acting up. (Hello old sports injuries–welcome to middle age!) I’m sure it’s not worse than a bad hangover, and somehow lots of fellows manage to function while nursing one of those more often than one day a month.

  17. 17
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Even period pains vary dramatically between people. Some have no more than mild-but-irritating cramps.

    I had crippling period pains, due to endometriosis. They made it impossible for me to do anything but curl up in bed with a hot-water-bottle and as many painkillers as I was allowed.

  18. 18
    twas brillig (stevem)

    twas brillig @14:

    I’m not certain what point you’re trying to make,

    Sorry. I was satirizing the Paul Bell comment in the “privilege” thread, “What’s your problem” being the hint.
    Even so, the PMS education was worthwhile. Thank you for your patience.

  19. 19
    karmacat

    twas brillig,
    the correct term is pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and it can be debilitating. In fact the main difference between PMDD and PMS is how PMDD adversely affects a woman’s ability to function. It only occurs in a small percentage of women but it is not something to trivialize. But the above study is not about PMDD or PMS or medical conditions that are related to hormonal changes that women experience.

  20. 20
    Gerard Farell

    I have a mother, 3 sisters, a wife and one daughter. I tell you: PMS is real.

    What do women want? That is another matter.

  21. 21
    ludicrous

    We’ve known for thousands of years that there is something wrong with women, we just have to keep looking until we find it.

  22. 22
    Gerard Farell

    We’ve known for thousands of years that there is something wrong with women, we just have to keep looking until we find it.

    There is the thought that human intelligence evolved faster than our bodies. I think that the main problem (evolutionary drag) in humans is the male aggressivity.

  23. 23
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Gerard Farell

    I’m a woman and I haven’t noticed significant changes that would indicate the existence of PMS. I used to believe my mood changes had something to do with PMS, but now I realize that’s some other issues, and it’s obvious that I can’t track them according to my cycle.

    Do you actually notice the change in your family members appears in cycles, or is it just your interpretation of their moods (your sister is angry with you, it must be PMS).

  24. 24
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    PMS is such a great candidate for confirmation bias.

    I feel weepy & my period is coming up -> must be PMS
    I feel angry & my period is coming up -> must be PMS

    All those times I’m weepy and/or angry and they don’t fit the interpretation -> ignore

  25. 25
    Anne, Old Gumbie Cat

    Based on my observations of the three female adult humans in my household over a number of years, myself included, PMS is:

    (a) quite real and

    (b) the degree of severity and symptoms vary with the individual.

    I can go into gory details if anyone really wants, but trust me, it’s here and it happens to us.

  26. 26
    Inaji

    Anne D:

    it’s here and it happens to us.

    It happens to some women, not all. There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to menstruation, such as PMDD, endometriosis, PCOS, and so on. I was one of those lucky people who never had the slightest problem when I was menstruating.

  27. 27
    unclefrogy

    I think one of the biggest differences between humans and “lower animals” is this ability to think in stories it is a pretty powerful ability but it has a negative aspect. The stories often can appear more real than actual reality.
    uncle frogy

  28. 28
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    beatrice
    Yep, don’t forget the male version:
    Woman is angry -> must be PMS (can’t be that she has a reason)
    Woman is weepy -> must be PMS (it’s not like she has a reason)
    Woman is behaving in whatever fucking way some man disagrees with -> must be PMS (or her period, or ovulation… It’s just clear that women are barely controlled hormonal freaks)

  29. 29
    Anne, Old Gumbie Cat

    Inaji:

    Yep, every woman is different. Elder Daughter and I always had (I’m past that now, she’s on meds) irregular heavy painful periods and horrible mood swings. Younger Daughter is more regular, but she gets very short-tempered just before she gets hers – she’ll snap at something minor, and sure enough, the next day, she starts with the punctual blues.

  30. 30
    Gerard Farell

    Oh, boy, god really messed up the rib-woman didn’t he?

  31. 31
    Jackie

    Yeah, I was told by my mom that my painful periods ( that made me crumple over and throw up) and depression were just part of being a woman. I needed to grow up and deal with it. Turned out that I was suffering from serious depression (later diagnosed as PMDD) and cysts exploding on my ovaries, but I didn’t find that out for years. I once went to a doctor deeply depressed and in pain. He prescribed me some muscle relaxers and told me I just needed to get more calcium.

    I was also told as a teen that I was being lazy in gym, especially when they made us run outdoors in the winter. Turns out, I’m asthmatic. For years I thought I hated exercise. I didn’t know why if I choked on a sip of water, I’d cough til I puked and it took forever to catch my breath. It wasn’t until I ran to meet a friend and he asked me about my asthma as I wheezed, that it even occurred to me that I might be ill instead of a wuss. I am never far from my inhaler now. I jogged a 5K after I found out that I could.

    I was once told by a teacher that I was lying about not being able to see the board, because if I had a problem with my eyesight, I’d have glasses. I just didn’t want to pay attention, I was told. Guess what? I did need glasses, but I didn’t know how other people saw. So, I was 16 and trying to get a driver’s licence before I found out that I am indeed near sighted.

    I don’t know for certain how much being female had to do with how often my complaints were disregarded and written off as me being weak and unwilling to try harder, but I suspect it had alot to do with it. I wonder how often women’s real medical complaints and real frustration and anger are similarly rejected as just being a woman conforming to her gender roll as weak, irrational, emotional and whiny?

  32. 32
    Inaji

    Gerard Farell:

    Oh, boy, god really messed up the rib-woman didn’t he?

    Are you under the impression that your comments are adding anything here? Because if you are, your impression is wrong.

  33. 33
    Gerard Farell

    You need a humor transplant.

  34. 34
    Anton Mates

    @David Chapman,

    If women didn’t have as much nourishment, doesn’t that mean women would have been smaller as well?

    Yep, but their babies would still be proportionately smaller. When food is scarce, the highest priority (fitness-wise) is the mother’s own survival; there’s no reproductive benefit to gestating a fat healthy baby if the mother starves to death while doing it. So her body’s going to reserve a larger share of the available nutrition for itself, and produce a disproportionately small baby.

    Conversely, if the mother has access to a ton of surplus calories, she’s going to dump them all into the baby, because then she can drastically boost its chance of survival without affecting her own.

    (This happens in almost all mammals AFAIK, not just humans.)

  35. 35
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Gerard Farell

    You need a humor transplant.

    Just checked, my humor is fine, maybe the problem is on your side of the communication

  36. 36
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    Ugh, troll harder Gerard Farrel.

    I find that people who tend to ascribe everything about a woman’s mood to PMS tend to have a very exagerated idea of what PMS is. When there are no other problems, like mentioned earlier in the thread, and when there is no pain to deal with, most women are really no more than slightly more irritated or cranky or moody than on any other day.

  37. 37
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    Although everything we do and even the person we are is made up from hormones and neurotransmitters and stuff, it’s really difficult for me to deal with the whole “your hormones makes you emotional, therefore untrustworthy” thing.

    I remember when I was pregnant with child number one. One day I was really angry with my husband and we fought about something that I to this day think was really stupid and thoughtless for him to do (although he did have good intentions), so it was not the hormones talking, I would have fought with about this regardless of being pregnant.

    Anyway, long story short, that day ended with my parents in law, mother and husband literally forcefully kidnapping me kicking and screaming from the street where I had gone to get away from them. So *I* get stuffed in a mental hospital and told by a psychologist that just because I’m pregnant, I shouldn’t allow my hormones to run wild, because I refused to talk to any of them and make peace.

    Hmm. I guess I’m still bitter about that. Who would have guessed.

  38. 38
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    That’s horrific, Gen!

  39. 39
    Inaji

    Gerard Farell:

    You need a humor transplant.

    No, I don’t. My sense of humour is just fine, thanks. It would be nice if, instead of attempting to joke, you got some actual information in your head, which would help mitigate your ignorance and sexist bayesian priors. You, know, learn something.

  40. 40
    Inaji

    Also, Gerard, men have cyclical hormone fluctuations, too. You might want to learn about that, then you can aim your jokes in a different direction for a change.

  41. 41
    Inaji

    Gen @ 37, I am so sorry that happened to you. Jesus. I’d be bitter too.

  42. 42
    Jackie

    Gen,
    I’m sorry that happened to you. That’s awful.

  43. 43
    Anne, Old Gumbie Cat

    Gen, I’m so sorry that happened to you.

  44. 44
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    Thanks for the sympathies, everyone. I should learn not to dump mah baggage everywhere XD. I just have a thing about people using PMS or “hormones” to dismiss women’s experiences, so I tend to be very careful in any discussion about PMS.

  45. 45
    alexanderz

    Gen:
    That was terrifying. I’m sorry they did that to you.

    Inaji #40:

    men have cyclical hormone fluctuations, too

    Are you talking about andropause or about cyclical increases in testosterone in males? Because, as far as I know, the former is not cyclical and the latter only happens in animals with seasonal mating, so humans are excluded.

  46. 46
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I don’t know for certain how much being female had to do with how often my complaints were disregarded and written off as me being weak and unwilling to try harder, but I suspect it had alot to do with it. I wonder how often women’s real medical complaints and real frustration and anger are similarly rejected as just being a woman conforming to her gender roll as weak, irrational, emotional and whiny?

    I know that with regard to my various issues including difficulty with athletics and coordination-demanding tasks, social difficulties, and being constantly singled out by bullies, every single professional I saw had to be dragged kicking and screaming away from the idea that I was “just a brat.” I don’t know whether it would have been worse if I were female-coded.

  47. 47
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    You need a humor transplant.

    The problem is, you’re not funny.

  48. 48
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Being female-coded I’m sure leads to delays in diagnosis, and wholly wrong diagnoses, a lot of the time. Because I’ve been told by doctors that my medical problems (which in several cases took decades to diagnose correctly) would have been picked up sooner had I presented as male, with typical ‘male’ symptoms.

    I read years ago that, because of the myths associated with female hormone cycles, ‘text book cases’ of rare and not-so-rare disorders (that aren’t sex-specific) were based on the ‘typical male’ presentation. (That means, of course, that men get missed too when they don’t have a ‘typical’ presentation.)

    It might be changing, but if the illustrations are anything to go by, people other than cis-white-het-male are still largely ignored when writers of medical text books do their thing.

    “Each body has individual features, and the more you see the more points of reference you have – this is an advantage in clinical practice,” the researcher told SINC. “We’re not dealing only with diseases, but people with diseases.”
    The six North American manuals studied used male bodies in 17% of cases and female ones in 5% to illustrate “neutral body parts”, while the six European ones used male images 12% of the time and female ones only 2%.
    People of Caucasian ethnicity were the only ones represented in nine of the 12 manuals (all the European ones and half the North American ones), and were in the majority in the other three. Only one of the textbooks studied showed “parity in male and female images” and represented other ethnicities, although Caucasians still predominated.

  49. 49
    Jackie

    Azkyroth,

    It depends.
    When my daughter was diagnosed with “severe hyperactivity” I found out that in a boy, the same level of activity is not considered “severe”. See, “boys will be boys”. Boys just can’t reign in their primal urge to be active, assertive, occasionally violent etc. Girls are supposed to be quiet, calmer, better at socializing and better behaved. What is considered normal and even cute in boys, is seen as problematic in girls.

    I also grew up with ADHD (mostly unmedicated). Trust me, a girl who speaks out of turn, is loud, can’t focus or wants to be active and assertive is definitely seen in a worse light than boys with the same behaviors. I had some bad experiences with teachers, and by that I mean I was abused by my teachers. (I tried to write down the details, but it still makes me cry. I can’t do it today.)

    BTW, once I got glasses and started chugging caffeine (in a pinch, any stimulant helps), I made the honor roll.
    …and people wonder where my mistrust of authority comes from. 0.o

    I do not know how many times I have heard another parent or a teacher remark about a hyper, distracted or demanding child as just being “all boy”. There is no such exception made for girls.

    Not that the pass is always good for boys. Sometimes it means that a problem can go longer without intervention or that a boy will see his struggles to learn or socialize as normal and think that if the other boys can do it, he just needs to try harder. That can begin a cycle of blaming and shaming himself for something not in his control.

    Gender stereotypes: They fuck us all.

  50. 50
    Gerard Farell

    @ Gen: That is a horrible thing you went through. My sympathy to you.

    @ Inaji
    I’m sexist? Ouch… a bitch-slap! I’d go to my room and cry, but I want to see your face when you realize you broke a nail! <:-D

    Making fun of creationists' myths is lots of fun, try it one day. I hope that trying to impose an imaginary identity to a stranger will make you feel better. You seem to need it.

  51. 51
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Giliell,

    Oh yes, a woman can’t possibly have a reason for anger or bad mood. She must be in PMS or menstruating. It’s not like we have any other mood, it’s either “perky” or “on the rag”.

    Obviously, I’m not going to be all sunshine and daisies if I’m feeling discomfort and pain. But that’s not quite the same as blaming every emotion on, basically, being a woman that is, being all weird and irrational while possibly howling at the moon.

  52. 52
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    re: PMS

    Funny, most of my mood swings and cravings*, and all of the other menstrual and pre-menstrual problems went away after I started on Depo. So, uh… there’s something to this idea that hormones can affect your mood in very drastic ways. (I really like not being stabby, weepy, glompy, and whatever else you can throw in there all in the space of a minute or less. Heh, then there’s the fact that I no longer ovulate or bleed, which makes me a very happy kitty!)

    *I still get the occasional craving for something weird and/or comforting, and I definitely get cravings for a nice bit of steak or tuna. (I also wouldn’t say no to a ridiculously high-calorie, high-carb sugar-bomb right now.)

  53. 53
    Rey Fox

    That’s the one part I don’t get.

    Well, nowadays Ryan Reynolds is a famous leading man actor. Back when that article was written, it was just another name.

  54. 54
    Rey Fox

    So it wasn’t intential humor on the Onion’s part, just humorous in hindsight (there’s a Trope for that, right?).

  55. 55
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I don’t think that anybody ever implied that hormones don’t influence us at all. They’re powerful stuff. Hell, I can’t function without my regular dosage of Thyroxin because my thyroid is dying and one of the major effects of this is depression*.
    The thing is that it doesn’t turn us into different, totally irrational people who need to get over themselves. Maybe I’m on a short fuse when I have my period, because pain also tends to do that to people, but just because I only have 90% of my patience instead of 100% or even 120% on a Sunday morning doesn’t mean that I’m totally overreacting and that the things I’m reacting to aren’t real.

    *As an aside, I’m wondering if the anti medication for mental health issues crowd would also tell me that I need to stop taking Thyroxin and just deal with it…

    Gen
    *gentle hugs*
    Gosh that’s horrible.

  56. 56
    Matt G

    Hormones, PZ? Did you know she had them when you married her? It could be grounds for divorce.

  57. 57
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    I’m so sorry you went through that/that was done to you, Gen.

    And women do tend to have a harder time getting diagnoses of many kinds, especially psych ones, as Tigger and Jackie have noticed. This is something that’s been proven many times. The idea that anyone would think it would be easier if they were female-coded is intensely laughable.

  58. 58
    vaiyt

    Anyone using “mating” unironically to refer to human sexual behavior is giving pretty strong signals that they’re full of shit. It’s the shibboleth of evo-psychers and pseudo-intellectual Manospherians.

  59. 59
    daniellavine

    barbarienne@17:

    desire to eat red meat (yes, that’s a thing)

    I’m pretty sure the red meat cravings are really iron cravings due to the loss of iron during menstruation (or perhaps in anticipation of it). I’ve been told that eating spinach can take care of the cravings as well.

  60. 60
    chimera

    Question for everybody:

    When a man looks miffed, sighs, hangs his head and says to a female friend of his: “What do women want?”

    What is he asking or expressing? I mean, it’s such an obviously stupid question that it must mean something else. It must mean something like “My wife is very unhappy and I feel responsible for it and don’t know what to do”, right? Or, maybe it means, “Why doesn’t Juliette want to go to bed with me?” Or, “How come nobody likes me not even women who are supposed to be so nice and kind?” Or maybe it means “Why don’t women act the way I want them to?” Or, perhaps … Is it worth even spelling out all the different things this question could mean? Or, analyzing the assumptions underlying such a question? Basically, it’s a passive-aggressive complaint about women, right?

    If you’re game for helping me figure this question out, don’t answer that you’d have to know more about the man and the situation before you could say what the question means. Color the man any way you want and construe the scenario however you wish.

  61. 61
    unclefrogy

    this uncle sometimes has a strong craving for red meat and I do not “have a period” either and am not bleeding internally as far as I know.
    In fact the thought of red meat craving makes my mouth water for some Spaghetti Caruso.
    my guess about cravings is that they are about “comfort food” more than any metabolic need and we have developed the habit of isolating out of all other times cravings are in evidence cravings that are vaguely connected in time to the menstrual cycle

    uncle frogy

  62. 62
    opposablethumbs

    Anyone who asks this question has got a deeply ingrained habit of objectifying women, of course, and has trouble seeing people who are women as, you know, people instead of a monolithic category.

    The question means “why don’t those-women-whom-I-deem-fuckworthy fall at my feet and hang on my every word in real life the way they do in my mental picture of how the world ought to be – i.e. revolving around me? What’s wrong with them?”

  63. 63
    chigau (違う)

    Bicarbonate #59
    In almost any scenario, I would read it as a complaint about one, specific woman.

  64. 64
    Inaji

    Bicarbonate:

    When a man looks miffed, sighs, hangs his head and says to a female friend of his: “What do women want?”

    What is he asking or expressing?

    It’s an excuse to not consider women as individuals, as thinking of women as a mysterious monolith is much more convenient.

  65. 65
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Bicarbonate is back,

    I’m taking the guy doesn’t even have to be an asshole to do this scenario.

    He could be a fairly decent guy, but when feeling overwhelmed by his relationship with some specific woman (be it a girlfriend, wife, sister, daughter,…) or women in general (after, for example, a long time of not being able to find a girlfriend) he uses casual sexism and stereotyping to make himself feel better.

    Of course whatever is going on isn’t his fault, women are just so mysterious and mercurial.

    At the same time, it could be that he’s giving an “out” to the specific woman in question (in a stupid, sexist way). He doesn’t want to blame himself, he doesn’t want to blame her, so kind of goes around blaming her by blaming that mysterious womanly nature, that she herself presumably can’t control.

  66. 66
    SallyStrange

    Any guy who asks “what do women want” is engaging in stereotyping and intellectual dishonesty. The correct response is a NCIS Agent Gibbs-style smack on the back of the head.

  67. 67
    chimera

    SallyStrange,

    Your “correct response” is exactly what I felt like doing each of the very memorable times this has happened to me. But the settings were semi-professional and that option wasn’t really available.

  68. 68
    playonwords

    Given the predilection for PUAs and their allies to rely on actual physical measurement I wonder if DKSH could make money from marketing their Anthropometry tools to MRAs as “Gynomopetric tools”. Possession of such a tool kit would entitle all women, men or temporally displaced Dukes of Ankh-Morpork to treat the owner like Captain Findthee Swing

  69. 69
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I’m pretty sure the red meat cravings are really iron cravings due to the loss of iron during menstruation (or perhaps in anticipation of it). I’ve been told that eating spinach can take care of the cravings as well.

    Or saucepans. :D

  70. 70
    Numenaster

    What do women want?

    This one would be happy to begin with a better-formed question.

    And @Giliell, who said

    I’m wondering if the anti medication for mental health issues crowd would also tell me that I need to stop taking Thyroxin and just deal with it…

    Yes, they would. One of them has tried that shit with me. Once.

  71. 71
    Jacob Schmidt

    When a man looks miffed, sighs, hangs his head and says to a female friend of his: “What do women want?”

    What is he asking or expressing?

    Probably that he’s having problems with a certain woman, but he’s viewing her as part of a semi-homogeneous (if not homogeneous) group rather than an individual. With that sort of attitude left unchecked and unmitigated, that certain woman may turn into a string of women, which may reinforce his view; after all, if he’s having problems with all these different women, the consistent factor of “woman” must be the cause.

    Sometimes, a gentle, “Wrong question; what does she want?” is all that’s needed. I think that sort of sexism is often a matter of cluelessness and unnoticed biases.

  72. 72
    carlie

    What do women want?

    To not be treated like a monolithic group that should be analyzed and assessed to determine their desires in the aggregate.

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