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Show Your Stripes

Oct
13
2006

Do you (you being women in this case) ever have one of those days where you take extra trouble with your appearance and walk out the door feeling you’re looking particularly attractive? So you’re strutting along, feeling good, and that’s nice for you. To the rest of us you just look like a fertile female animal.
So that’s not exactly the point of this study, although from the press coverage it’s hard to tell what is the point. (And we’ll just take it on faith that a study of 30 people where responses showed a 60 percent consistency is meaningful.) Researchers found, according to the study reported this week, that when women are ovulating they dress more fashionably. And thus, although it had been thought otherwise, human females are not unique among animals in showing no signs of when they’re most fertile, the scientists said.
I know it’s not the same, but it reminds me of how teenagers would (do they still?) come up with whatever sign as a signal to tell whether a girl’s had sex or not.
So now wearing a bit of jewelry signals ovulation. Temper or tears means a period’s coming on. What is this need to find outer markers to keep an eye on a woman’s sex hormones?
God forbid I should argue that a woman’s body is a mystery not to be delved into by science. That slippery slope leads you down to where you’ve got women covered up and locked in their houses. Human fertility and sexuality are important topics and surely the scientific context for this study is interesting and relevant, although poorly reported.
But it’s all this attention to these kinds of studies that makes me nervous. Every time there’s a report that x is true for women, I worry that too many people (anyone) will pull it out of context as an argument reducing women to some biologically determined lesser way of being.
Granted, studies of maleness get their share of attention too. You could hear the guffaws written into the headlines of that recent study about too much testosterone killing brain cells; although there the conclusions were drawn about steroid use, rather than a typical, undrugged male brain.
Context is key. Women often get a less forgiving context, so research is more likely to be understood in inaccurate ways. I’d write more, but for some reason I feel I’ve got to go change into a nicer outfit.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 2:56 AM | Permalink

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