Saturday, February 26, 2011

Summary of: "Hormonal Hurricanes: Menstruation, Menopause, and Female Behavior" by Anne Fausto-Sterling and “Lean and Mean” by Susan Douglass

“Lean and Mean”
Fausto-Sterling writes about the different myths that surround menstruation, menopause, and the general female behavior. She starts with the basic myth that hormones control women. Apparently, these hormones make women biologically less than men. Fausto-Sterling quotes numerous doctors who support the conclusion that biologically men are more fit to rule than women. This idea that hormones rule women is historical idea. In the 1800s scientists argued that men and women require different educations, and this idea continues today. Some scientists have come to the conclusion that women are just not fit for certain jobs because they require a male. Fausto-Sterling points out how there are a lot of flaws surrounding the science behind these assumptions of women are their hormones. Experiments do not account for important factors many times. Scientists will not listen and believe the things that women are telling them. Also much of the "evidence" for female behavior is correlation, not causal.
Fausto-Sterling writes how menstruation is seen as a disease, that all women have until they fall victim of another disease, menopause. If you are a woman, there is a bind surrounding menstruation and menopause. If you complain then you are making things up. If you do not complain then you just have to suffer in silence. Fausto-Sterling also writes about diagnosing PMS, and the real science behind menstruation and menopause. For hundreds of years (and it continues today) menstruation and menopause are/were seen as something that controls women and marks them out as diseased. Testosterone plays a big part in menstruation, and men have testosterone but men are not considered diseased because, well, they are men. When a woman acts negatively it is viewed as evidence for the biological behavior of women, but when she is positive it is just personality and nothing to do with her hormones. Fausto-Sterling talks a little about health education, and how young girls (no matter their class or race) have a negative attitude toward menstruation. This reminded me of Douglass's argument for better sex education in schools.
Throughout the reading Fausto-Sterling explains different reasons why hormones are seen as the ruler of women, and how this in turns encourages patriarchy. The myth that because men do not suffer like women from hormones (not true) they must be the better gender has little real evidence as Fausto-Sterling explains. Despite all of the myths surrounding women and their bodies, she is hopeful for a coming change.

“Lean and Mean”
Douglass writes in this chapter how being lean may be connected to being mean today. She begins with the fixation women have on their bodies. Women are not born with this fixation, but taught it by society through the media, books, posters, peers, etc. Enlightened sexism tells us that being skinny is a way to be empowered. If you are beautiful then you might be powerful, but if you are ugly you definitely are not empowered. So simply, how hot you are equals how powerful you are.
Douglass goes on to explain how the perfect body today is not possible naturally. Women are expected to be size zero in jeans and size 38D in bras. Eating disorders have risen dramatically as well as plastic surgery. Despite how impossible it is to have this body, the media seems to be full of women more beautiful than possible. Clothing stores, magazines, ads, etc. everywhere you look you see the images of women you can never be like naturally. Douglass looks at the lie that plastic surgery sells to women. If you do not like how you look (how could you be perfectly happy with your body?) then plastic surgery empowers you to make the change. If you go under the knife, you wake up happy. She explains shows like “The Swan” and their horrifying display of American society. Americans now spend more on plastic surgery then education. This shows clearly what American society is telling us, (just as Abercombie&Fitch did as well) “Who Needs Brains When You Have These?”
From being lean, Douglass moves on to being mean. Douglass admits that women can be absolutely horrible to each other. She gives different examples of female cruelness, such as in the movie Mean Girls. She also thinks that women have been taught by enlightened sexism to be mean to one another.
Her overall message in this chapter is that we need to recognize the paradox of enlightened sexism with body image and personality. If a woman is not flawless than she does not measure up. Girl power means that girls are hungry for power over each other. Women just can’t seem to win.


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