by Christopher Lewarne
An Article published in Scientific American this week demystified a commonly held colloquialism – Rachel and Ross knew it, Monica and Chandler certainly knew it (ok, Phoebe and Joey didn’t know it, but they were kinda clueless): men and women can’t be “just F•R•I•E•N•D•S“.
The article, according prolific feminist blogger Elizabeth Plank, was “hilariously accurate.” She quotes the study:
“Men were more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them—a clearly misguided belief. In fact, men’s estimates of how attractive they were to their female friends had virtually nothing to do with how these women actually felt, and almost everything to do with how the men themselves felt—basically, males assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual, and were blind to the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends. Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual. As a result, men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.”
While the merits of the study have been questioned because of its small sample size, what’s interesting is what motivated the study in the first place – the need to ask the question at all. I think most of us intuitively feel that we can maintain platonic friendships with members of the opposite sex, even – gasp! – the attractive ones. But the need to ask if men and women can be “Just Friends” comes from a particular heteronormative discourse about male vs. female sexuality. It’s a discourse that’s conjured (or maybe revealed) by the reactions elicited by the study. What followed the Scientic American article initially were the suspected remarks by the usual suspects: men making evolutionary and biological arguments to justify their skewed sexual egoism. Read more
by Jasmine Peterson
I have long been disdainful of the idea that having a menstrual cycle renders me, or any woman, moody and unpredictable once every month. This widely-accepted cultural idea of women’s emotionality is problematic in so many ways: it can result in dismissing women’s voices, overlooking women for positions because they’re perceived as less emotionally stable than men (even though men are also susceptible to hormonal fluctuations), and brushing off legitimate concerns as nothing more than a PMS-related mood swing.
At the same time, I think a lot of women latch onto this notion that emotionally-charged reactions can be related to their menstrual cycle because it provides an excuse for otherwise “unladylike” behaviour. If a woman is upset and reacts angrily (to actually upsetting circumstances), sometimes it’s easier to blame an angry outburst on hormonal fluctuations like PMS than to acknowledge that we’re not always submissive, calm, nurturing, level-headed ladies. It can excuse us from otherwise being labeled a bitch.
I don’t want to delegitimize any woman’s personal experiences with PMS. I do not disbelieve that women experience physical symptoms around the time of menstruation such as bloating, cramping, cravings, and headaches. I don’t disbelieve that many perceive themselves to be moodier or more emotional during this time, either. But I wonder how much of this is due to an actual increase in emotionality, and how much is related to the cultural construction of PMS as the time of the month in which it is not only acceptable to be moody, but expected.
Are women actually moodier, or do they just perhaps allow themselves to be more emotionally expressive than at other times, because PMS excuses emotional expressiveness? Read more
Gender Focus welcomes guest contributor Bianca. Bianca is a Calgary blogger who loves to write. She is interested in knowledge – especially trying to understand our world in a rational way. She is currently exploring the work of biologist Jeremy Griffith, who is addressing these deeper questions and it’s explaining a lot to her! You can read a review here.
A person’s teenage years are a time of evolution. You go through a lot of changes as a result of your human nature – both emotional and physical ones. It isn’t an easy process for any person to go through. However, I had an especially difficult time because not only was I a teenager growing up in Calgary, I was a lesbian.
Calgary was probably one of the worst cities to grow up as a lesbian. Now the situation has drastically changed and Canadian society has become far more accepting, but when I was in high school I felt very alone and angry at the world. I had known I was a lesbian ever since I was twelve years old. Around that time a lot of my friends began dating, had their first kiss, and so on. I kept trying to be interested in the male qualities women were supposed to be attracted to – tall, dark, and handsome, that sort of thing, but I always found my female friends to be far more appealing in terms of their looks as well as the emotional connection it was possible to develop with a woman.
I finally gave up the charade and admitted to myself that I was a lesbian. That was the difficult part. However, the uncomfortable part was telling my family. That is why I waited three years to break the news. They were complete, by-the-book Christians, which didn’t make them the ideal audience. I thought when I told them they would be angry, but it was the complete opposite. I almost wish they were angry. They tried to reason with me, convince me that I was just confused, that what I was feeling was against human nature. I tried to counter their argument by saying that homosexuality occurs everywhere in human nature as well as the natural world. I mean, ¾ of giraffes have homosexual relationships and male penguins have been known to mate for life! This was to no avail. Read more