Holy Hormones Journal: Please let me introduce you to a mentor and a woman’s whose work I highly respect, and who I had the honor to meet at the 2013 Society for Menstrual Cycle Research conference in New York City; Jane Ussher, Professor of Women’s Health Psychology at University of Western Sydney and MamaMia Scientist in Residence, as part of the Australian Science Media Centre’s Program, which places scientists in newsrooms across Australia to enhance the evidence-based content of stories. She is author of ten books, the latest being ‘The Madness of Women: Myth and Experience’.
The concept of “biological inferiority” has kept women victimized – and victims of their bodies for thousands of years. Ussher has written a fabulous article in addressing this issue. However, what has also kept women as biological inferiors is the lack of education about the our endocrine/hormone/menstrual cycle and how changing hormone levels affect our behaviors. These are real issues. And if women do not understand this – they do become ‘hostages’ of their hormone-induced psychological and behavioral changes. This vital information is addressed in my book, Understanding Your Mind, Mood and Hormone Cycle.
Eve Ensler says this well – in one of my favorite quotes from her book, In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and Connection.
“Hysteria – a word to make women feel insane for knowing what they know.”
The menstrual cycle does not make us inferior – it is the lack of education about this cycle and the rhythm of our bodies that keeps us inferior.
Inferior – and a cash cow for the pharmaceutical company and the synthetic hormone steroid suppressants, and psychotropics to keep us suppressed and compliant. It is time to reclaim our body’s, our voices and knowing what we know.
Biological inferiority has historically been used as a justification for
denying the women the vote, the right to own property, or the right to initiate divorce.
Does PMS really make you less reliable?
My experience is not unique. My colleague was following in the footsteps of a long line of men, dismissing a woman through reference to her womb.
Tony Abbott is on record as saying that women will never approach dominance or equal representation in the workplace “because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons”. Translated, this means women are biologically inferior – and we should accept our status as the second sex.
Does this explain why we only have one woman Minister in the current Commonwealth Government? It is not because women are physiologically inferior, but because men in positions of power believe in the myth of ‘raging hormones’ and use it as a justification for keeping women down – or out.
Historically, women were excluded from attending university, and from training as doctors, because of the fear it would drain energy from their wombs. Thinking and menstruating were seen as incompatible. The end of menstruation did not bring equality and freedom. Menopausal women were encouraged by medical experts to lead a quiet and sedentary life, in order to “keep the mind in a calm and complacent mood”. They had to refrain from reading novels, sex, dancing, going to the theatre or to parties, for fear that this would “excite the nervous system and hence endanger the reproductive organs”.
Research has demonstrated that women perform no differently across the menstrual cycle.
In the early 20th century, women were excluded from flying planes, for fear that they would crash in the premenstrual period, despite lack of evidence that this ever happened. More recently, the British Board of Boxing Control were successful in banning women from professional boxing, on the grounds that ‘many women suffer from PMT when they are prone to more accidents, (and) they are more emotional and labile (unstable), which makes them more prone to injury’.
This judgement was overturned on appeal, as it was based on prejudice, not medical evidence. But medical experts sometimes compound the problem. Katrina Dalton, the gynaecologist who first coined the term ‘premenstrual syndrome’ (PMS), claimed that women are more likely to fail exams, crash cars, have accidents, commit suicide, and perform poorly in the workplace, because of their hormones.
Would you promote a woman to a position of power if this was true?
It isn’t. There is no evidence for any of these assumptions. The research studies on which they are based have been demonstrated to be flawed. Subsequent research has demonstrated that women perform no differently across the menstrual cycle. Indeed, some women perform better premenstrually. Women have less accidents in the premenstrual phase of the cycle, and are far less likely to crash a car than men are, regardless of whether they are premenstrual or not. Insurance companies recognise this in the quotes they offer women.