Among many, men and women are viewed to be the same, except that women can have babies. Actually, this is the politically correct view. If one does not espouse it in front of a feminist woman, she is likely to have the vapors.
In reality (which many choose to ignore), the sexes are different. One aspect is with respect to hormones. Here is some anecdotal evidence about what they are capable of.
As long as we’re talking about the stereotype about women, let me show you something I’ve been listening to that’s kind of blowing my mind — even though I heard it when it originally aired in 2002 — the recently rebroadcast “Testosterone” episode of “This American Life.” There’s so much fascinating/disturbing material, but I just want to focus on what feels relevant here, which is the interview with a man who had had a medical condition that took his testosterone level to zero. He’s asked “And during those months, how are you behaving? What was different?”
“It wasn’t that I was behaving. It was that I was not behaving at all. I was, when I was awake, literally sitting in bed and staring at the wall with neither interest nor disinterest for three, four hours at a time. If you’d had a camera in the room, you would have thought I was comatose. I would go out. I would buy some groceries early in the morning. And that would be it. My day had no content. I had no interest in even watching TV, much less reading the newspaper or a book. Food– I didn’t want my food to taste good or interesting. And when you’re blessed with that lack of desire, you can eat a loaf of Wonder Bread with mayonnaise. And that will be your day…. People who are deprived of testosterone don’t become Spock-like and incredibly rational. They become nonsensical because they’re unable to distinguish between what is and isn’t interesting, and what is worth noting and what isn’t…. You just have to remember that it doesn’t matter if you have nothing if you want nothing. Very tricky to get inside that mindset. In some ways, it’s difficult for me to even remember it now. But it had its allure.”
Like wow. Who would want to live like that? It is said that testosterone drives men forward to do what they do. This is evidence.
Griffin Hansbury: And I’ve gotten into a lot of arguments with women friends, coworkers who did not know about my past as a female. I call myself a post-feminist. And I had a woman say, you’re not a post-feminist. You’re a misogynist. And I said, that’s impossible. I can’t be a misogynist. I couldn’t explain to her how I had come to this point in my life. And to her, I was just a misogynist. And that’s unfortunate because it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Alex Blumberg:[LAUGHTER] I’ll say. Wow. Testosterone didn’t just turn you into a man. It turned you into Rush Limbaugh.
Griffin Hansbury: I know. That I was not expecting. That I was not expecting. . . .
Alex Blumberg: Or something. Are there other ways– other than the visual and other than the libidinal, are there other ways that you feel like testosterone has altered the way you feel or perceive?
Griffin Hansbury: Something that happened after I started taking testosterone, I became interested in science. I was never interested in science before.
Alex Blumberg: No way. Come on. Are you serious?
Griffin Hansbury: I’m serious. I’m serious.
Alex Blumberg: You’re just setting us back a hundred years, sir.
It’s funny, I was talking to a friend a while back who was very interested in math and science pre-puberty, but lost nearly all interest afterward, and she said, “when the estrogen came in, the science went out.”
Some other stuff in this interview reminds me of my friend (and former editor) Norah Vincent, who lived as a man for a year and wrote a great book, Self-Made Man. She, too, said that as a “bulldyke” woman, she was very masculine, but as a man — in her case, without hormones — she wasn’t all that masculine for a man. And that it was a lot harder to be a man than women think.
Yes, it is more difficult to be a man than women think. And hormones matter. Neither of these truths will be accepted.