Are We Really “More Like Mammals”? Adding to the recent evolutionary psychology trend, the study of “relationship maintenance,” an experiment conducted at Florida State University revealed some new things about how males react to ovulating women. According to the results, single males find fertile women more attractive, and men who are in a relationship with another woman find them less attractive. John Tierney of the New York Times wrote about it at length, taking it upon himself to draw quite a few conclusions from the bit of data available. Like, the men in relationships didn’t find the woman as good-looking as the others did, “…presumably because at some level they sensed she then posed the greatest threat to their long-term relationships. To avoid being enticed to stray, they apparently told themselves she wasn’t all that hot anyway.” This seems a bit dicey, because really, who knows why they didn’t find the woman attractive? They weren’t asked. Tierney goes on try to make sense of this, saying,
“Natural selection favored those who stayed together long enough to raise children: the men and women who could sustain a relationship by keeping their partners happy. They would have benefited from the virtue to remain faithful, or at least the wiliness to appear faithful while cheating discreetly.”
Libby Copeland at Slate’s XX Factor points out, though, that other evolutionary psychologists have posited that women want mates who are stable providers, while men just want to spread their seed. Hence, it seems that Tierney is attempting to have it both ways — which is kind of weird and contradictory. Copeland writes,
“But those are two entirely different scenarios. It’s one thing for the male subjects in the Florida State study not to find the ovulating woman attractive; another to find her attractive and want to cheat with her discreetly. If we can’t trust that this study distinguishes between those two desires, what conclusions can we really draw? How much can we believe that we’re seeing into the minds of these male subjects?”
Tierney’s article also cites previous “relationship maintenance” research, that has shown that when women are fertile, they’re “more interested in going to parties and dance clubs,” they dress better, and if they work at strip clubs, they make better tips. They are also more turned off by their partner if he is not that sexually attractive, and will want to shop around for another sex partner to make more attractive babies. “But this sort of infidelity is risky if the woman’s unsexy long-term partner finds out and leaves her alone to raise the child. So it makes sense for her to limit her risks by being unfaithful only at those times she’s fertile.”
Though this is supported by some data, mainly that women are hornier right before their period, it seems to me that Tierney is taking a lot of liberties in his interpretation of it — especially for a journalist, not a scientist. Is this article meant to prove that both men and women want to “spread their seed,” as it were? Or is it just a mix of overzealousness with a pinch of lofty but largely unfounded statements?
Ann Friedman Founds Website Dedicated to Women’s Writings: As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, female journalists are grossly underrepresented in big publications like the New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review, etc. And while the stats that prove it, which VIDA, a women’s literary organization, compiled, made headlines and got women in the field sufficiently riled up, it seemed that unless you were a bigwig editor there wasn’t much you could do but keep writing. Alas! Ann Friedman, former deputy editor of the American Prospect and current freelance writer, realized that — but she also realized that by gathering the best of recent nonfiction writing by women and putting it all in one place, that just might be the extra push editors need to hire more female journalists. So she started the Tumblr Lady Journos! Hooray for women like Friedman who won’t take “inequality” for an answer — especially when the talent is out there, it just hasn’t been fully recognized yet.
Women’s Rights Are Bittersweet In Tunisia: It’s certainly worth celebrating the state of womankind in Tunisia. They have more rights than any other women in the Arab world: they were one of the first Arab countries to grant women the right to vote, they acquired abortion rights the same year as U.S. women, polygamy is against the law, more Tunisian women graduate from university than men, the ratio of male-to-female seats in Tunisia’s Parliament is more in favor of females than in France’s Parliament, and “miniskirts as common a sight as the Muslim head scarf in Tunis’s cityscape,” as Katrin Bennhold writes for the NYTimes. Still, their many advances toward equality doesn’t completely protect women from many of the groups that seek to oppress them. “The big unknown in Tunisia, Egypt and beyond is how fundamentalist — and how popular — Islamist groups who in the past were no friends of women’s rights still are,” Bennhold writes, referring to Iran and Afghanistan as Arab countries whose women once dressed like Westerners (Iran) and were allowed to attend college (Afghanistan). But hopefully in the case of Tunisia, where women have been educated and granted equal opportunities for decades, they won’t stand for any kind of reversal of their rights.
Also: You can click here to find out how your Congressional representative voted on the bill to defund Planned Parenthood. AND THEN you can send him/her a personalized thank you message from the PP website. (That is, if they voted against it.) So don’t be shy! It’s important to thank our politicians once in a while when they do good things — so they can keep doing them.