“Sandra is really moody today, she must be on her rags.” These kind of comments are still really common, and not very helpful. The stereotypes about a woman being guided solely by her hormones – unable to regulate her own behavior and a bit ‘crazy’ at certain times of the month – have long been used an excuse to denigrate women in general, and are scientifically well off the mark.
However, hormones do play a role in our behavior. According to a Guardian interview with evolutionary scientist Martie Haselton, “Our hormones don’t make us crazy, they don’t make us irrational. They nudge us.” That nudge can lead to some pretty funny situations, as many women themselves are quite happy to admit!
Twitter user “Twinks” decided to share her story recently and asked others to do the same. “What completely irrational things you have done whilst being under the influence of hormones?” The responses are both painfully relatable and rather funny.
Hormonal by Martie Haselton is an in-depth book about women’s hormones and their effects. Continuing with her interview in the Guardian, she says that everybody is hormonal, and it all comes down to one primary urge. “It makes perfect sense that our biology is designed this way,” she says.
“Hormones are signals generated by our brains and glands associated with reproduction in our bodies. The bottom line of evolution is reproduction. We may choose not to reproduce now, and we may have control over that now, but there were millennia where that was the dictating force behind the design of our brains and bodies.”
When asked about the previous ignorance about the impact of hormones on women, Martie said the controlled scientific standards were partly to blame.
“One reason is that scientists were content for many decades with studying the male as the default sex, and that was in part because women had cycles that made them messy,” she explained. “If you are doing a scientific experiment, you don’t want noise, you don’t want variation, you want everything to be strictly controlled.
Some examples of hormones in action include the odours of attraction when a woman is ovulating. “Samples of tampons collected near ovulation were rated as more attractive then samples collected during any other point in the cycle,” Haselton writes, noting that many animals emit attractive odours to beckon mates when fertile.
Haselton also debunks the myth about menstrual cycles ‘synching’ when women live together. “The reason that it’s so easy to think that menstrual synchrony exists in humans is because “normal” cycles among a group of women can easily overlap – and appear to converge,” she explains.
Check out Haselton’s book for more fascinating information about this important, but misunderstood topic, and enjoy the rest of the stories!