You ever meet another woman and, even if you can't put your finger on why, there's something about her you just don't trust? Well, science has supposedly explained why women feel suspcious that other women are trying to steal their men — and the verdict is that it's biology. A recent study of 220 females showed participants two photos of women. The woman in one picture was ovulating, while the woman in the other was not. The participants were then asked which of the two females was likelier to try to "steal their date." The participants who were at the point in their cycles where they had higher estrogen more commonly picked the picture of the ovulating woman. But can we really draw any general conclusions from this study? It's more than a little problematic, and for a wide variety of reasons, at that.
While the findings are interesting, there are also some major drawbacks to a study like this. For starters, a pool of 220 women isn't really representative of the whole — and even less so due to the heterosexual bent of the study (according to the paper, the inspiration for the study was figuring out whether "fertile women might pose a reproductive threat" to other women). What about all the women spanning the beautifully diverse LGBTQA+ spectrum? What would the results of a more diverse pool of participants have shownn? I understand that the whole point of this study is to simplify emotions to biology; but the downside is... you're trying to simplify emotions to biology. Is there not more at play here?
To be clear, I'm not saying that biology and ovulation don't play any role. Other studies have found that men are more attracted to women during the time the women are ovulating. They can even detect our fertility in our body odor. Janek Lobmaier, who headed the current study, theorizes that it comes down to competition: When our estrogen levels are stronger, we are on high alert when we encounter a fertile women, because we're aware of our mate's innate desire to reproduce. This is the biological level. More superficially, Lobmaier is saying that these hormonal actions can manifest as jealousy and dislike toward other women.
But does this all seem a little bit too black and white to anyone else? I think we all already agree that hormones fill a huge role; but now we're trying to use science to pit women against each other even more than our culture already does? In my opinion, the analysis of this study's results serve to reinforce some rather annoying gender stereotypes. Men already think women are crazy. Women already think women are crazy. I can just picture some guy reading this study and saying, "See? See??!?!?! I TOLD YOU!!!!" I can understand why people would view this research as a good thing, because women do experience an emotion of roller coasters at the hands of their hormones; but I can't help but feel that the study also plays into the stereotypical model of "that crazy jealous, stupid insecure chick who constantly thinks her boyfriend is cheating on her."
Also, let's not forget that it takes two to tango. If we're going to take into consideration the results of this study, then we must also look at the studies demonstrating that, once again, men do react differently to estrogen-high women. Research has indeed shown that men who encounter fertile women make riskier decisions, behave in a way to mimic the fertile woman, and overall demonstrate a higher motivation to mate. Thus, I think it simplifies things a bit too much to say that a woman's jealously of another fertile woman lay in the hands of females alone, when in actuality, much of this behavior could be in response to men.
I think the takeaway here is that something as complex and multi-facted as human interaction can never, will never, be reduced to any single factor. People are complicated creatures, and reducing all those layers down to just one thing isn't helping anyone.
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