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Thoughts about "The He Hormone"

chelseam's picture

Like venn diagram, my interest was immediately captured by Andrew Sullivan’s “The He Hormone.” I appreciated the information on hormonal differences between males and females, but was frustrated at times by the ways Sullivan used these biological differences to explain differences in the social roles men and women take on. I understand that testosterone levels have an impact on many elements of our personality and behavior, such as an individual’s self-confidence and energy levels. However, using differences in testosterone levels to explain the fact that more men are in politics or powerful business positions than women do, negates the fact that important social factors are also at play.


Sullivan writes, “This ego-driven roulette is almost as highly biased toward the testosteroned as wrestling. So it makes some sense that after almost a century of electorates made up by as many women as men, the number of female politicians remains pathetically small in most Western democracies.” However, he fails to consider potential differences in the ways of candidates are treated by the media and perceived by the public that are influenced by their gender. Sullivan notes earlier in the piece that in studies that deal with the effects of testosterone it is difficult to separate the biological factors with environmental ones, though when it comes time for him to make these types of proclamations about gender roles in our society he relies heavily on the notion that it is the biology that creates differences. I don’t disagree that hormonal levels change the ways we behave and perceive ourselves, but I wish that Sullivan more carefully considered the other elements that could be at play here.



I found this article to be frustrating, but also thought provoking. I found Sullivan’s discussion on fluctuations in T levels during sports games really fascinating. It was interesting to learn more about the physiological and psychological impacts of Testosterone, I just wish that Sullivan extended these impacts to the social sphere more carefully.


On another note, I was catching up on some TV during break and saw this commercial. While perhaps not blatantly offensive, it rubbed me the wrong way and I was wondering if anyone else has a reaction to it.




Gavi's picture

Commercial Follow-up

After watching the commercial, I was primarily bothered by how passively McIvor is portrayed. She doesn’t dress herself; she is stripped and retooled by ghostly brunette women.  Clearly, this process is supposed to be parallel to that of a car’s refinement.  Ghostly engineers work to create a new, sleek exterior that masks the car’s aggressive, reactive engine. I think McIvor’s passivity allows for a determination of elegance that doesn’t bear her, as an individual or as an athlete, in mind.  By the end of the commercial, McIvor is “refined” and she looks pretty uncomfortable, fake wind notwithstanding.  There are many ways in which people can be elegant—maybe for McIvor, elegance comes through skiing, not through the applications of makeup and lacy underwear. Ultimately, I think the commercial bothered me in the sense that I don’t believe people can or should be refined like cars; I don’t believe that what “works for cars” also works for people, because we are complex creatures who should have the ability to determine for ourselves what personal refinement means.

chelseam's picture

The commercial

I think what bothers me about this commercial is that it gets at the balance Wilchins says female athletes are asked to strike. They are supposed to be Women first, athletes second. Given, Acura does have a version of this commercial with Calvin Johnson, a Pro Football player. I'm not sure exactly what to make of this ad campaign, but it didn't work for me.