Archives for posts with tag: Natalie Angier

Live Science, a website based on scientific news, published an article this past summer on the male brain. The article, “10 Things Every Woman Should Know About a Man’s Brain”, attempts to debunk/explain 10 behaviors commonly associated with “men”. Many of the behaviors have been labeled as more masculine already, but this article also gives the biological basis for these behaviors.  The article associates many behaviors with testosterone, which Angier writes about extensively in her book. Aggression, competition, commitment, and aging are addressed in this article. The aggression and competition are explained by high testosterone levels. The article labels the  competition, specifically protecting one’s assets, the “defend my turf” part of the brain. This “fact of the male brain” is accompanied by a photo of a fighter wielding a weapon in front of fields. Different behaviors associated with commitment are also explained by different levels of testosterone. Apparently, aging and wanting to get married are caused by lowering testosterone levels in men. Nothing else seems to explain male behaviors, according to the writers of the website.

Does anybody else see the girl's expression?

Evolutionary psychology, which Angier also discusses in her book, seems to also be a great influence on this article. All of the things that a “woman should know about a man’s brain” deal with commitment issues and family life. Fathering is mentioned and of course explained by lowering testosterone levels. Women have no need to worry about men wanting to get married, and they can rely on men to defend their land and be emotional as well. The authors of the different things seem to adhere to the ideals of evolutionary psychology, appealing women to relationships and love.

-Eleanor Stevenson

After reading sections of Natalie Angier’s Woman: An Intimate Geography, I was reminded of recent news broadcasts and articles depicting girl-on-girl fighting. Girl fights make headline news. It is not considered normal for girls to be fighting physically. Girls still do not often engage in physical fights, according to Angier. The accessibility of video cameras has caused high school girl fights to go viral through internet forums such as You Tube, MySpace and Facebook. Female aggression is usually seen through passive aggressive behaviors that, unlike most male arguments, are unusually cruel and can last for years. Girls are tormented mentally and emotionally rather than physically by means of profanity and facial expressions. “If looks could kill,” is a phrase used to describe the evil glares of many women. Moreover, victims are not only teased relentlessly at school but on the internet as well through cyber bullying.

Female aggression is ordinarily indirect. Girls use verbal aggression against the undesirable by calling them nasty names to their face, yelling and mocking to try to make the despised one look stupid, as said by Angier. Perhaps it is because girls “know how powerful the words are, how significant the other is.” Girls are often snubbed by one another through backbiting, gossiping, and spreading vicious rumors. This is most commonly due to jealousy or betrayal. The aggressor often rallies others against the despised. Girls frequently attack in gangs as well. This indirect aggression is, at times, a sign of sophistication because the more socially intelligent are cleverer with their “dorsal blade.” However, research has revealed that men and women are equally aggressive verbally. Both gossip and covertly undermine their opponent. Unfortunately, adulthood does not mean the end of “high school” maliciousness and passive aggressive bullying.

When words are no longer enough, many girls resort to fighting. A CBS News article reports on “a growing problem of teenage girls letting disputes with one another turn violent.” They are highly encouraged to physically fight by viewers (male and female), both physically and virtually. Girls teasing one another have led to psychological trauma as well as physical. Girls are taking an “extra step” and “fighting dirty.” In some extreme cases, many suicides have been a direct result of female bullying. The article suggests that society is becoming “numb to violence.” I sincerely hope that is not the case. Evidentially, it is no longer safe to say that females are any less aggressive than males. Females have “caught up.”

It is sickening to see the viciousness of many high school girls today. I am appalled that the fights are posted on the internet. This allows the torment to be seen and commented on by millions; undoubtedly, increasing the damage done because it can be replayed over and over again. It is unfortunate that situations escalate to physical aggression in both males and females. It is also unfortunate that even words can have physical affects. Thankfully, direct and indirect aggression is condemned.

In addition to Angier’s book, the following link was referenced:

Melissa Brake

Feminist Versus Woman, Cat fight!

Am I psychologically fucked by the stereotypes that society and our culture have cultivated? I asked myself this question as I reflected on Natalie Angier’s “Woman”, particularly, as I grazed the pages of chapter eighteen: Of Hoggamus and Hogwash. Oh, the chapter of love. I’m a feminist, and while this obviously doesn’t mean that I am opposed to love or relationships, I feel like it should have meant that I could read Angier’s piece objectively instead of searching through her words and trying to “read between the lines” of her text in order to find the answers to my failed relationships and subpar love life. I wanted Angier, as a heterosexual feminist speaking about love, to once and for all provide me with the solution to our dichotomized, chauvinistic culture and say, “You know what, reader, you were right. Love is not a social construction, but men and relationships suck; it’s just how it is.”

Also, at times during the text I interpreted Angier’s words and the content of this chapter as if she was going through the same struggle. For example, on page 354, Angier begins her critique of evolutionary psychology by questioning the reader about their feelings about marriage in correlation to the way in which different species bond when she says, “Do you feel like a vole? A macaque? A canary, perhaps? Were you born to bond? Do you know? I surely don’t.” At this point, the voice inside my head as I read was saying, “Oh, Natalie, girl, I feel you’re pain. What’s a feminist to do or feel about marriage?” I felt ridiculous and almost shameful for being educated about common sense notions about gender and still attempting to locate a solid answer to my man-problems in a feminist text. Instead of reading Angier’s brilliant, feminist text, I was reading the opposite: a Cosmo. The reading voice in my head turned from the objective, scholarly voice to the voice of a swooning woman who lives only to find the man of her dreams.

But, before I got too caught up in shaming myself, I had to ask myself, why this was so. I found myself thinking about Simone De Beauvoir’s famous quote, “One is not born a woman, but  becomes a woman”. Taking this quote a step further, I realized that I may have found the epicenter of my conflictions; “Yes, One becomes a woman, but One chooses to be a feminist”.  Being a feminist in our society is extremely multifaceted, not only does one need to sort out their feminist beliefs, but they also may have to leave some common sensical notions behind that society has caused us to internalize. Leaving these stereotypes behind is not always easy because it leaves one with a seemingly blank canvas, which can be quite uncomfortable. I have attributed my abrupt shift in my attitude from objective to subjective during Angier’s piece to this concept of confliction: As a woman I believe that love and marriage are quite desirable, and almost “the way life is supposed go” (in heterosexual time, as Butler describes it), but as a feminist and as a queer theorist I believe that they are not necessary, innate measures and am open to questioning the behaviors of men and women as biological beings, just as Angier.

In conclusion, my initial judgment of myself may have been harsh, but I am definitely not psychologically fucked. Good to know, huh? And maybe the better question to ask  is “Is Psychology fucked? “. I am, however, simultaneously, a by-product of society categorized as “woman”, and a feminist who is attempting to disrupt the norms. It’s really the most infamous cat fight of all.

-Katie Schaffer