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Natalie Angier. Woman: An Intimate Geography. CH 14: Wolf Whistles & Hyena Smiles. Media imagery of young girls versus reality Commercials for girls toys (sweet) “first job of being a girl is to survive in a group of girls” Girls are aggressive

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Natalie angier

Natalie Angier

Woman: An Intimate Geography

Ch 14 wolf whistles hyena smiles
CH 14: Wolf Whistles & Hyena Smiles

  • Media imagery of young girls versus reality

  • Commercials for girls toys (sweet)

  • “first job of being a girl is to survive in a group of girls”

  • Girls are aggressive

  • Why describe girls in biological theory as “prosocial”; “verbal, interactive, attentive, amiable”??

Turner s syndrome
Turner’s Syndrome

  • Genetic condition in which a female has only one X chromosome

  • The X thus comes from either the male or the female parent.

  • Girls/women with the X from their fathers are more genial than girls with the X from their mothers.

Turner s cont
Turner’s (cont)

  • Scientists interpreting these data concluded that girls with the paternal X were more girl-like girls

  • those with the maternal X “boylike”

  • How does this follow?

  • Small N study (100)

  • Chromosomal abnormalities are difficult to study under most controlled circumstances

Turners cont
Turners (cont)

  • Angier’s critique is the scientist’s application of social norms to their supposedly scientific research (see pg 262).

  • What about aggression in girls?

  • Male aggression is more obvious?

    • Commit most murders

    • Most muggings

    • Almost 100% of rapes


  • Violence – public health?

  • Degree of physical aggression?

  • Degree of social determination to ignore female aggression?

  • Aggression as a social negative.

Hostess example
Hostess example

  • Guest arrives at home and is offered food or drink

  • Guest refuses

  • Polite interaction?

  • Hostess establishing control? Guest refusing to allow control?

  • Hostess being rejected?

  • Context is key


  • The hormone of aggression?

  • Women have testosterone but much less of it (btw/20-70 nanograms of circulating blood)

  • Production 50/50 adrenal glands and ovaries

  • Men: 400-700 nanograms is normal

  • Production in testes

High t women
High T Women ?

  • Women’s testosterone quotient on the upper end of the female range

  • More dedicated to career, sexually assertive, less interested in children

  • Little evidence for this

  • H: Because women have low levels of testosterone they are sensitive to small variations.

Testosterone the myth
Testosterone the myth?

  • Existing theories of brain sexing:

  • Male brain – testosterone works in utero and then later is activated at puberty

  • Female brain – steady state – no exposure to T prenatally; women reach puberty when estrogen and progesterone begin female specific brain design

  • Angier thinks these arguments are limited.

Alternative view
Alternative view

  • Testosterone may not be what matters during the prenatal imprinting

  • Some believe T that reaches the brain is converted to estrogen and only as estrogen does it impact the brain

  • Which means that estrogen is what counts for the sexing of the brain and thus, aggression

Problems with hormones
Problems with Hormones?

  • Research on hormones is inconclusive at best.

  • Testosterone is presumed to be the hormone of aggression not because the scientific evidence is conclusive but because it seems like a reasonable hypothesis.

  • Hyenas and androstenedione (andro-steen-DIE-own)

  • Hormones don’t cause behavior (influence)

  • Behavior can influence hormones