If male's brains turn out to be larger, that will 
be portrayed as another "proof" of intelligence 
by those who have a vested interest in doing so.
If female's brains turn out to be larger, that 
will be portrayed as another "proof" of female 
loquaciousness which causes brains to expand, and 
of male brains being "tight", "compact," sleek and ready for action.
I am posting here Gloria Steinem's great article, 
"If Men Could Menstruate," which dissects this whole approach.

- Mitchel

(from her 1986 book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday 
Rebellions, which is an update of the original 
article she wrote for Ms. in 1978)

by Gloria Steinem

Living in India made me understand that a white 
minority of the world has spent centuries conning 
us into thinking a white skin makes people 
superior, even though the only thing it really 
does is make them more subject to ultraviolet rays and wrinkles.

Reading Freud made me just as skeptical about 
penis envy. The power of giving birth makes "womb 
envy" more logical, and an organ as external and 
unprotected as the penis makes men very vulnerable indeed.

But listening recently to a woman describe the 
unexpected arrival of her menstrual period (a red 
stain had spread on her dress as she argued 
heatedly on the public stage) still made me 
cringe with embarrassment. That is, until she 
explained that, when finally informed in whispers 
of the obvious event, she said to the all-male 
audience, "and you should be proud to have a 
menstruating woman on your stage. It's probably 
the first real thing that's happened to this group in years."

Laughter. Relief. She had turned a negative into 
a positive. Somehow her story merged with India 
and Freud to make me finally understand the power 
of positive thinking. Whatever a "superior" group 
has will be used to justify its superiority, and 
whatever and "inferior" group has will be used to 
justify its plight. Black me were given poorly 
paid jobs because they were said to be "stronger" 
than white men, while all women were relegated to 
poorly paid jobs because they were said to be 
"weaker." As the little boy said when asked if he 
wanted to be a lawyer like his mother, "Oh no, 
that's women's work." Logic has nothing to do with oppression.

So what would happen if suddenly, magically, men 
could menstruate and women could not?

Clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event:

Men would brag about how long and how much.

Young boys would talk about it as the envied 
beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious 
ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day.

To prevent monthly work loss among the powerful, 
Congress would fund a National Institute of 
Dysmenorrhea. Doctors would research little about 
heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally 
protected, but everything about cramps.

Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and 
free. Of course, some men would still pay for the 
prestige of such commercial brands as Paul Newman 
Tampons, Muhammad Ali's Rope-a-Dope Pads, John 
Wayne Maxi Pads, and Joe Namath Jock Shields- "For Those Light Bachelor Days."

Statistical surveys would show that men did 
better in sports and won more Olympic medals during their periods.

Generals, right-wing politicians, and religious 
fundamentalists would cite menstruation 
("men-struation") as proof that only men could 
serve God and country in combat ("You have to 
give blood to take blood"), occupy high political 
office ("Can women be properly fierce without a 
monthly cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be 
priests, ministers, God Himself ("He gave this 
blood for our sins"), or rabbis ("Without a 
monthly purge of impurities, women are unclean").

Male liberals and radicals, however, would insist 
that women are equal, just different; and that 
any woman could join their ranks if only she were 
willing to recognize the primacy of menstrual 
rights ("Everything else is a single issue") or 
self-inflict a major wound every month ("You must 
give blood for the revolution").

Street guys would invent slang ("He's a three-pad 
man") and "give fives" on the corner with some 
exchenge like, "Man you lookin' good!"

"Yeah, man, I'm on the rag!"

TV shows would treat the subject openly. (Happy 
Days: Richie and Potsie try to convince Fonzie 
that he is still "The Fonz," though he has missed 
two periods in a row. Hill Street Blues: The 
whole precinct hits the same cycle.) So would 
newspapers. (Summer Shark Scare Threatens 
Menstruating Men. Judge Cites Monthlies In 
Pardoning Rapist.) And so would movies. (Newman and Redford in Blood Brothers!)

Men would convince women that sex was more 
pleasurable at "that time of the month." Lesbians 
would be said to fear blood and therefore life 
itself, though all they needed was a good menstruating man.

Medical schools would limit women's entry ("they 
might faint at the sight of blood").

Of course, intellectuals would offer the most 
moral and logical arguements. Without the 
biological gift for measuring the cycles of the 
moon and planets, how could a woman master any 
discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, 
mathematics-- or the ability to measure anything 
at all? In philosophy and religion, how could 
women compensate for being disconnected from the 
rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of 
symbolic death and resurrection every month?

Menopause would be celebrated as a positive 
event, the symbol that men had accumulated enough 
years of cyclical wisdom to need no more.

Liberal males in every field would try to be 
kind. The fact that "these people" have no gift 
for measuring life, the liberals would explain, should be punishment enough.

And how would women be trained to react? One can 
imagine right-wing women agreeing to all these 
arguements with a staunch and smiling masochism. 
("The ERA would force housewives to wound 
themselves every month": Phyllis Schlafly)

In short, we would discover, as we should 
already, that logic is in the eye of the 
logician. (For instance, here's an idea for 
theorists and logicians: if women are supposed to 
be less rational and more emotional at the 
beginning of our menstrual cycle when the female 
hormone is at its lowest level, then why isn't it 
logical to say that, in those few days, women 
behave the most like the way men behave all month 
long? I leave further improvisation up to you.)

The truth is that, if men could menstruate, the 
power justifications would go on and on.

If we let them.

At 07:49 AM 7/6/2007, you wrote:
>At 01:25 AM 7/6/2007, you wrote:
>>In the thread on sociobiology, I said in 
>>response to Ivan that I think we must 
>>acknowledge the possibility that our opponents 
>>in various debates are right, otherwise we are 
>>not doing science. If there are differences in 
>>male and female brains, and if those 
>>differences reflect some differences in 
>>cognition--emphasis on spatial versus verbal 
>>talents, that sort of thing--what of it? Must 
>>the fight for equality between men and women be 
>>based solely on the conclusion that there are 
>>no differences between the sexes nor their 
>>brains? If so, our ideology might be resting on 
>>very fragile ground. In other words, special 
>>pleading is something that both left and right can be guilty of.
>         Probably, in contrast to some on this 
> ListServe, I agree with what you say in this 
> paragraph in principle.  But, I could also say 
> how do we know the "Intelligent Design" people 
> aren't right.  Shouldn't we take them 
> seriously?   I am sure there are differences 
> between male and female brains, but at this 
> stage of knowledge, we know nothing about what 
> those mean for issues of gender differences in 
> behavior.  And we don't know, if the 
> differences have some significance, whether 
> those differences are fixed (unlikely) or 
> subject to change.  We certainly don't know 
> enough to even consider what those changes 
> might be, at least on the basis of structural 
> or other differences.  So exactly what is it 
> that we are supposed to take seriously?
>         So, at that stage of a "science",  so 
> much speculation or worse on "we now know" that 
> women are different from men with implications 
> of fixity, goes way beyond the science and, 
> whether consciously or not, reflects the bias 
> of the researcher.  I ask again, give us some 
> instances of science in this area that we 
> should take seriously.  I look at the 
> occasional paper that seems to attract 
> attention on this issue, and I can't see the 
> evidence for the claims that are made. (I do 
> it, because I am willing to accept that 
> something may come out of such studies.)  They 
> are mainly of the sort, there are differences 
> in brain structure or brain responses, 
> therefore, women can't do math as well as men, 
> etc.  Do you know of any better arguments than 
> these blatantly (if subconsciously-driven) ideological arguments?
>         Again, I accept the possibility that 
> there are differences, differences that may or 
> may not be remediable by better teaching 
> methods, etc.  The differences may be even in 
> the opposite direction from what is being 
> claimed on the argument, for example, that 
> women have been so discriminated against that, 
> if given better socio-cultural conditions they 
> would be "superior" (whatever that means).  The 
> sociological, psychological literature on 
> issues such as parental and teacher 
> expectations, etc. etc. etc. influencing 
> male/female differences in different test 
> performances is vast, probably orders of 
> magnitude larger than those on biological 
> factors.  (Numbers of publications doesn't 
> prove those arguments are correct, but in this 
> age of the genome the very weak, at best, 
> biological arguments receive far more attention 
> than the numerous sociological, cultural, psychological arguments.)
>                                 Jon
>Jon Beckwith
>Dept. of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
>Harvard Medical School
>200 Longwood Ave.
>Boston, MA 02115
>Tel. 617-432-1920
>FAX 617-738-7664
>e-mail [log in to unmask]
>website <>
>Recent books and articles:
>My book, a memoir entitled: Making Genes, Making 
>Waves: A Social Activist in Science, Harvard 
>University Press, 2002.
>Copies conformes ou copies qu'on forme ? J. 
>Beckwith. Sciences et Avenir Hors-SÚrie #149, p.71 (2006)
>Should we make a fuss? A case for social 
>responsibility in science. F. Huang and J. 
>Beckwith, Nature Biotechnology. 23:1479-1480 (2005).
>Whither Human Behavioral Genetics, J. Beckwith in Wrestling with
>Behavioral Genetics: Ethics, Science, and Public 
>Conversation, eds. E. Parens, A. Chapman and N. 
>Press.  Johns Hopkins University Press (2005)