The Flip Side: Women as Hysterical

This is the first of a two-part series about the short film The Flip Side: Dating.

The Flip Side is series of short movies that “flip” the way we believe women and men act. In these scenarios, men supposedly act like women, and women like men. In the short movie about dating, the scenes are more likely to portray women as hysterical and overly sensitive and men as dirty brutes, even though these scenarios are played out by the opposite gender.

When women are portrayed as unable to control their emotions, there is almost always a hint to the underlying role of biology when explaining the way “women act.” Women are inherently unstable, emotional, needy and hysterical, and men are viewed as distracted, unavailable, emotionless and unfeeling. Just look at the scenarios played out where women act out male stereotypes: they pee on toilet seats, fart in bed, play videogames, are on their phones constantly, and look at other men. But emotional unavailability is not deemed as “embarrassing” as being emotional or sensitive; and, as many find potty humor extremely amusing, these “male traits” are really not portrayed in an unflattering way (just look at the funny commercial depicting Mandles, “candles for manly men”), as the stereotypical “female traits” are.

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William Saletan, George Carlin, and the Decency of Chickens

Image provided courtesy of birdclipart.com

William Saletan recently took on the topic of fetal development and abortion over at Slate. In “Abortion Forever?” he argued that fetal development matters, particularly in the (very rare, he admits) cases of late-term abortion. The differences between an eight-week and a 28-week fetus matter, he says, because “the capacities that make a newborn more significant than a zygote—cognition, interaction, viability—don’t materialize overnight. They develop over many weeks. At some point, they make abortion too much like infanticide.”

Saletan continues this line of reasoning by pointing out that neural development continues for the first three years of life.  He then asks, “[i]f a woman feels that eight, 18, or 28 weeks after birth isn’t too late for her, shouldn’t we trust her judgment?” Sounds like someone’s been reading Unwind!

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Gender Bending Chickens?

Just when you thought science couldn’t get any better, a new article in Nature is about to shake up our ideas of sex and biology.

Contrary to an old view of sexual development, Michael Clinton and his colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh say in the March 11 Nature, individual chicken cells can maintain their own strong male or female identities during development instead of being directed by hormones.

Clinton says his research group ended up considering hormones and sexual identity in the course of studying three peculiar chickens donated to the Roslin Institute. Each bird looked like a rooster on one side, with a long wattle jiggling under its chin, robust legs and bulging muscles. The other half of the same bird — the right side on two birds and the left on the third — had the darker plumage, reduced wattle and dainty ankles of a hen.

Such male-female mashups, called gynandromorphs, have turned up spontaneously in zebra finches, pigeons and parrots as well as in other kinds of animals, Clinton says. These cases challenge the traditional view that genetics takes a back seat to hormonal signals in guiding vertebrate sexual differentiation.

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