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Amy Spies Headshot

Smart Men, Foolish Choices: Testosterone Rules?

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I have become increasingly aware of how little I understand men -- how they operate, what drives them. 'You have no idea how much men are led by their...' my very significant other said to me at the dinner table (not for the first time). But this time, it was about John Edwards' choices: while his wife fought cancer, he embraced his political ('you look mahvelous') self and his narcissism-enabling, 'I can make you feel even better about yourself than you already do' been there-done that lover.

Okay, I understand that I don't understand. I learned awhile back -- even before it became a book and cliche -- that 'men are from Mars'. But what I don't get is why men being driven by sexual joneses in their lives to self-destructive behavior that nukes their families and their presidential careers has not been even discussed a tenth as much as women's hormonal cycles.

When I was starting my film/writing career, there were always the jokes when women would express themselves -- 'is it that time of the month?' etc. Often, these 'difficult women' would end up without paychecks. I know cases where 'difficult women' were told their jobs had terminated right when their pregnancies did --a s they gave birth, the call would come from the CEO: 'You're fired'. But when men in power flirted and often promoted attractive, usually younger women, there was almost never the comparable commentary ('his hormones are influencing his behavior'). In fact, men's testosterone has often been used as a double-edged (pardon the expression) sword: the thinking goes: yeah, sure men are ruled and driven by their sexual drive but that's what got us where we are, keeps the human race procreating and our CEOs/political (mostly male) leaders on their game. That argument enables men in power, letting them have their hormonal self-indulgence and well, eat it too.

So what about giving women's hormones equal time? Maybe PMS and menopause fortify women, enable them to quickly handle changing moods of foreign leaders, shifting emotional tides of the times. Men think with their sex and that supposedly makes them prepared for war, but how 'bout women's maternal instinct and nurturing preparing them for peace and working things out?

I think of male U.S. Presidents (sadly, a redundancy to date). I think of the reckless behavior of JFK sharing a lover with a mob boss, of Bill Clinton acting like the Oval Office was a school library where it'd be fun to sneak in some no-no sophomoric sex, of Presidential hopefuls Gary Hart and John Edwards blowing their Presidential and save the poor and world hopes on well, blowing their own horns.

This testosterone is supposed to be leader-friendly, but why are women's emotionally connection-seeking hormones dismissed as less than? Why is a woman under the hormonal influence seen as difficult, when a man surging with testosterone determined strong and electable? Both genders are influenced by raging hormones, or lack thereof.

I understand that no one is perfect. XY and XX have hormone-induced wins and losses. I look forward to seeing a woman leader strut her hormonal stuff in the big leagues with the same level of tolerance and appreciation that has been given to the male political peacocks.