Breaking the cycle: women are learning to love their hormones

he grand plan, the plan to end the Second World War, was inspired by the docility of Paula Hitler. You don’t hear much about Paula, do you, the lesser-known Hitler, who worked as a secretary while big brother Adolf was upstairs doing the Holocaust? But yes, inspired by Paula, British spies planned to end the war by making Adolf less aggressive. They intended to do this by smuggling oestrogen into his food, thereby turning him into a woman. Hitler had tasters, said Professor Brian Ford of Cardiff University, who discovered the plot, so there was “no mileage to putting poison in his food because they would immediately fall victim to it”. But, “Sex hormones were a different matter.”

In 2006, Haselton started publishing research showing that women do alter their behaviour during “peak fertility”. But she found herself offending two camps: those who rejected the suggestion there is still some animal inside us civilised humans, and those who believe her findings undermine efforts to achieve equality. Tabloids distilled her research into snappy headlines about sex, but today the real news, Haselton believes, is that women’s rights are enhanced, not diminished, “by an increased understanding of how our bodies and minds work”. To learn more, she adds: “We need to get more females into the lab” – as well as more female scientists, more female research participants, more recognition of the cultural bias that treats male bodies and brains as the norm. More education about our bodies’ rhythms and heats, and then a sense of satisfaction, perhaps, when we say: “I’m hormonal.”

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