In “The Masculine Mystique of T” by Katrina Karkazis, she goes through a very brief history of the discovery of and early scientific research on the hormone and how the general public has reacted to it since. It is worth noting that Testosterone and its effects are an extremely complex and subjective thing to study, thus, the early accounts of what it can do to a men’s body has been largely accepted by people: “They are stories that reinforce shop-worn ideas of male-female difference and attribute those differences to T.” It is through these stories that the hierarchical gap between men and women begin to increase. One man who has taken T, Griffin Hansbury, recounted what it was like: “Everything I looked at, everything I touched, turned to sex… Xerox machine became erotic, as did a red Mustang convertible that caused a jolt in my pants, this was very physical, visceral, sexual reaction.”
Throughout this entire reading, I couldn’t help but wonder if an extensive placebo effect testing has ever been done with T. Karkazis mentions that a double-blind placebo testing was done, but does not specify just how much effort went into it. Things like taking extra hormones and how it makes you feel is such a subjective topic, there is no way to know whether or not people are exaggerating their stories. I know personally, that the effects of taking birth control, which contain the hormones estrogen and progestin, vary wildly from woman to woman. So how is it possible that the early accounts of T are all so similar? Stories like those are what has led society to begin viewing people with lower levels of T, i.e. women, as second-class citizens.
In the article, the topic of competitiveness between men and women was touched upon, and this resonated with me, as I’ve done extensive research into this for a previous class. The psychologist Cordelia Fine mentions that men seem like they naturally excel in certain fields because of how society defines and measures competition. In 2007, an experiment was conducted by economists Muriel Niederle and Lise Vesterlund where they asked both men and women to answer as many simple addition problems as they could. For each correct answer, they earned 50 cents. The experiment found that on average men and women correctly solved about the same number of problems. They then randomly grouped two men and two women together, and gave them the option of either doing the solo math exercise again or participate in a competition. If they solved more problems than the other three members of their group, they’ll get $2 each for it. Nearly 80% of top scoring men chose the competition and only 31% of top scoring women did. And for this reason, the winners were overwhelmingly men. The researchers revisited their experiment years later, only this time they imposed a quota, at least one of the winners had to be a woman, to win the competition, women only had to defeat each other. And the economists found that for some psychological reasons, women are much more likely and happier to compete with each others. The percentage of women that chose the competition rose from 31% to over 80%.
The results of this experiment proved that when it comes to competition, especially in the job market, men are not even competing in a fair match. Because it is likely that most women disqualify themselves before the competition even begin. And I think all of this stems from the decades of oppression that women have endured and the awareness that their male counterpart will most likely be chosen over them regardless, so there really is no need for them to even compete in a match that they might be capable of winning.
-- works cited --
Karkazis, Katrina. “The Masculine Mystique of T.” The New York Review of Books (blog), June 28, 2018. https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/06/28/the-masculine-mystique-of-t/.