Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sexy Ovulators, Coming Through

According to CNN, U.S. "researchers" (welcomely trumping the much-overused "recent study") have shown that women dress to impress when they are at their most fertile, essentially claiming that evidence of human ovulation may not be as shrouded in mystery (or clothing, for that matter) as we once thought.

A study of young college women showed they frequently wore more fashionable or flashier clothing and jewelry when they were ovulating, as assessed by a panel of men and women looking at their photographs.

"They tend to put on skirts instead of pants, show more skin and generally dress more fashionably," said Martie Haselton, a communication studies and psychology expert at the University of California Los Angeles who led the study.

Of course, it is certainly my nature to be initially skeptical of such things, since I personally have no idea when I'm ovulating (I can feel both my mother and my gynecologist frowning as we speak - "circle those dates on your calendar!"), and my fashion inclinations are primarily governed by whether I'm feeling ambitious or lethargic that day. However, am I really one to argue with science?

Writing in the journal Hormones and Behavior, Haselton and colleagues said their findings disproved the conventional wisdom that women are unique among animals in concealing, even from themselves, when they are most fertile.

Some animals release powerful scents when ready to mate, while others display skin color changes, but human ovulation is notoriously difficult to detect. This is attested to by the frequency of unintended pregnancy, as well as test kits marketed to women wishing to become pregnant but unaware of the likeliest time to conceive.
So I guess we've been stylistically outed. Damn you, H&M and Forever 21, for making those delightfully cheap and trendy clothes we want to wear when our egg is discharging!

MSNBC - strangely enough - expounds upon the brief CNN blurb, to its benefit:
The fertile women did not necessarily dress more provocatively, Haselton noted. "We did see a little bit more skin. It was my impression that the women were just dressing a little bit more fashionably but not sexier."
Well, thank you for explaining the "show[ing] more skin" bit. I suppose that clarification permits a little more insight into the theory. For a minute, the judgmental eye (read: horny teenaged boys and bosses looking to cheat on their wives with their secretaries) would get the impression that we ovulators were running amuck in our cleavage-baring tops and garter-revealing skirts. That certainly doesn't imply anything or anything.
"There’s a popular notion that when women approach menstrual onset, they get out their bloated clothes and they pull out their sweats," she said. "But we didn’t find that to be the case."
Even in the closing, I find myself again at odds with the findings. Clearly, these researchers are not studying the habits of myself or my friends, a population that probably represents a mere small fraction of all the ovulators out there, but still, representative in and of themselves. Unless they are misinterpreting me sporting the black pants during period week as "more stylish," instead of the "potential damage control" that I intend them to be.

See also: Feministing.


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