OK, I’ve mangled the line by Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, but a recent news story put that quote in mind — but with a twist.
Scientists writing for the Journal of Neuroscience discovered that giving men a dose of the hormone oxytocin gave them “markedly higher levels of empathy — of a similar magnitude to those only usually seen in women who are naturally more sensitive to the feelings of others.” Oxytocin, sometimes called the “cuddle chemical,” is also responsible for inducing labor in women and stimulating the sense of intense bonding after both sex and breast-feeding.
In short, a dose of oxytocin made the male subjects more like women. (Unsaid in the study is that these same male subjects suddenly all wanted to go to the powder room at the same time and to put kitty posters on their bedroom walls. They were also markedly reluctant to kill spiders and other icky things.)
Now, the scientists involved in the study are not trying to turn men into women. They’re hoping to create a drug for schizophrenics and autistic children to help them connect emotionally with others. But the news of the study was greeted almost universally as a way to make men more like women — the exact opposite of Professor Higgins’ admittedly chauvinistic desire.
But chauvinism is chauvinism. Can you imagine if someone came up with a way to make women more aggressive or reticent in expressing their feelings — in other words, more like men? How would that be greeted? I doubt with the same enthusiasm and humor as this oxytocin development.
Why does it seem that men are always seen as somehow flawed, in need of feminizing to make them right? It’s a meme seen frequently in our culture, in everything from the doofus dad to the hapless man surrounded by competent women seen in movies and sitcoms to school playgrounds. Why can’t we be happy with men and women the way God created them — to complement each other, not to be the same? After all, someone has to get that spider in the corner.