Hormonal and Dysfunctional?

Throughout history, one of the reasons women have been considered “inferior” is the seeming irrationality in them, especially when they are actively “hormonal.” Women have been laughed at (and have learned to laugh at themselves) for this apparent weakness. Early medical understanding of afflictions such as migraines and hysteria (same etymology as “uterus”!) were blamed on female hormones and their unpredicability. A man with a high-sex drive was considered normal; a woman earned the label nymphomaniac.

The professional world of work, albeit embracing a growing female work-force, continues to take its cues from the same line of thinking. A female boss is considered bitchy and hormonal when she cracks the whip (and trust me, I have been on the receiving end of female bitchiness) but a male counterpart is just considered “with it.” It is “unprofessional” to be emotional, high-pitched, or God-forbid, teary, in a corporate work-environment. (But it is quite OK for a man to be angry and cuss when an important contract has been lost.)

Equity issues aside, I have been mulling over the impact of hormones on female sensibilities not just from a physical, but also from a metaphysical point of view. Let’s first acknowledge and accept that we are often impacted by our raging, cyclical and roller-coaster hormones. So what does that do to the validity of our thoughts and feelings during such times? Should we discard them as bogus, since they are off the “normal,” the so-called rational? Trained well by our social conditioning, as well as having inherited a dominant intellectual disposition, I have routinely told myself to set aside reactionary thoughts and feelings during PMS or other hormonal fluctuations, and wait for things to calm down before responding to the aggravating or exciting situation in any way. Thus I have intellectualized away my feelings to be closer to the ideal – “rational.”

Recently, some experts have begun talking about the value of the female psyche and attributes in the workplace. These people are positing the uncommon view that biologically female attributes such as higher sensitivity and softer emotionality (anger, after all, is also an emotion) actually benefit work environments. They help to balance things out and the resulting empathy in the environment can even improve business relationships, quality of work and learning amongst employees. Entrepreneurship Guru Guy Kawasaki even exalts female instinct in business. In his book Art of the Start, he suggests that if you want to test your business idea for success potential … put it in front of a woman and ask her for her instinctive response!

So I began wondering if I had actually been doing myself a disservice by discarding my thoughts and feelings when it might otherwise appear that I am a bit “nuts.” Then I saw the movie Revolutionary Road, and was struck by the portrayal of a young professor gone crazy and institutionalized for it. When brought to dinner by his parents to the home of a young couple (Leonardo De Caprio and Kate Winslet), whose turbulent marriage appeared idyllic to outsiders, this “madman” was the only one who could see right through the dysfunctions in the situation. He called a spade and spade and put raw words to observations that “normal” people would simply gloss over in denial. What? Only the madman tells the truth? And all the normal people are slaves to delusions? Is this perhaps why he is mad in the first place – because he sees things others cannot?

History is rife with examples of mad geniuses. Perhaps having an extraordinary gift or prescience goes hand in hand with not being normal to society and its expectations. In any case, I came to wonder what would happen if for a few months I flip my considerations the following way – that is, I begin to consider the thoughts and feelings I have about situations in my life during hormonal swings as my TRUE assessment, according to which choices should be made, while my “rational” responses to the same situations the rest of the time, I examine as intellectualization and possible denial. With such a cognitive re-arrangement, will I choose the same things that I choose now? Will I accept the kinds of treatment I sometimes accept in full rationality? How would the people, events and attributes of my life change?

Perhaps we women need to consider our hormones and the havoc they wreak as our secret strength, not our weakness?

Last 5 posts by Shahana Dattagupta



9 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Tana, welcome back! If you want to be a writer, write when u r pmsing. or artists. Some professions value madness, as u describe it. Others dont, and dont go forthem. Showing emotion is diff from hormones. I think that is good 4 workplace, even results. Rem Hillary crying and hoe it pushed up her ratinga

  2. Khushi

    Welcome back, good to see you. I think this is quite thought provoking. Have you actually tried it in your business discussions and to what effect? I have regretted succumbiong to my hormones always.

  3. sarmila

    liked reading the post

  4. Anonymous

    Very nice post. Woman should always look for her strength, hormone or no hormone. After all isn’t the man’s world labelled woman’s hormonal effect as madness? Has anyone analysed man’s hormonal effect in such details? Don’t they also ‘beave funnily’ when they go through what is called their ‘menopause’?

  5. Yasmin

    I am happy to see you back, missed reading your posts.
    I feel that women are more emotionally and intellectually evolved than men. We have to deal with the realities of the human Life Cycle(giving birth/rearing children etc) and so we have a fuller impression and expression of life. Sometimes it comes out ‘passionately’, which is often misinterpreted as ‘hormonal’. So like you said, we should use it to our advantage, make it our strength and not our weakness.

  6. anjali dharod

    Hey hello! I liked reading through your posts. Its so damn true. PMS is certainly killing. Tell me, isn’t there any way to combat those monthly blues. I want to be “normal”, not “hormonal”.

  7. nikki

    Hey Tana,

    Enjoyed reading your post, it’s really thought provoking. But my experience is that it’s not the validity of our thoughts/feelings/emotions while we are PMSing/hormonal that is in question, it is the ‘delivery’ of it. During such times, our thoughts and feelings, however rational and valid, are often delivered with drama/ high emotion/ high pitch and this takes away from the point we are trying to make.

    Having said that, hormones or no hormones, I have always believed that our belief systems should always be our own, based on a sense of fairness and what’s right, whether they fall within the acceptable social criteria or not.

  8. Tana

    Thank you all for your perspectives and please keep them coming!

  9. Indrani

    Hi Tana,
    First, my apologies for writing the comment so late….. and Welcome back. Missed reading your thought provoking post. Like always, a good post indeed. Somehow I am of the opinion, women, whether pmsing or otherwise, are more in touch with their feelings and emotions and have the ability to express it. Needless to say at times the expression comes out in a ‘dramatic’ way, as men call it. But so what? At least we women are honest with our feelings and don’t keep it bottled inside.

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