29 February 2008

Reason #128 Why it sucks to be a girl

Yesterday in class my professor pointed out an interesting set of statistics that just add to the list of grievances. It's pretty common knowledge that women are more prone to depression and other behavioral disorders than men. You'd initially think that it's because women have different social factors in their lives: balancing family with careers, childbirth, menopause, menstruation, sexism in the workplace, preoccupation with appearance (the list goes on interminably). Some might even claim that this is because women "experience" emotion in a different way from men. But there is growing evidence that this disjoint between the sexes is also biological.

Before puberty, boys and girls experience depression at similar rates, and some studies show that boys are at higher risk at this time. But once they hit puberty at around age 12, girls suddenly are twice more likely to be depressed. Studies point to a correlation between hormone changes and higher depression rates, but the exact cause is still unknown. From the Mayo Clinic:

"Although the exact interaction between depression and premenstrual syndrome remains unclear, some researchers believe that cyclical changes in estrogen, progesterone and other hormones can disrupt the function of brain chemicals that control mood, such as serotonin. Other research indicates that androgens — so-called male hormones that women also naturally produce at a lower level — may play a role. Still, because such hormonal changes occur in all women, but not all women develop depression, hormonal changes alone can't be responsible for the increased risk of depression in women. Genetic predisposition or other factors also may influence depression.

Social and cultural stressors may play a role, too. Although these stressors also occur in men, it's usually at a lower rate. Women are more likely than men to shoulder the burden of both work and family responsibilities, for instance. They're also more likely to have lower incomes, be single parents and have a history of sexual or physical abuse, all of which can contribute to depression, especially in women who've had depression in the past. In general, American women earn less money than men do. Single women with children have one of the highest poverty rates in the United States. Low socioeconomic status brings with it many concerns and stressors, including uncertainty about the future and less access to community and health care resources. Minority women might also face added stress from racial discrimination."

The problem is that whenever you cite statistics like this, or open your mouth to say anything at all about gender differences and inequality, you get branded as a bra-burning feminist. Here's the scenario: a friend offers to carry a bag of heavy groceries for me, despite the fact that he is already laden with six bags himself and the seventh would most probably cut off all circulation in his fingers. I'm only carrying four. Because I think that I am a competent and fully functioning human being, and I want to spare him a little pain, I say no thanks, I'll manage. I might have less muscle mass than him, but I have arms and legs, and I'm used to doing things myself. The next day, my friend asks me if I'm a feminist. Why does utilizing my basic capabilities as a healthy human being make me a feminist?

Okay. You got me. I'm depressed, and I'm a feminist.


At March 01, 2008 3:04 PM, Anonymous serrie said...

i hate that the word feminist comes with such a bad rap.

At March 01, 2008 6:59 PM, Blogger Kelley said...


At March 24, 2008 6:47 PM, Blogger Julia said...

btw what are reasons #1 through #127?

At March 28, 2008 4:38 PM, Blogger Kelley said...

I'm not sure what the other reasons are, but I am sure that someone could list them for me. Hehe.


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