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MARCH 8, 1999 VOL. 153 NO. 9

The Real Truth About The Female Body

Robert Sebree for TIME


What Little Girls Are Made Of:
Are men really bred for promiscuity, while women seek a stable provider? Just one of the myths being exploded by new evolutionary research, says Barbara Ehrenreich. Get ready for the femaleist revolution

Diagnosis Female:
Medically, too, women are different

The Body Politic: A History

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It's always been classier, and a lot more dignified, to be a woman than a female. Thanks to 30 years of feminist striving, the category "woman" has expanded to include anchorpersons, soccer moms, astronauts, fire fighters, even the occasional Senator or Secretary of State. But "female" still tends to connote the oozing, bleeding, swelling, hot-flashing, swamp-creature side of the species, its tiny brain marinating in the primal hormonal broth. From Aristotle to Freud, the thinking on gender has been that only one sex had fully evolved out of the tidal pool, and it wasn't the sex that wears panty hose.

Biology has usually been only too glad to claim the human female as its slave. The sociobiologists of the '60s and '70s, followed by the evolutionary psychologists of the '90s, promoted what amounts to a prostitution theory of human evolution: Since males have always been free to roam around, following their bliss, the big challenge for the prehistoric female was to land a male hunter and keep him around in a kind of meat-for-sex arrangement. Museum dioramas of the Paleolithic past still tend to feature the guys heading out after the mastodons, spears in hand, while the gals crouch slack-jawed around the campfire, busily lactating. The chivalrous conclusion is that today's woman can do whatever she likes--start a company, pilot a plane--but only by trampling on her inner female.

Yet a new attitude is bubbling out of that old female hormonal swamp, powered by new research and, at least in preliminary form, fresh perspectives on the gender-bifurcated human condition. There are signs of a growing acceptance of the female body with its signature cycles and turning points. Some midlife boomers are finding ways to celebrate the menopause, while a generation of "grrrls" is coming of age, with a new view of the menstrual period as an emblem of primal female power. At the same time, some of the sacred tenets of evolutionary psychology--that men are innately more aggressive, more promiscuous and more likely to fall for cute young things--have come under fresh challenge. As the century turns, it could be, Goodbye, women's lib; hello, female liberation!


This edition's table of contents | TIME Asia home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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