this article goes wild nearing the end, but i still found it a good read

The Feminization of American Culture
How Modern Chemicals May Be Changing Human Biology
Leonard Sax, M.D.


In ancient times--by which I mean, before 1950--most scholars
agreed that women were, as a rule, not quite equal to men. Women
were charming but mildly defective. Many (male) writers viewed
women as perpetual teenagers, stuck in an awkward place between
childhood and adulthood. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer,
for example, wrote that women are "childish, silly and
short-sighted, really nothing more than overgrown children, all
their life long. Women are a kind of intermediate stage between
the child and the man." 1

Psychologists in that bygone era devoted considerable
time and energy to the question of why women couldn't outgrow
their childish ways. The Freudians said it was because they were
trapped in the pre-Oedipal stage, tortured by penis envy.
Followers of Abraham Maslow claimed that women were fearful of
self-actualization. Jungians insisted that women were born with a
deficiency of imprinted archetypes. Back then, of course, almost
all the psychologists were men
.
Things are different now. Male psychologists today are so
rare that Ilene Philipson--author of On the Shoulders of Women:
The Feminization of Psychotherapy--speaks of "the vanishing male
therapist as a species soon to be extinct.2 the gender of the
modal psychotherapist has changed from male to female, the
standard of mental health has changed along with it. Today, Dr.
Philipson observes, the badge of emotional maturity is no longer
the ability to control or sublimate your feelings but rather the
ability to express them. A mature adult nowadays is someone who
is comfortable talking about her inner conflicts, someone who
values personal relationships above abstract goals, someone who
isn't afraid to cry. In other words: a mature adult is a woman.


It is now the men who are thought to be stuck halfway between
childhood and adulthood, incapable of articulating their inner
selves. Whereas psychologists fifty years ago amused themselves
by cataloging women's (supposed) deficiencies, psychologists
today devote themselves to demonstrating "the natural superiority
of women."3 Psychologists report that women are better able to
understand nonverbal communication and are more expressive of
emotion.4 ,5Quantitative personality inventories reveal that the
average woman is more trusting, nurturing, and outgoing than the
average man.6 The average eighth-grade girl has a command of
language and writing skills equal to that of the average
eleventh-grade boy.7

As the influence of the new psychology permeates our culture,
women have understandably begun to wonder whether men are really,
well, human. "What if these women are right?" wonders one writer
in an article for Marie Claire, a national woman's magazine.
"What if it's true that some men don't possess, or at least can't
express, nuanced emotions?"8 More than a few contemporary
psychologists have come to regard the male of our species as a
coarsened, more violent edition of the normal, female, human. Not
surprisingly, they have begun to question whether having a man in
the house is desirable or even safe.

Eleven years ago, scholar Sara Ruddick expressed her concern
about "the extent and variety of the psychological, sexual, and
physical battery suffered by women and children of all classes
and social groups ... at the hands of fathers, their mothers'
male lovers, or male relatives. If putative fathers are absent or
perpetually disappearing and actual fathers are controlling or
abusive, who needs a father? What mother would want to live with
one or wish one on her children?"9 Nancy Polikoff, former counsel
to the Women's Legal Defense Fund, said that "it is no tragedy,
either on a national scale or in an individual family, for
children to be raised without fathers."10

The feminization of psychology manifests itself in myriad ways.
Consider child discipline. Seventy years ago, doctors agreed that
the best way to discipline your child was to punish the little
criminal. ("Spare the rod, spoil the child.") Today, spanking is
considered child abuse.11 You're supposed to talk with your kid.
Spanking sends all the wrong messages, we are told, and may have
stupendously horrible consequences. Psychoanalyst Alice Miller
confidently informed us, in her book For Your Own Good, that
Adolf Hitler's evil can be traced to the spankings his father
inflicted on him in childhood.12

THE NEW MEN'S MAGAZINES

It isn't only psychology that has undergone a process of
feminization over the past fifty years, and it isn't only women
whose attitudes have changed. Take a stroll to your neighborhood
bookstore or newsstand. You'll find magazines such as Men's
Health, MH-18, Men's Fitness, Gear, and others devoted to men's
pursuit of a better body, a better self-image. None of them
existed fifteen years ago. The paid circulation of Men's Health
has risen from 250,000 to more than 1.5 million in less than ten
years.13 Many of the articles in these magazines are reminiscent
of those to be found in women's magazines such as Glamour,
Mademoiselle, and Cosmopolitan: "The Ten Secrets of Better Sex,"
"The New Diet Pills--Can They Work For You?" or "Bigger Biceps in
Five Minutes a Day." (The women's magazine equivalent might be
something like "slimmer thighs in five minutes a day.")

Men didn't use to care so much about their appearance.
Psychiatrists Harrison Pope and Katharine Phillips report that in
American culture today, "Men of all ages, in unprecedented
numbers, are preoccupied with the appearance of their bodies."14
They document that "men's dissatisfaction with body appearance
has nearly tripled in less than thirty years--from 15 percent in
1972, to 34 percent in 1985, to 43 percent in 1997."15 Cosmetic
plastic surgery, once marketed exclusively to women, has found a
rapidly growing male clientele. The number of men undergoing
liposuction, for instance, quadrupled between 1990 and 2000.16

THE FEMINIZATION OF ENTERTAINMENT AND POLITICS

This process of femininization manifests itself, though somewhat
differently, when you turn on the TV or watch a movie. Throughout
the mid-twentieth century, leading men were, as a rule,
infallible: think of Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind, Cary
Grant in North by Northwest, or Fred McMurray in My Three Sons.
But no longer. In family comedy, the father figure has
metamorphosed from the all-knowing, all-wise Robert Young of
Father Knows Best to the occasional bumbling of Bill Cosby and
the consistent stupidity of Homer Simpson. Commercially
successful movies now often feature women who are physically
aggressive, who dominate or at least upstage the men. This
description applies to movies as diverse as Charlie's Angels and
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In today's cinema, to paraphrase
Garrison Keillor, all the leading women are strong and all the
leading men are good-looking.

A transformation of comparable magnitude seems to be under way
in the political arena. Military command used to be considered
the best qualification for leadership--as it was with Ulysses
Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle, and Dwight
Eisenhower, to name only a few. Today, the best qualification for
leadership may be the ability to listen. The feminine way of
seeing the world and its problems is, arguably, becoming the
mainstream way.

In 1992, Bill Clinton ran against George Bush p?e for the
presidency. Clinton was an acknowledged draft evader. Bush, the
incumbent, was a World War II hero who had just led the United
States to military success in Operation Desert Storm. Clinton
won. In 1996, Clinton was challenged by Bob Dole, another
decorated World War II veteran. Once again, the man who had
evaded military service defeated the combat veteran. In 2000,
Gov. George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain competed for the
Republican presidential nomination.

McCain was a genuine war hero whose courageous actions as a
prisoner of war in Vietnam had won him well-deserved honors and
praise. Bush, on the other hand, was alleged to have used family
influence to obtain a position in the Texas National Guard, in
order to avoid service in Vietnam. Once again, the man who had
never experienced combat defeated the military veteran. Moral of
the story: It's all very well to be a war hero, but in our
modern, feminized society, being a war hero won't get you elected
president. Conversely, being a draft dodger isn't as bad as it
used to be.

A number of authors have recognized the increasing feminization
of American society. With few exceptions, most of those
acknowledging this process have welcomed it.17 As Elinor Lenz and
Barbara Myerhoff wrote in their 1985 book The Feminization of
America, "The feminizing influence is moving [American society]
away from many archaic
ways of thinking and behaving, toward the promise of a saner and
more humanistic future.... Feminine culture, with its commitment
to creating and protecting life, is our best and brightest hope
for overcoming the destructive, life-threatening forces of the
nuclear age."18

I think we can all agree on one point: there have been
fundamental changes in American culture over the past fifty
years, changes that indicate a shift from a male-dominated
culture to a feminine or at least an androgynous society. The
question is, what's causing this shift? Some might argue that the
changes I've described are simply a matter of better education,
progressive laws, and two generations of consciousness-raising:
an evolution from a patriarchal Dark Ages to a unisex, or
feminine, Enlightenment. I'm willing to consider that hypothesis.
But before we accept that conclusion, we should ask whether there
are any other possibilities.

FEMINIZED WILDLIFE

We have to make a big jump now, a journey that will begin at the
Columbia River in Washington, near the Oregon border. James
Nagler, assistant professor of zoology at the University of
Idaho, recently noticed something funny about the salmon he
observed in the Columbia. Almost all of them were--or appeared to
be--female. But when he caught a few and analyzed their DNA, he
found that many of the "female" fish actually were male: their
chromosomes were XY instead of XX.19

Nagler's findings echo a recent report from England, where
government scientists have found some pretty bizarre fish. In two
polluted rivers, half the fish are female, and the other half are
... something else. Not female but not male either. The English
scientists call these bizarre fish "intersex": their gonads are
not quite ovaries, not quite testicles, but some weird thing in
between, making neither eggs nor sperm. In both rivers, the
intersex fish are found
downstream of sites where treated sewage is discharged into the
river. Upstream from the sewer effluent, the incidence of
intersex is dramatically lower. The relationship between the
concentration of sewer effluent and the incidence of intersex is
so close that "the proportion of intersex fish in any sample of
fish could perhaps be predicted, using a linear equation, from
the average concentration of effluent constituents in the
river."20

It's something in the water. Something in the water is causing
feminization of male fish.

And it's not just fish. In Lake Apopka, in central Florida, Dr.
Louis Guillette and his associates have found male alligators
with abnormally small penises; in the blood of these alligators,
female hormone levels are abnormally high and male hormone levels
abnormally low.21 Male Florida panthers have become infertile;
the levels of male sex hormones in their blood are much lower
(and the levels of female hormones higher) than those found in
panthers in less-polluted environments.22

WHAT'S GOING ON?

Our modern society generates a number of chemicals that never
existed before about fifty years ago. Many of these chemicals, it
turns out, mimic the action of female sex hormones called
estrogens. Plastics--including a plasticizer called phthalate,
used in making flexible plastic for bottles of Coke, Pepsi,
Sprite, Evian water, and so forth--are known to have estrogenic
effects.23 Many commonly used pesticides have estrogenlike
actions on human cells.24 Estrogenic chemicals ooze out of the
synthetic lacquer that lines the inside of soup cans.25 These
chemicals and others find their way into sewage and enter the
rivers and lakes. Hence the effects on fish, alligators, and
other wildlife.

EFFECTS ON HUMANS?

Modern chemicals may have a feminizing effect on wildlife. That's
certainly cause for concern in its own right. But is there any
evidence that a similar process of feminization is occurring in
humans?

Answer: there may be. Just like the Florida panther, human males
are experiencing a rapid decline in fertility and sperm count.
The sperm count of the average American or European man has
declined continuously over the past four decades, to the point
where today it is less than 50 percent of what it was forty years
ago.26 This downward trend is seen only in industrialized regions
of North America and western Europe. Lower sperm counts are being
reported in urban Denmark but not in rural Finland, for
example.27 Of course, that's precisely the pattern one would
expect, if the lower sperm counts are an effect of "modern"
materials such as plastic water bottles.

Male infertility, one result of that lower count, is now the
single most common cause of infertility in our species.28The rate
of infertility itself has quadrupled in the past forty years,
from 4 percent in 1965 to 10 percent in 1982 to at least 16
percent today.29

WHAT ABOUT GIRLS?

So far we've talked mainly about the effect of environmental
estrogens on males. What about girls and women? What
physiological effects might excess environmental estrogens have
on them? Giving estrogens to young girls would, in theory,
trigger the onset of puberty at an earlier than expected age. In
fact, in the past few years doctors have noticed that girls are
beginning puberty earlier than ever before. Just as the
environmental-estrogen hypothesis would predict, this phenomenon
is seen only in girls, not in boys. Dr. Marcia Herman-Giddens,
studying over seventeen thousand American girls, found that this
trend to earlier puberty is widespread. "Girls across the United
States are developing pubertal characteristics at younger ages
than currently used norms," she concluded.30

Rather than labeling all these pubescent eight-year-olds as
"abnormal," Dr. Paul Kaplowitz and his associates recently
recommended that the earliest age for "normal" onset of puberty
simply be redefined as age seven in Caucasian girls and age six
in African-American girls.31 Dr. Kaplowitz is trying, valiantly,
to define this problem outof existence. If you insist that normal
puberty begins at age six or age seven, then all these
eight-year-old girls with well-filled bras suddenly become
"normal."

But saying so doesn't make it so. Last year, doctors in Puerto
Rico reported that most young girls with premature breast
development have toxic levels of phthalates in their blood; those
phthalates appear to have seeped out of plastic food and beverage
containers. The authors noted that Puerto Rico is a warm island.
Plastic containers that become warm are more likely to ooze
phthalate molecules into the food or beverages they contain.32
These authors, led by Dr. Ivelisse Col?, reported their findings
in Environmental Health Perspectives, the official journal of the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (a branch of
the National Institutes of Health). On the cover of the issue in
which the report appeared, the editors chose to feature the
picture of a young woman drinking water from a plastic bottle.

Premature puberty in girls has become so widespread that it has
begun to attract the attention of major media. This topic made
the cover of Time magazine on October 30, 2000. Unfortunately,
few of these high-profile articles show any understanding of the
possible role of environmental estrogens. The Time article barely
mentioned the Environmental Health Perspectives study, nor did it
link the phenomenon of early puberty in girls with declining
sperm counts, intersex fish, or tiny penises in alligators.
Instead, it featured a picture of a short boy staring at a taller
girl's breasts.

What effect might extra estrogen have on adult women? Many
scientists have expressed concern that exposure to excessive
environmental estrogens may lead to breast cancer. The rate of
breast cancer has risen dramatically over the past fifty years.
Today, one in every nine American women can expect to develop
breast cancer at some point in her life. But this increase is
seen only in industrialized countries,33 where plastics and other
products of modern chemistry are widely used. Women born in Third
World countries are at substantially lower risk. When they move
from a Third World country to the United States, their risk soon
increases to that seen in other women living here, clearly
demonstrating that the increased risk is an environmental, not a
genetic, factor.34

CONNECTION?

At this point, you may feel that you've been reading two
completely disconnected essays: one about the feminization of
American culture, and the second about the effects of
environmental estrogens. Could there be any connection between
the two?

There may be. If human physiology and endocrinology are being
affected by environmental estrogens--as suggested by lower sperm
counts, increasing infertility, earlier onset of puberty in
girls, and rising rates of breast cancer--then there is no reason
in principle why human psychology and sexuality should be exempt.
If we accept the possibility that environmental estrogens are
affecting human physiology and endocrinology, then we must also
consider the possibility that the feminization of American
culture may, conceivably, reflect the influence of environmental
estrogens.

The phenomena we have considered show a remarkable synchrony.
Many of the cultural trends discussed in the first half of the
article began to take shape in the 1950s and '60s, just as
plastics and other modern chemicals began to be widely introduced
into American life. There are, of course, many difficulties in
attempting to measure any correlation between an endocrine
variable--such as a decline in sperm counts--and a cultural
variable, such as cultural feminization. One of many problems is
that no single quantitative variable accurately and reliably
measures the degree to which a culture is becoming feminized.
However, we can get some feeling for the synchrony of the
cultural process with the endocrine process by considering the
correlation of the decline in sperm counts with the decline in
male college enrollment.

We've already mentioned how sperm counts have declined steadily
and continuously in industrialized areas of North America and
western Europe since about 1950. Let's use that decline as our
endocrine variable. As the cultural variable, let's look at
college graduation rates. Since 1950, the proportion of men among
college graduates has been steadily declining. In 1950, 70
percent of college graduates were men; today, that number is
about 43 percent and falling. Judy Mohraz, president of Goucher
College, warned not long ago that if present trends continue,
"the last man to graduate from college will receive his
baccalaureate in the year 2067.... Daughters not only have
leveled the playing field in most college classrooms, but they
are exceeding their brothers in school success across the
board."35

Plot these two phenomena on the same graph. Use no statistical
tricks, no manipulation of the data--simply use best-fit trend
lines, plotted on linear coordinates--and the two lines
practically coincide. The graph of declining sperm density
perfectly parallels the decline in male college graduation rates.

Of course, the correlation between these phenomena--one
endocrine, one cultural--doesn't prove that they must derive from
the same underlying source. But such a strong correlation
certainly provides some evidence that the endocrine phenomenon of
declining sperm counts may derive from the same source as the
cultural phenomenon of declining male college enrollment (as a
percentage of total enrollment).

THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE MALE AMERICAN EMPIRE?

I have suggested that the feminization of American culture and
endocrine phenomena such as declining sperm counts are both
manifestations of the effects of environmental estrogens. To the
best of my knowledge, no other author has yet made such a
suggestion. If this hypothesis is ultimately shown to be at least
partly correct, it would not be the first time that items of
daily household life contributed to the transformation of a
mighty civilization. A number of scientists, most notably
toxicologist Jerome Nriagu, have suggested that one factor
leading to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was the lead
glaze popular among the Roman aristocracy after about 36 Bowls
and dishes were glazed with lead, which was also widely used in
household plumbing. (Our word plumbing comes from the Latin
plumbum, which means lead.) The neurological symptoms of lead
toxicity--mania, difficulty concentrating, and mood swings--were
not recognized as manifestations of poisoning. No Roman scientist
conducted the necessary controlled experiment: a comparison of
families that used lead-glazed pottery with families that did
not. The scientific worldview necessary for such an experiment
did not exist at the time. It is thought-provoking to consider
that something as insignificant as pottery glazing may have
brought down the Roman Empire.

Could anything of comparable magnitude be happening right now, in
our own culture? Testing the hypothesis I have proposed will be
difficult. It is probably not possible to randomize humans to a
"modern, plasticized" environment versus a "primitive,
no-plastics, no-cans, no-pesticide" environment--and even it were
possible, it would not be ethical to do so. (It should be noted,
however, that one careful study has already been published
demonstrating that men who consumed only organic produce had
higher sperm counts than men eating regular, pesticide-treated
produce.37 Measures of the degree to which a culture is
"feminized" would be controversial, and only seldom would such
measures be objectively quantifiable.

Nevertheless, the world around us is changing in ways that have
never occurred in the history of our species. It is possible that
some of these changes in our culture may reflect the influence of
environmental estrogens, an influence whose effects are subtle
and incremental. To the extent that human dignity means being in
control of one's destiny, we should explore the possibility that
our minds and bodies are being affected by environmental
estrogens in ways that we do not, as yet, fully understand.