Synchronized Periods: Why Birds of a Feather Bleed Together
“If all of your friends jump off of a cliff, would you?” I can still hear my mother’s nonsensical question echoing in my ears some twenty years after being asked. While my answer was always no, because no thinking, reasoning person would ever consciously be so stupid as to kamikaze off of a cliff, it made me think of the old wives’ tale about how women who spend significant time together will begin to menstruate at the same time.
The phenomenon of synchronized periods, dubbed the McClintock Effect for researcher and now professor at the University of Chicago, Martha McClintock, was formulated after she observed that women’s periods would synchronize after having sweat from one woman put on the top lip of another woman. McClintock suggested that female pheromones passed from one woman to another, causing a shift in the body chemistry.
This made me think of Plato’s theories on associationism, which was developed further by Aristotle. One of the four laws in particular that stood out to me was the Law of Frequency, which states that “the more often two things or events are linked, the more powerful will be that association”.
Thinking of this law in terms of the period would further explain why the McClintock Effect makes so much sense, regardless of the “not it” stance taken by some scientific experts. In their defense, not all studies have yielded uniform results, which leads to further questioning about what variables may affect the outcome of the experiment.
At any rate, this leads to the real answer to my mother’s question: if my friends jumped off of a cliff, the likelihood of my doing the same is pretty high. So, I guess my job is to find friends who aren’t complete idiots who consider jumping off of random cliffs all willy nilly a go-to recreational activity.
I always wanted to answer “yes” to her asinine question anyway and would have had I not feared punishment. But, now, learning what I have, it seems that I would have been backed by scientific theory. Maybe not the best thing for a teenage know-it-all to have, anyway.
The McClintock Effect points to the importance of solidarity, in particular, sisterhood. The women with whom I associate set the tone for my life and choices from my entertainment choices, whom I choose to date, and even my choice is tampon brand selection.
The more I learn about the human body, the more amazed that I am. Who would ever think that something as seemingly self-regulated as the period could be affected, not just by the foods that we eat, the sleep that we get, or the physical elements polluting our environment, but also by the women which make up our environment as well?
Since the main variable in this equation is choice, it seems to me that it behooves each of us to choose wisely.
You know the old saying: birds of a feather bleed together.
Or something like that.