In The Putin Interviews, Oliver Stone’s four-part series airing on Showtime this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely make a lot of bold statements that we can’t exactly verify. But there is one quote from the Russian leader which we can debunk right here and right now: “I am not a woman, so I don’t have bad days,” Putin says, according to Bloomberg.
“I am not trying to insult anyone,” he continues. “That’s just the nature of things. There are certain natural cycles.”
This kind of assertion about mood cycles is what men used to keep women out of the workplace for centuries. It’s still referenced so often, many people accept it to be true. For example, President Donald Trump used an allusion to menstrual cycles in order to deride Megyn Kelly after she moderated a Republican presidential debate last year. She had “blood coming out of her whatever,” he now famously said. The problem is, there is no science that says women have bad days and men do not or that menstrual cycles in anyway make a woman unfit to do her job or live her life.
Do women experience mood swings? Yes of course, just not necessarily as PMS. In 2012, Sarah Romans of the University of Otago in New Zealand conducted a review of 47 studies about women’s moods and menstrual cycle, as Time reported. She found that only 15 percent of those studies indicated that women’s moods worsened before their periods and lifted when they began. The other studies found that worse moods lasted into menstruation or occurred at completely different parts of the cycle. This suggests that, yes, hormones cause mood fluctuations but periods do not.
Why is that important? Because men experience cyclical hormone changes too. Young men have a daily cycle, with higher levels of testosterone in the morning than at night. This levels off a bit as they get older. There is also some evidence that men experience seasonal changes in testosterone levels. Because testosterone activates the amygdala, part of the brain associated with emotion, it can trigger aggression, which explains why higher testosterone levels have been found in prisoners who committed violent crimes. Symptoms of low testosterone levels, a condition that often occurs with age, include depression, irritability, fatigue, and decreases in intellectual activity — in addition to erectile dysfunction and decreased muscle mass.
This means Putin, and any other male leaders out there, aren’t immune to mood shifts, or “natural cycles,” as he put it. All humans have moods and bad days, it’s just that women’s come with heavy stigma and a whole lot of euphemisms.
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