Would you take medicines if you were told that it has been tested only on men and male animals and never on women? Rebecca Shansky, a neuroscientist at Northeastern University in Boston thinks you might not. Nonscientific audiences are blown away when she tells them that researchers don’t study female animals, most of the time.
An obvious thing to a normal person but apparently not so in the academic and scientific world it’s not. Their response to the question of why medicines go without testing on female animals goes something like this- “Oh no. Females are so complicated, so we just don’t study them.” Rebbeca added. About half of the population are women, but female animals make up a far smaller percentage of biomedical research subjects. In neuroscience studies, males outnumbered females nearly six to one.
Women and female animals are often omitted from the research because of the same reasons-ovarian hormones. The Victorian notion that women were hysterical, emotional, disorganised get carried forward. The hormone-driven counterpoints to rational, stable men had replaced the idea that women were inferior to men. It is a sad reality that such thinking still prevails, that too in the medical field.
Many male scientists believe that by studying only the male animals, they can identify the most basic way brain works because it will be free from the messiness created by fluctuating female hormones. It goes back to the idea that men are the norm and women are the ‘Others’. Even if scientists had proven that females were more complex subjects, is it a justifiable excuse? Should scientists give up on a problem just because it is believed started to become complicated? We are the ones who should answer.