Denison University’s Laura C. Harris Series welcomes Rebecca Jordan-Young, associate professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Barnard College, presenting “The Social Hormone: Gender, Race, and Class in Testosterone’s Material and Cultural Lives.”
Testosterone is not what most people think it is, and it is decidedly not a “male sex hormone.” “Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography,” by Jordan-Young and Katrina Karkazis takes aim at received wisdom about T in six domains—female reproduction, aggression, risk-taking, power, sports, and parenting—showing that stories about T don’t just seem to naturalize gender differences, but class, and racial distinctions, too. At once a specific chemical and a mercurial cultural figure, testosterone has been blamed for innumerable social phenomena, from the stock market crash and the overrepresentation of men in prisons to male dominance in business and politics. It’s a lot to pin on a simple molecule. This unauthorized biography pries testosterone loose from over a century of misconceptions that undermine science even as they make urban legends about this hormone seem scientific.
Jordan-Young is an interdisciplinary feminist scientist and science studies scholar whose work explores the reciprocal relations between science and the social hierarchies of gender, sexuality, class, and race. Her publications appear in neuroscience, public health, medical, social science, and feminist journals, as well as in popular outlets like the New York Times, The Guardian, and Discover Magazine.