First wave boomer women will likely remember their share of heated arguments surrounding the great nature vs. nurture debate of the 1970s. Back then a number of us prided ourselves on being forward thinking, and we considered early nurturing and cultural expectations to be the cause of most gender-based inequities. In many ways, we were right. In some… not so much.
Testosterone is the hormone underlying a number of aggressive behaviors. At about three months of development, the male fetus receives a blast of testosterone that impacts his brain formation. (Okay—I promise to refrain from any old-time male-bashing jokes here!) Although all fetuses are exposed to testosterone as they grow in the womb, a boy’s level is eight to nine times higher than that of a girl. His brain, therefore, is wired for aggression.
However Mother Nature is rich with diversity and boasts numerous variations on her every theme. Gender-specific characteristics are no exception and no one is born with a “totally male” or “totally female” brain. The degree of masculinization or feminization varies widely within the general population and even within an individual’s own brain. In fact, a child might be born with a traditionally male predisposition for certain talents and a traditionally female inclination for verbal fluency. As Mona Lisa Schulz put it in The New Feminine Brain: “You might ‘throw like a boy,’ for instance, but ‘talk like a girl.’”
One fascinating, although unscientific, assessment for determining the amount of prenatal testosterone one has experienced in the womb is to take a look at the index and fourth fingers. Bones have receptors for testosterone and the fourth finger appears to be especially sensitive to the hormone. Interestingly, when measured from the palm crease to the tip, typical male hands sport longer fourth fingers while female hands characteristically have index and fourth digits of similar lengths. Some particularly feminine flowers may even sport longer index fingers.
So, if you’re interested in such things, check out the relationship of the index to fourth fingers in your family and friends and draw your own conclusions. Whatever you find, it’s rather remarkable to note that in, many cultures, the fourth finger wears the ring that signifies a couple’s union. Testosterone is also related to sexual desire so, long or short, the fourth finger is the one chosen to represent married love.