Women ‘dis’ rivals to get men

International media is buzzing about the results of a York University study that shows women will “dis” the competition to get the man they want. Researchers found that women at the peak of their monthly fertility cycle will downplay other women’s attractiveness as a way of attracting men. The study made headlines on Feb. 18 in newspapers, on radio and television, on Web sites across Canada, in Britain and even in India. Maryanne Fisher, the study’s lead researcher and a doctoral candidate in psychology at York, has been in demand for interviews.

The study, published Feb. 18 in Biology Letters, a journal of the British Royal Society, found that when women looked at pictures of other women, they rated their looks much lower when their fertility was at its highest. They rated the same women as much more attractive when their fertility was at its lowest. “Previously, women have been depicted as co-operative, kind-hearted and all of that. I think this adds to the small but growing body of research that says women are actually competitive,” Fisher told the Toronto Star. “The fertility aspect is important because it ties into the idea that women might actually compete for mates. And that hasn’t been well studied at all,” she said. “There’s a shift happening in the field. Until now there have been few if any studies of what women actually do to get these men they want.”

This study is only the first step in uncovering women’s mating techniques, Fisher said. “I think this is the tip of the iceberg. I think they do a lot more than this to attract men.” For example, they may put down other women’s fidelity, promiscuity or maternal capabilities, the study says. Fisher’s “next big push” will be to go to a popular nightclub in Toronto to see what women say about each other. The York study points out that the reason for all this competition, according to evolutionary theory, is the next generation. “Since men vary in their abilities to protect offspring and to provide resources, women need to compete for men who display developed abilities,” the study says.

Other media outlets carrying stories about the study were the Canadian Press, the Hamilton Spectator, the Globe and Mail and 680 News (Toronto’s all-news radio). In Britain, stories about the study were carried in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express and Catchline, a UK news service. Online the story appeared in Nature.com and NewScientist.com. Overseas, the story was carried in Spain’s El Mundo; and in the Times of India. Fisher was interviewed on the Discovery Channel’s “Daily Planet” and CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” in Toronto.

Budding scientists take tour of Mars – at York

While the United States’ Rover robots poked through Martian dust 228 million kilometres from Earth, 200 Greater Toronto high-school science whizzes gathered to hear York University scientists strut their own Martian connections, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 18. Space scientist Diane Michelangeli is one of a number of Canadian scientists on the 2007 Mars mission project, which will carry Canadian-designed tools to test for signs of water. The team is led by York professor emeritus Allan Carswell, chair of Optech Inc. The firm, together with Brampton’s MD Robotics, beat out 19 others for the contract to provide the meteorological instruments on the landing craft, which is called Phoenix. York physics Professor Brendan Quine (also featured in a photograph) showed students models of another Canadian Mars project, the first all-commercial mission to the planet, slated for 2010 if he can find sponsors to cover the $50 million to $150 million price tag.

Mars also featured in an Edmonton Journal colour photo Feb. 18 showing York University atmospheric science Professor Peter Taylor holding a wind-speed meter before installing it on a tower on the frozen waters of Franklin Bay, NWT. Taylor, based on the Canadian research ship Amundsen, is using information gleaned from the Arctic to perfect models that will make measurements on Mars.

Halifax could be swan song for Brisson

Veteran hockey player and York MBA student Thérèse Brisson, the 37-year-old who has helped Canada to five world championships and two Olympic medals, says when she represents Canada at the world women’s championship in Halifax next month, it might be her last time, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 18. She’ll be 39 if she plays in the next Olympics and, quite frankly, she’s running out of options for university degrees. Brisson was a professor at the University of New Brunswick, but was forced to resign when the university wouldn’t give her a year off to train for the last Olympics. That led her to Toronto, where she’s doing an MBA at York’s Schulich School of Business and playing for the Oakville Ice.

Middleton on Cadillacs and boomers’ mid-life crises

Cadillacs, once an older man’s car, are now the vehicle of choice among Hollywood types and rappers. Sales are up and the average age of buyers is down, reported Maclean’s in its Feb. 23 issue. What got Caddy in gear? Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, puts it this way: “Cadillac looked at the luxury vehicles on the market a few years back and saw only foreign models. It prompted them to say, ‘We have to do something.’ ” To reinforce the image change, Cadillac unleashed its ad campaign built around the Led Zeppelin classic, “Rock and Roll. “Using a ’60s tune brings the boomers back to a time when they were young in both mind and body,” said Middleton. “Music is one of the fastest ways to the senses.” Middleton said an important factor driving sales is something called “kidfluence.” “The old model of car-buying – Dad picks the engineering, Mom picks the colour and the kids get to sit in it – hasn’t been true for 40 years,” said Middleton. “The kids now say, ‘You can’t buy that. There’s no way I’ll let you drive me to school in that. It’s not cool.’ ”

Middleton also told The Liberal Feb. 15 that baby boomers are giving new meaning to the concept of the mid-life crisis. Combine today’s long life expectancy rates with society’s admiration for all things youthful and you have a recipe for boomers having a crisis somewhere in the middle of it all, Middleton said. “I would argue this goes for men and women. They both rail against the advancement of old age. But men and women do it differently. Women may do it with plastic surgery and fashion,” he said. “Men seem to do it with the trophy girlfriend. I’m not sure why that is, other than the arrogance of the male. Maybe it’s in their psyche – we’re all boys and we want to get back to it.” Middleton said businesses are adding fuel to the mid-life crisis fire by primarily marketing their products to young adults in their 20s and 30s.

Canada not a base for terrorism

Immigration experts, such as York University’s Margaret Beare, have rushed to denounce a US congressional report that says Canada’s immigration and legal systems make it easier for our country to be a staging base for terrorism, reported the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 18. Beare, director of the Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime and Corruption at York, noted that refugees and illegal immigrants are the least likely to engage in criminal activity because they don’t want to risk deportation.

Seeking transit solutions

Former Toronto mayor David Crombie says he’d like to see the development of land north of York University, reported Metroland newspaper Feb. 13. He figures that this would help pay for the extension of the Spadina subway line up to the university.

And York Region’s new transit network will be introduced in four main areas, reported The Era Banner Feb. 15. These include a north-south route along Yonge from Newmarket to the Finch subway station, an east-west route along Hwy. 7, a north-south link in Vaughan to provide access to York University and the TTC’s Spadina subway line and a north-south connection from Markham Centre to the TTC’s Sheppard subway line.

On air

  • Parenting columnist Karen Horseman investigated some of the creative, inventive methods parents employ to spend lots of time with their children. In her case, she took her baby to an interview with Nancy Mandell, professor of sociology and women’s studies at York University. Her audio essay was heard on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” and “Ontario Morning” Feb. 17.
  • Bob Drummond, political science professor and dean of York’s Faculty of Arts, said he anticipates Tory leadership hopefuls going out of their way to present a positive image now that the polls show a decline in support for the federal Liberals. He also commented on the battle between Tony Clement, Stephen Harper and Belinda Stronach and warned that dirty tactics can backfire, on 680 News (CFTR-AM), Toronto, Feb. 17.
  • Dr. Joel Lexchin, health management professor at York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, was interviewed about a Canadian Medical Association Journal article that says doctors and patients are being deceived about drug effects by companies withholding unfavourable data, on CBC Newsworld’s “Newsworld Today” Feb. 17.
  • Six York University students talked about Shalom-Salam, a group created by Israeli and Palestinian students to bring peace to their campus, on the South Asian edition of OMNI.2’s “Omni News” Feb. 17. The students were Effi Frohwein, Miriam Yosowich, Hina Khan, Rabia Siddiqui, John Moshevich and Ali Manavipour.