Tomorrow we enter a new era with the i-Pad. Everything will be new and different.Not. Actually, everything old is new again. The Official Preppy Handbook is being re-released for docksider-wearing, pink and green Polo sporting wannabes everywhere. And with the Tiger Woods adultery-o-rama, we get the bad science of "finger length" once again dredged up by psychiatrists as the explanation for sexual desires. In case you don't remember the first "finger length" science, it was all about lesbianism. Lesbians, we were told, were people whose ring finger was longer than their index finger. These lesbian fingers were more like "men's hands" and therefore indicated that lesbians underwent a "androgen wash" in utero which resulted in a masculinized brain and masculine behaviors, like auto repair and dating other women. Ten years ago I wrote a piece in Salon criticizing this science. Forgive my solipcistic self-referentiality, but the exact same argument I used then to debunk the correlation between fingers and desire can be applied now to adulterous fingers.
This sort of study uses the existence of a statistical correlation to argue causation. Certain sorts of hands may be more likely to appear on the bodies of women who identify as lesbians (or men who cheat), but isn't that a correlation as opposed to a cause? People with green eyes might be more likely to be accountants, but it is highly unlikely that there is a causal relationship between the two."Furthermore, as I pointed out then, there is no actual EVIDENCE of the androgen wash in the womb- it's a hypothesis. The only way to test such a hypothesis would be to stick amniotic needles into pregnant women's bellies at various times and then see finger length of the children after birth. Until we end all IRB (research ethics oversight boards) interference with data collection, I am fairly certain we will never have actual evidence for this supposed wash of testosterone that turns some brains manly- let alone evidence that manly brains lead to adultery or lesbianism or even skill in sports or financial success! Okay, in fairness to the scientists doing this research, their claims are often much smaller and much less inflamatory than journalists and bloggers make them out to be. But the basic impulse to remove CULTURE and EXPERIENCE and even INDIVIDUAL AGENCY from our behaviors, to make everything a result of brain chemistry, is deeply entrenched in American life. Tiger Woods cheated because he underwent an androgen wash in the womb and it hyper-masculinized his brain and therefore he could not help but tap every woman in a fifty mile radius. Lesbians are really "men" who want to also tap every woman in sight because of their mannish fingers. Wall Street types ruined the entire economy with their greed because they were chemically driven to act aggressively and put all of our futures at risk because of their mannish fingers. No one is responsible for their behavior, least of all those of us with a ring finger longer than an index finger. There is no relationship between systems of power, like consumer capitalism and commercialized sex mixed with a bit of patriarchy and good ol' white fetishization of Black male bodies to explain Tiger Woods or our obsession with him. There is no relationship between the state stepping back from any regulation of the market that led to the current financial crisis. And whom we desire is completely based on the length of our fingers and some innate need for the "opposite" (i.e. people with mannish fingers- whether lesbians or straight guys- always want someone with a vagina; whereas people with girlie fingers always want someone with a penis; and furthermore, two people with mannish hands, regardless of body parts, can never fall in love) Nope. All our behaviors are just hard-wired into our finger length. And so we are free to act as we please since we just can't help ourselves. It makes me want to break out the preppie clothes, mix a martini, toast the idea that "greed is good," "adultery is unavoidable," and "homos are born that way." Apple is wrong. There is nothing new in our society but the toys.