Estelle Ramey remembers Edgar Berman.
She's the Georgetown University professor of physiology and biophysics who challenged his assertions in a 1970 debate heralded as the "Battle of the Raging Hormones."
She's the "scientific feminist" Berman accuses in his latest book of "making a career of trying to saddle the Norman Mailers of this world with 'female troubles.' "
Ramey says she has not and does not intend to read The Compleat Male Chauvinist. "This kind of book," she says, "at this time in the development of women -- going into the labor market and all the other things that have happened -- is simply one of those attempts to get attention by taking a completely irrational and sensational point of view which I don't even think he believes."
Ramey, 65, also hasn't changed her views in the last 12 years about the "raging hormones" of premenstrual tension. The definition of the premenstrual syndrome, she says, "is entirely unclear. It's been hyped up."
According to the most recent, "and the only decent studies done on it," approximately 3 percent of women are incapacitated, she says, "by a condition which isn't even related to their hormone levels. It's something in their brains at the time of the menstrual cycle." PMS "is a brain phenomenon rather than anything you can measure in the way of sex hormones."
As to the other 97 percent, "Other women, the rest of women, a large percent may have menstrual cramps and so on."
To those who claim that women are more prone to involvement in violent crime and serious automobile accidents during periods of premenstrual tension, Ramey counters: "Well, 90 percent of all violent crimes in the world are committed by men and 90 percent of all serious automobile accidents are when men are at the wheel. What phase of their cycle are they in?
"Women," she says, "commit very few violent crimes. Even at their worst, women apparently have better control over their behavior, so I don't know what you can make of this 'raging hormones' kind of thing."
Ramey says she believes that PMS has a place in the courtroom "if you can establish that a woman in her past medical history belongs to this 3 percent of women who are really disabled, emotionally and physically, during this period.
"It's like any other kind of emotional disorder. You use it as a mitigating defense. It's sort of like an insanity plea, only a cyclic insanity plea. The problem is virtually no one has been able to clarify or identify or even define what the parameters of this cyclic disease are."
Ramey is as unimpressed with Berman's stand on "raging hormones," feminists and feminism as she was in her initial debate.
"Because of that idiot business with him 12 years ago, I did a hell of a lot of reading on the subject, which I had never been interested in before, and found this goes way, way back. All he was doing was saying what had been said with impunity in the 19th century, the 18th century, the 17th century; there was nothing new in what he said."
Berman's book, she says, sounds "far more outrageous than anything he was prepared to say in the earlier part of the decade." However, she asserts it may have a positive effect: Because it's "so stupid" and "says such idiotic things" about men and women.
"Even those male chauvinists, even those people -- male and female -- who would like to believe that there are biologic reasons why women aren't successful, even they find themselves uncomfortable with this sort of exaggeration."
The status of the women's movement, then and now?
"The bulk of women involved in trying to make changes were serious, nonflaky women, but who gets publicized? The raucous person, or the person who does something to get attention . . . When you're fighting a fight, you exaggerate.
"Basically I think there's been more hurt in the women's movement, along with the anger, than there's been hatred of men . . . The majority of women who were even radicals in the women's movement were women who love men, who wanted to be loved by men . . . The need we have for one another overrides all other considerations."
The movement may have changed its profile, says Ramey, but it's still there.
"Take a look at the elections. The women's vote in this election in its subtle way, and not so subtle in some places, made enough of a difference so that you're going to see both parties paying a lot of attention to women's rights."
One of the curious advantages accruing from the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, she says, is that a lot of men began to look not so much at societal pressures on women but to examine what was so great about their lives that women were trying to emulate.
"When they saw what their own pressures were, their response was kind of interesting. They said, 'Let 'em have it if they want it. It ain't so great.' "
The bottom line of the male-female dilemma, declares Ramey, who has been married to the same man for 41 years: "It's damn tough to be a human being, male or female, and we can't escape each other even if we wanted to, and most of us don't want to.
"No one," she says, "has accused me of hormonal imbalances . . . and my personality hasn't changed a bit. I've always been mean as a snake. . ."
"If we were to determine the success of a man on the basis of his testosterone, we'd have a very curious situation in the way the world is run. If you want a lot of testosterone -- the 'take-charge' hormone in Edgar Berman's terms -- you'd better elect a president who's 16 years old, not 70."