Onward, Outward, Upward

Plucking the Fruits of Knowledge
by Mary Cassatt

Women perform best on visuospatial tasks including the mental ability to rotate shapes, and to keep track of true verticality as the background shifts, when estrogen is low.
-Hampson (1990)

For a week after menstruation starts, estrogen and progesterone are low. Compared to the soaring estrogen as ovulation approaches and the plummeting estrogen and progesterone as menstruation approaches, this is a period of stability. Some mental skills, such as object rotation, are at their sharpest now. Greater spatial accuracy comes in handy if you’re in a full skirt climbing an unstable ladder. The woman looking right seems distracted as she holds a full basket. But she’s not staring at a man, or advertising her fertility; she’s looking at other women--artist, musician, and dancer. Here women don’t serve as muses but artists in energetic collaboration.