The Gendered Atom
1985, an insightful anthropologist, Emily Martin, has been studying the
sperm-egg research problem. '(She] was surprised to find that popular literature,
textbooks, and even medical journals were crammed with descriptions of
warrior sperm and damsel-in-distress eggs ... In all her research, Martin
came up with only a single depiction of less-than-mighty sperm: Woody Allen's
movie EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX BUT WERE AFRAID
TO ASK. Yet, the reality is that sperm is quite passive and that
'the egg plays anything but a passive role' (23: 62).
"In 1986, Martin began an investigation
of research teams studying the sperm-egg phenomenon and realized that she
was even infected with cultural bias. This caused her to experience delays
- of 'a few years" - in detecting 'the disparity between the discoveries
[of sperm-egg realities] and the way the findings were written up.' The
conclusion was that 'the cultural conditioning these biologists had absorbed
early in their careers influenced more than their writing: it skewed their
research.' Martin asserts: 'I believe, and my husband believes, and the
lab believes, that they would have seen these results sooner if they hadn't
had these male-oriented images of sperm. In fact, biologists could have
figured out a hundred years ago that sperm are weak forward-propulsion
units, but it's hard for men to accept the idea that sperm are best at
escaping. The imagery you employ guides you to ask certain questions and
to not ask certain others' (23: 64). 'Scientific training
involved a rigorous socialization process that doesn't allow for different
perspectives. It's hard to say that women biologists are any less guilty
of these things than men.' 'The macho image of sperm not only obscures
reality; it actually reverses what's been observed' (23: 65)"
biologists have been doing what is noted above - 'simply' because their
gender socialization caused them to have a gender-role based perception
of sperm (meaning that our perceptions of sperm are still intimately linked
to sex roles) - the 'crimes' that social scientists have been committing
are likely similar, or worse if this was possible. The problem, however,
is that we have all been gender socialized and most of us are thus collaborators
with social scientists who generally exist to confirm whatever a society
believes - and what is believed could well be the opposite of reality.
Theodore (1999). The Gendered Atom: Relections on the sexual psychology
of science. (Foreword by Jane
Goodall.) Berkeley, CA: Conari Press.
Freedman, David H (1992).The Aggressive Egg.
Discover, June, 61-65.
Pierre (1992). The Homosexuality Factor in Social Violence.
Presented to the Action Committe Against Violence, City of Calgary,
March, 1992. Calgary, AB: Privately Published, 120 pages.
Emily (1991). The Egg and the Sperm: How science has constructed
a romance based on stereotypical male-female sex roles. Signs:
Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 16(3), 485-501.
Barbara (1995). Phallic Fables and Spermatic Romance: Disciplinary
crossing and textual ridicule. Configurations, 3(2), 105-134.