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Health Studies
Denis Maxwell

HLTC02 WINTER 2013 The Egg & the Sperm: Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Females Roles by Emily Martin Introduction - Introduces the possibility that culture shapes how biological scientists describe what they discover about the natural world - There is a diffusion of cultural beliefs and practises through the teaching of biology - Popular and scientific accounts of reproductive biology relies on stereotypes central to our cultural definitions of male and female - Not only that female biological processes are less worthy than their male counterparts but also that women are less worthy than men Egg and Sperm: A scientific fairy tale - Medical texts describe menstruation as a process that is removing debris and conflating lack of impregnation of an egg as failure - Scientific research, despite it being a seemingly unaffected by social norms and social context, ascribes passivity to female gametes of eggs and active traits to male gametes – sperm - The male reproductive system is described with great enthusiasm and awe whereas the female reproductive system is less enthusiastically described - Males produce, females shed - Eggs are a failing enterprise because over 200 are wasted HOWEVER no such comment is made of the 1 trillion sperm that do not impregnate any eggs - Eggs seen as merely sitting on a shelf, slowly degenerating and aging like overstocked inventory - Marked contrast: sperm produce fresh germ cells, females have stockpiled germ cell by birth and are faced with degeneration - Discourse analysis shows that the language used to describe these reproductive processes and products have heteronormative /sexist tone language that degrades/oppresses/undermines the role of women and female processes - Women/ damsel in distress – Men/Knight in Shining Armour - Women’s gametes are a waste but in reality sperm are wasted and not used in exponentially greater quantities - Egg is holy, the sperm the champion, female reproduction is interdependent whereas male reproduction is independent New research, old imagery - Women are characterized as women who are pure, modest and virgins or femme fatale whores, there is this dicthomy that paints women in negative light – HLTC02 WINTER 2013 idolization or demonization, never an in between which ultimately dehumanizes the group as a whole - As described by Ludwik Fleck – there is a self contained nature to scientific though o Preserve harmony of illusions to confine thought styles - John Hopkins o Discovered forward thrust of sperm is actually quite weak and uses chemical means to break barrier of zona in egg o Sperm and egg both have adhesive molecules tha
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