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2.Martin_Egg_Sperm - rAc ~ axel iAc?Jcrm EMILY M ARTIN E...

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rAc ~ axel iAc !?Jcrm EMILY MARTIN Emily Marrin is a feminist anthropologist. In this ex- cerpt, she shows how scientific knowledge, believed to be factual and objective, reflects biases against women that are shared by the societies in which this knowl- edge is produced. -'" ~ cud SjerJie [it Sciextijic :Fairy Tcde At a fundamental level, all major scientific textbooks depict male and female reproductive organs as systems for the production of valuable substances, such as eggs and sperm,l In the case of women, the monthly cycle is described as being designed to produce eggs and prepare a suitable place for them to be fertilized and grown-all to the end of making babies, But the en- thusiasm ends there, By extolling the female cycle as a productive enterprise, menstruation must necessarily be viewed as a failure. Medical texts describe men- Emily Martin, "The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotyped Male-Female Roles," in Gender and Scientific Authority, Eds. Barbara Laslett et a1., Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1996: 324-8,337-9, cybernetic The science of systems, human and mechanical, characterized by flexibility and seIf- regUlation. darwinism The ideas of Charles Darwin, who in the second half of the nineteenth century wrote that "natural selection" was the process in which nature ensured the survival of the best and the stronges!' 12 struation as the "debris" of the uterine lining, the result of necrosis, or death of tissue. The descriptions imply that a system has gone awry, making products of no use, not to specification, unsalable, wasted, scrap. An illustration in a widely used medical text shows men- struation as a chaotic disintegration of form, comple- menting the many texts that describe it as "ceasing," "dying," "losing," "denuding," "expelling.,,2 Male reproductive physiology ,is evaluated quite differently. One of the texts that sees menstruation as failed production employs a sort of breathless prose when it describes the maturation of sperm: "The mech- anisms which guide tile remarkable cellular trans- formation from spermatid to mature sperm remain uncertain .... Perhaps the most amazing characteristic of spermatogenesis is its sheer magnitude: the nonnal human male may manufacture several hundred million sperm per day.,,3 In the classic text Medical Physiol- ogy, edited by Vernon Mountcastle, the male/female, productive/destructive comparison is more explicit: "'Whereas the female sheds only a single gamete each month, the seminiferous tubules produce hundreds of millions of sperm each day" (emphasis mine)4 The fe- psychodynamic Changing mental activities, social darwinism The use of Darwin's ideas of natural selection to control populations or manipulate the survival of one group over another. stereotype A way of thinking about a group or persoll based on a set of behaviors or qualities that are believed to be fixed and unchanging,
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MARTIN I THE EGGANDTHE SPERM __ .. _________ _ male author of another text marvels at the length of the microscopic seminiferous tubules, which, if uncoiled and placed end
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