The Story of the Aggressive Egg

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I found the Emily Martin reading of “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles”, to be fascinating.  Martin’s work looked at analyzing how science has been a victim of using stereotypical feminine/masculine qualities to describe the process of reproduction. Martin believed that “One clear feminist challenge is to wake up sleeping metaphors in science,particularly those involved in descriptions of the egg and the sperm” and that once we wake up the sleeping metaphors we can finally neutralize our social conventions about gender.  Upon reading it I went to Google and started searching for more examples of how the egg is only described in stereotypical feminine terms, while the sperm portrays stereotypical masculine qualities. When doing this I of course came across several examples of what Martin was discussing in her writing, but I also came across an article written in Discover Magazine analyzing Martin’s work.  In the Discover Magazine article, “New Theory on How the Aggressive Egg Attracts the Sperm”, David Freedman examines the claims that Martin has made and how they are changing the way people view the process of reproduction.  In his opening paragraph he provides an example for how a textbook may describe reproduction through an Emily Martin lens saying, “First, a wastefully huge swarm of sperm weakly flops along, its members bumping into walls and flailing aimlessly through thick strands of mucus. Eventually, through sheer odds of pinball-like bouncing more than anything else, a few sperm end up close to an egg. As they mill around, the egg selects one and reels it in, pinning it down in spite of its efforts to escape. It’s no contest, really. The gigantic, hardy egg yanks this tiny sperm inside, distills out the chromosomes, and sets out to become an embryo.”  My first reaction to this was that he was grossly over-exaggerating the situation and going too an extreme.  But after looking at other examples in textbooks I realized that this was not that overly-exagerrated compared to some of the descriptions that I have read in favor of the active sperm and passive egg.  I find this all so fascinating because reproduction is such a big biological subject and the idea that it can be tainted so easily and so silently with stereotypes is crazy to me! Science should almost be the most unbiased subject, yet it has been polluted by social stereotypes that causes it to completely change the meaning/understanding of the process.