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The Role of Science in Social Prejudices, Term Paper Example

Pages: 7

Words: 1909

Term Paper

The Egg and Sperm

Many primary science textbooks show male and female reproduction organs as systems for producing useful things such as sperm and eggs at the most basic level. Women’s menstrual cycle is intended to create eggs and provide an appropriate area for them to be grown and fertilized to produce children, but the excitement stops there (Martin 485). Menstruation must be considered a disaster if the female cycle is extolled as a profitable activity. Menstruation is described in medical textbooks as “debris” of the endometrium caused by necrosis or tissue death. The characteristics indicate that a system has gone astray, resulting in items that are no longer useful, do not meet specifications, are unsalable, waste, or junk.

Menstruation is depicted as a disorderly breakdown of form in a widely known medical literature, adding to the many works that characterize it as “relieving,” “loss,” “denuding,” and “expelling.” Male sexual physiology is assessed in a very different way. When describing the development of sperm, one of the pieces of literature that perceive menstruation as unsuccessful production uses a kind of frantic prose: “The processes that control the amazing cellular change from spermatid to matured sperm are unknown (Martin 485). Maybe the most astonishing aspect of sperm production is its enormity: the average human male can produce hundreds of millions of sperm every day.” The productive/destructive, male/female analogy is more apparent in Vernon Mountcastle’s classic work Medical Physiology:”

Another text’s female author wonders at the size of the minuscule seminiferous ducts that, if untwisted and connected, “would stretch approximately a third of a mile!” “In an adult man, those structures create large numbers of spermatozoa each day,” she adds. She later inquires, “How is this achievement accomplished?” None of these writings exhibits similar fervor for any feminine processes (Martin 485). It’s no coincidence that the “amazing” process of producing sperm entails precisely what the menstrual cycle does not: the generation of anything judged value. Menstrual cycle and sperm production are not identical processes and hence should not be anticipated to generate the same type of response. Ovulation is the scientifically correct female analog to spermatogenesis.

However, ovulation is not celebrated in this literature. All ovarian follicles carrying eggs are inborn, according to textbook accounts. “At birth, typical human ovaries comprise approximately one million follicles [each], and none emerge after birth.” Compared to the man, the infant female has all the germ cells they can ever have. A limited number, perhaps 400, will achieve maturity throughout her life. The others decline at some point in their growth in a way that that few, if any, survive by the time woman hits menopause, which occurs around the age of 50. Take note of the “strong difference” that this description creates between females and males: the male, who constantly makes new germ cells, and the female, that has a stockpile of germ cells at birth and is confronted with their degradation (Martin 486).

Such detailed depictions are not spared the female anatomy. In a news piece, one researcher notes that a woman’s ovaries grow old and wear out from the maturation of the eggs each month, even if she is still fairly young: “Once individuals glance through an endoscope, at an ovary that has been through dozens of cycles, sometimes in a brilliantly healthy American female, individuals see a disfigured, smashed organ.” Scientists might begin to identify homologous male and female reproduction processes to prevent some individuals’ obvious connotations of the female reproductive system. For example, females may be credited with “creating” mature ova one at a time when they are needed every month. In contrast, men may have issues with deteriorating germ cells (Price & Margrit 179). This degradation would proceed across life in sperm production, the non-differentiated cells in the testicles that are the long-lasted, latent predecessors of sperm.

Colonialism Narrative

Even Though the history of colonialism, the operations of decolonization have been written about over the last twenty years, the mystery of the significance of scientific thinking in content and sociocultural context to colonial governance structures and the colonizer–colonized interaction has largely gone undeveloped potentially. History of science in the non-Western world is still comprehended by conventional history of science using a paradigm that separates historical research into ‘areas of specialty.’ Colonialism is a pivotal period in the history of 19th century science, and it merits more consideration than modern scholars have given it (Philip 301).

Science and technology studies have made it mainstream that ‘science’ is a type of ‘culture’ via its efforts over the previous two decades. If science is to be seen as a cultural construct, scientific, political, and cultural concepts must all be challenged at the same time. In June 1834, After visiting Oot,y  Thomas Macaulay noted that it had “very much the aspect of a growing English watering spot.” He described the sight to his sister as “the greenery of Windsor woodland or Blenheim scattered across the mountains of Cumberland.” Was this story of the landscape’s “Englishness” a result of the Nilgiri hills’ “naturally English landscape”? (Philip 304).

Another planting narrative tells us that cultivating in the Nilgiris has numerous advantages: local tribal labor is inexpensive, and extra labor can be easily hauled in from neighboring districts with high unemployment. According to some legends, the indigenous are suffering from a type of climatically driven activity condition that makes it hard for them to be actual planters (Philip 322).

New research, but old imagery

Gender iconography in textbooks is being updated as new knowledge of sperm and egg emerges. However, rather than breaking free from stereotyped images of egg and sperm, the new study duplicates components of textbook gender iconography differently. Repeats in a different way part of textbook gender images, the recurrence of this picture recall what Ludwik Fleck referred to as “the self-contained” quality of scientific reasoning. He explained it as follows: “The interplay among what is already understood, what has to be learned, and those who will learn it contributes to system harmony (Martin 492). However, they also sustain the harmony of delusions, which is relatively safe within the bounds of a certain cognitive style.” Humans need to comprehend how cultural content evolves in scientific accounts when biological discoveries emerge or if that cultural content is firmly established or easily modified. For example, all of the literature cited above depict sperm as breaching the egg and particular components on a sperm’s head as adhering to the egg. This version of events was recently updated in Johns Hopkins University’s biophysics lab, converting the egg from a passive to an active entity.

It was formerly considered that the egg’s zona, or interior membranes, provided an invisible wall. Sperm overcome the barrier by manually tunneling through it, flailing their tails, and moving slowly (Martin 492). Later study revealed that the sperm produced hydrolytic juices that chemically degraded down the zona, implying that the sperm employed mechanical or chemical techniques to reach the ovum. In the most current studies, the investigators started to wonder about the energy of the sperm’s tail (Price & Margrit 179). (The lab’s objective was to create a contraceptive that functioned directly on sperm.) Their great astonishment observed that sperm’s forward drive is exceedingly feeble, contradicting the idea that sperm are powerful penetrators. Instead of rushing headlong, the sperm’s anterior swayed mostly back and forth. A sideways motion of the sperm’s tail causes the head to travel sideways with ten times the power of its forward motion. Even if the sperm’s total force were powerful enough to breach the zona physically, most of its energy would be focused laterally rather than forward (Martin 492).

The scientists who discovered the finding kept writing articles and abstracts as though the spermatozoa were the effective team attacking, binding, penetrating, and entering the egg (Price & Margrit 179). The main distinction was that sperm was now thought to conduct these functions ineffectively. It wasn’t until 1987, more than three years before the previous discoveries, that these researchers rethought the procedure to assign the egg a much more active role (Martin 492). They began to define the zona as a tenacious sperm trapper coated with sticky molecules capable of capturing a spermatozoon with a single bond and clasping it to the exterior of the zona. The zona pellucida, the innermost membrane, is a glycoprotein coating those traps and cords sperm before they pierce it.

Mutual partners

According to some studies, the egg is more than just a big, yolk-filled spherical through which the sperm penetrates to infuse new life. On the other hand, a recent study reveals that egg and sperm are simultaneously active partners. This appears to be a break from the usual textbook viewpoint, but closer examination exposes Schatten and Schatten’s adherence to the forceful sperm metaphor (Martin 494). They explain how “Whenever a long, narrow filaments burst out from the tips of the sperms’ triangular head and spear the egg, the eggs and sperm first come into contact. Then we discover, “Surprisingly, the harpoon is constructed at high speed, particle by particle, from a reservoir of protein contained in a specific area called the acrosome. Before its tip penetrates the egg and adheres, the filament can grow up to 20 times longer than the sperm head.” Why not call it “building a bridge” or “casting out a line” instead of “shooting a harpoon”? Harpoons puncture victims, injuring or killing them, but this filament adheres to them (Martin 494). Why not, like the Hopkins lab did, concentrate on the adhesiveness of the egg instead of the adhesiveness of the sperm? Male and female gametophytes “recognize one another,” and “connections involving the sperm and egg occur.”

Social Implications

All of the revised explanations of sperm and egg above appear to be constrained by the hierarchical iconography of previous stories (Martin 494). Although every new account gives the ovum a more noteworthy and more active part, when taken collectively, they put into play another societal preconception: the woman as a hazardous and violent menace. As a potentially violent and hostile menace, the egg becomes the female attacker in the Johns Hopkins lab’s updated model, “capturing and tethering” the sperm using its sticky zona, much like spiders waiting patiently in their web. The nucleus of the egg “interrupts” the sperm’s plunge with a “sudden and fast” surge in which she “straps the sperm and leads its nuclei to the center,” according to the Schatten lab (Martin 495).

Wassarman’s depiction of the egg’s exterior as “coated with hundreds of plasma membrane-bound extensions known as microvilli” that stretch out and grip the sperm contributes to the spiderlike impression. These photos give the egg a more active role, but at the expense of making it seem not very friendly (Martin 495). Images of women as deadly and violent are prevalent in Western culture and literature. More specifically, spider imagery is associated with the concept of an enveloping, consuming mother. Researchers did not erase gender prejudices in their explanations of sperm and egg due to new findings. Instead, researchers started to characterize sperm and egg in distinct but equally destructive terms.

Works Cited

Martin, Emily. “The egg and the sperm: How science has constructed a romance based on stereotypical male-female roles.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 16.3 (1991): 485-501.

Philip, Kavita. “English mud: Towards a critical cultural studies of colonial science.” Cultural Studies. Routledge, 2017. 300-331.

Price, Janet, and Margrit Shildrick, eds. Feminist theory and the body: A reader. Taylor & Francis, 1999.

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