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feminist science; the sperm and the egg story

Laura Hyatt lhyatt at mail1.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Sep 7 08:22:45 EST 1995

Cameron Smith (cameron at ecst.csuchico.edu) wrote:
: I am looking at biology textbooks, specifically the human 
: reproduction chapter. I have been intrigued when looking at biology 
: textbooks which describe the sperm and egg meeting. Many of them read 
: something like this:
: 	" hunderds of thousands of sperm swim up the fallopian tubes and 
: search of the single egg. Then when the sperm find the egg they swarm 
: around it as if magnetized, and all attack the egg until one finally 
: penetrates it..."  

: 	This story is a common one. I was rather disturbed when thinking :
about it as it almost sounds like a gang-rape sequence. The I began to :
look at how the egg is seen as passive and the sperms viewed as active.  :

Any positions on this issue? I'd love to hear how those in the : biology
community feel about this (remember I am based in a Communication :
department-- and I usually look at the rhetorical implications of :

Well, Cameron, I'm of the humble of opinion that that IS actually how it 
happens.  Although eggs do not move themselves, I suppose descriptions 
could be written to emphasize the strong attractive chemistry that the 
egg exudes to get the sperm to it in the first place.  And the poor 
mindless sperm, like lemmings simply follow their genetic 
program and once one sperm gets in, the egg slams the door shut to 
multiple fertilizations, and the rest of them simply swim around and die.  
THis would make the egg seem more powerful, I suppose.  

My $0.02 - Laura

Laura Hyatt
University of Pennsylvania
Department of Biology
Philadelphia, PA 19104

voice : 215/573-2987
fax   : 215/898-8780
email : lhyatt at mail.sas.upenn.edu
The biggest sin is sitting on your ass. -- Florynce Kennedy

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