Way back when I was studying Mass Communications and The Barbados Community College in Barbados in 1992, there was a raging argument about male/female relationships.
I remember it well, because my then tutor, Susan Harewood, made a comment that has stuck with me ever since. She said, “Men and women will never be equal until women can concieve without needing sperm from a man, or be able to have children without a need for a womb.”
I remember thinking and thinking about what she said, and while to this day I don’t always agree with what she said, I completely ‘got’ what she meant.
So imagine my shock, sitting here moments ago and watching the UK (HACK) version of SciFic Channel, to hear that scientists have discovered away to fertilise human ovum without the need for sperm.
So naturally curious, I googled it right away.
Right at the top of the list is this article from the Beebs online, from — get this — July 2001! Ai-ya! How is it I find these old, old stories?
An female Austrailian scientist, Dr Lacham-Kaplan, has developed this technique, by mimicking “the process that takes place during normal fertilisation when two sets of chromosomes in an egg are separated and one is ejected, leaving the remaining set to combine with the single set from the sperm”.
The scientist said she developed the process to help men with no viable sperm have biological children, however the article mentions that technically it could allow a lesbian couple to reproduce, but only a baby girl, as women lack the Y chromosome (WHY DEM MAN SO?) necessary to produce a male fetus.
(Gotta love those Aussies… who are also experimenting with teleportation. Star Trek, here we come! Note: At last check, they’d only been able to teleport a few atoms.)
This fertility specialist dude, Professor Robert Winston says in the article, “The beauty of this technique is that it makes cloning completely unnecessary. This actually is a much better technique and ethically much more acceptable because you have chromosomes from two partners.”
The article does mention some problematic issues, like certain genes from a man that are required during the development of the fetus.
Naturally pro-lifers went right up in arms over it.
A more recent article picks up on the thread of men still being needed to reproduce.
Specifically, there is more than DNA being transmitted during the egg fertilisation process. They are theorising is RNA and other chemicals that act as switches, turning on the developmental process.
Recent articles I’ve seen in this little information quest, talk about a fatherless mouse, and of course headlines abound, “Who needs men?”
However, Stephen Krawetz and colleagues of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, have identified some of the RNA ‘messenger molecules’ that act as triggers in the human developmental process and which come solely from men. Apparently, embryos fertilised without male genetic information, tend to die in the womb before full term.
So it seems, women still need men, and according to my old teacher, women will still be oppressed by our reproductive process.
I don’t know if I think this is the only reason women are still being oppressed, this biological need for men’s genetic material to reproduce, however I think it does play a part.
In this day and age, when needing a man for anything other than reproduction, is being drilled into us by so much popular culture schtick, science or rather nature doesn’t agree. More, scientists haven’t been able to make the reproductive process work without men. At least not yet.
I for one, think women need men for more than babies. However, I think when we are free from the social constructs, rather that biological hard wiring, will female liberation really occur.
I shall ponder this some more.