In a random fit of “What brought that on?”, the New York Times has run an op-ed from Greg Hampikian about how the entire male sex is becoming increasingly irrelevant to human life. Being a professor of both Biology and Criminal Justice, Dr. Hampikian gives us both the physiological:
Then, at some point, your father spent a few minutes close by, but then left. A little while later, you encountered some very odd tiny cells that he had shed. They did not merge with you, or give you any cell membranes or nutrients — just an infinitesimally small packet of DNA, less than one-millionth of your mass.
Over the next nine months, you stole minerals from your mother’s bones and oxygen from her blood, and you received all your nutrition, energy and immune protection from her. By the time you were born your mother had contributed six to eight pounds of your weight. Then as a parting gift, she swathed you in billions of bacteria from her birth canal and groin that continue to protect your skin, digestive system and general health. In contrast, your father’s 3.3 picograms of DNA comes out to less than one pound of male contribution since the beginning of Homo sapiens 107 billion babies ago.
The hand-wringing about infinitesimal mass is a red herring; no matter how tiny in terms of body weight contributed, children nevertheless walk around with approximately 50% of their fathers’ DNA. The irony to that figure is that, since the X chromosome is bigger than the Y, boys actually get fewer genes from their fathers than do girls, but I digress. We might as well be talking about how much my Lion OS weighs down my MacBook.
That said, his point is taken, and his perspective is appreciated, that once the sperm has been procured, all the biological work of making a human being falls on the mother. And since we now have frozen sperm and other ARTs, women don’t really need to deal with men if our goal is to make more of ourselves. This is not exactly a new idea, and yet somehow, most women are still actively heterosexual.
He also goes into the sociological matters:
Meanwhile women live longer, are healthier and are far less likely to commit a violent offense. If men were cars, who would buy the model that doesn’t last as long, is given to lethal incidents and ends up impounded more often?
I’ll say a little about that later. The piece is actually not quite as ridiculous as Amanda Marcotte makes it sound, but at the very end, the paranoia comes out to play:
When I explained this to a female colleague and asked her if she thought that there was yet anything irreplaceable about men, she answered, “They’re entertaining.”
Gentlemen, let’s hope that’s enough.
One gets the impression that women are planning androcide as we speak. Dr. Hampikian, guess what else I can do without a man! I can:
- Move house.
- Assemble furniture.
- Open jars.
- Mow the lawn.
- Reach stuff on high shelves.
- Pump gas.
- Parallel park.
- Put a new five-gallon bottle in the water cooler.
- Open doors!
- Tell dirty jokes and use foul language!
I once even walked away from a violent attack by a (male) thug without injury, just by keeping my wits about me long enough to scream “FIRE!”
Come to think of it, that’s a far more salient issue than frozen sperm and turkey basters. About those “violent offenses” that get men “impounded” at far higher rates than women? Yeah, those include men using their superior muscle mass to menace, pummel, violate and even kill women, sometimes because we’re just there. Most male violence against women is on intimate partners or family members, but sometimes it’s just on the women who happen to be walking down the same street. I never did anything to offend the man who grabbed me by the crotch and dragged me halfway across the street before I spooked him into letting go of me. He grabbed me because he could. Women who get beaten and killed by their male partners don’t really behave any differently from women who have non-abusive heterosexual relationships; there are some men who hate women, and whose idea of “loving” women means hurting and controlling them.
If women decided to get rid of men, it wouldn’t be because they failed to be sufficiently entertaining, or because we simply no longer needed their powers of ejaculation for our offspring. It would be because we would like to be able to walk home, alone, from visits to our mother, at 10 PM, without worrying about who’s about to come running out from the nearest corner to get a handful of our pubic bone. Perhaps we’d like to be able to raise and provide for children without worrying that our co-parents will put us in an early grave.
I’m sure Dr. Hampikian is aware of these issues, yet for some reason, he focused the lion’s share of his energy on how ova are so much bigger and more essential than sperm.
Even that doesn’t really address the issue, because misogynist violence can be understood as a way to make sure women don’t get too independent of men. Wife-beaters don’t merely use their fists to express their displeasure with their wives; they systematically destroy their victims’ self-worth so that they won’t detach from their toxic relationships. If that fails, abusers use the threat of escalating violence to keep their victims from leaving. It is a constant drumbeat of, “You are nothing without me.” Random violence also sends a message, though the effect is more diffuse; I’m still rather skittish about walking home alone after dark (even though the detective in 2006 assured me that it was the first time he’d heard of a crime of that type reported in our town in his 20+ years on the force) but my dad and brother have nothing to fear. The generalized threat of violence ensures that women need to divide men into “good” and “bad” people and that we depend on the good ones to protect us from the bad.
It’s not really a matter of men being afraid that women are going to massacre all men because women are sick and tired of getting beaten, raped and murdered. It’s more like, human societies have enabled men who beat, rape and murder women for thousands of years because otherwise, women might be bold enough to live without men.
I’m sure Dr. Hampikian is not a violent or misogynist man, but in a way, he’s sort of contributing to the problem. It would be really nice for women the world over if men could stop lying awake at night worrying that their lives will be over the moment they stop being necessary, qua males, to their wives, mothers and daughters. As Amanda points out, while women in countries such as ours are no longer dependent on men as we used to be, we still mostly like having men in our lives. We love our brothers, we love our dads, our male cousins, our male friends, our boyfriends and husbands. Gay women have no need for men as romantic partners, but they can still have guy friends. Some even have boy children! (A couple of friends of mine recently adopted a very sweet little boy, so it’s not like they’d conceived and hoped for a girl.) There’s an important difference between needing someone and wanting someone. It is sufficient to be a male human who is a member of society. Women attaining independence is not the end of men’s lives.