Where do Babies Come From?

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Where do Babies Come From?

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Emily Martin argues that medical and scientific publications naturalize gender roles by presenting “facts” that reflect socially constructed ideas about gender. This misrepresentation is reflected in much of the information intended to educate children about the “facts” of life. Each of the pieces included in our course reader manifest this distortion to some degree. Because individuals begin to formulate ideas about gender at a very early age, such indoctrination is particularly precarious when presented during a child’s formative years. Feminists argue that Santa Claus, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are also dangerous fictionalizations but depictions of stereotypical male/female roles presented to young people as serious, straightforward answers to important questions is far more sinister and the implications more dangerous to a society that values and espouses equality.

Many of the tired old gender clichés are used in all of the books in order to weave together an answer to one of life’s inevitable questions: “Where do babies come from?” In attempting to answer this question, even the most well-intentioned parent is bound to instill false ideas about gender if he or she relies on most of the popular literature that attempts to broach this difficult topic. Females and their roles in the sexual process are almost always represented as passive mothers, caretakers, supporters of males—being acted upon—whereas men are the actors, initiators, adventurers, rescuers--in fact, the only ones really doing anything at all. The father goes on to say that “in bed” (an unnecessary assumption) a “daddy puts his penis inside” the woman’s vagina, “the sperm comes out of the daddy’s penis and goes into the mommy’s vagina, and then the sperm meets the egg and a baby starts” (Brooks). This typical description is repeated in another work with the “man lying so close to the woman that his penis can fit into her vagina” so that “one of his sperms can get to one of her eggs” (Sheffield, 17). In a more euphemistic description a “father bird puts his opening against the mother’s and sperm cells enter her and swim to the egg” and later “a shell forms around the egg” (Zapun). Rather than initiated by the egg, this action is carried out by one of it’s parts or, one could argue, a completely distinct part. Another book, What To Expect When Mommy’s Having A Baby states only that “the daddy puts his sperm inside the mommy,” giving absolutely no clue as to how this is physically accomplished.

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