PRESS-NEWS.org - Press Release Distribution
PRESS RELEASES DISTRIBUTION

Metaphors for human fertilization are evolving, study shows

2023-10-01
(Press-News.org) New Haven, Conn. — In a common metaphor used to describe human fertilization, sperm cells are competitors racing to penetrate a passive egg. But as critics have noted, the description is also a “fairy tale,” rooted in cultural beliefs about masculinity and femininity.

A new study by Yale sociologist Rene Almeling provides evidence that this metaphor remains widely used despite the profound shift in recent decades in social and scientific views about gender, sex, and sexuality. But her findings, based on interviews with a diverse sample of 47 individuals, also reveal that a more gender-egalitarian metaphor is circulating that describes sperm and egg as two halves of a whole. 

“The metaphors we use in discussing biological processes like fertilization are powerful: They both reflect and produce collective understandings of our bodies, ourselves, and our society,” said Almeling, a professor of sociology in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “By studying biological metaphors, we can learn how they undergird our beliefs and actions.”

The study, published Oct. 1 in the journal Gender & Society, was inspired by a landmark 1991 paper by the anthropologist Emily Martin, in which she made the case that scientists had relied on prevailing cultural beliefs of masculinity and femininity to construct “a scientific fairy tale” of active sperm penetrating a passive egg. Writing then, Martin demonstrated that the metaphor influenced the questions scientists studied and how they reported their findings in peer-reviewed journals or described fertilization in medical textbooks.

In the three decades since Martin’s study, Almeling said, scholars and advocates have increasingly challenged the presumption of heterosexuality and the categorization of bodies as either male or female. Additionally, she said, scientists over this period have started to move away from depictions of active sperm and passive eggs, providing descriptions that include sperm moving aimlessly in circles and eggs issuing chemical signals to draw in sperm.  

While Martin’s study focused on scientists creating knowledge, Almeling surveyed members of the general public living in the same city in the northeastern United States to gauge whether the changing beliefs about gender and sexuality are associated with different metaphors about fertilization. The individuals interviewed for the study represented a broad range of education levels, occupations, sexualities, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. Thirty-three respondents were men and 14 were women.

When discussing reproduction, nearly all the men (30 of 33) and about two-thirds of the women (9 of 14) used some version of the traditional metaphor of active sperm and passive egg. Drawing on language associated with racing, swimming, or fighting, they offered colorful descriptions of large numbers of sperm competing before a winner triumphantly entered the awaiting egg.

About one-third of the men (12 of 33) and two-thirds of the women (10 of 14) voiced a different metaphor in which the sperm and the egg are equal parts that meet and form a combined whole. (Several respondents incorporated both metaphors into their answers.) Unlike in the traditional metaphor, the more egalitarian version includes no mention of competition or penetration, Almeling said. As portrayed in second metaphor, both cells are necessary, and neither is sufficient on its own.

None of the respondents described the egg as the active agent of conception, Almeling noted.

“Identifying the patterns in how people use these metaphors provides insight into how social beliefs shape our perceptions of biological processes,” said Almeling, whose 2020 book, “GUYnecology: The Missing Science of Men’s Reproductive Health,” examined the lack of knowledge-making about male reproductive health and its consequences. “Whether it is scientists conducting research, clinicians talking with their patients, journalists writing about reproductive technologies, legislators creating policy, or everyday people leading their lives, the biological metaphors we use shape our thinking and profoundly affect society.”

END


ELSE PRESS RELEASES FROM THIS DATE:

Study suggests threshold for type 2 diabetes diagnosis in women under 50 years should be lowered

2023-10-01
New research to be presented at this year’s Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Hamburg, Germany (2-6 October) and published in the journal Diabetes Therapy suggests that the diagnosis threshold for type 2 diabetes (T2D) should be lowered in women aged under 50 years, since natural blood loss through menstruation could be affecting their blood sugar management.  The study is by Dr Adrian Heald, Salford Royal Hospital, UK, and colleagues. Analysis of the national diabetes ...

Synergistic work of cations in anion exchange membranes for OH- transport in fuel cells

Synergistic work of cations in anion exchange membranes for OH- transport in fuel cells
2023-09-30
Anion exchange membrane fuel cells (AEMFCs) have gained attention in the process of fuel cell development because they operate in alkaline environments, the redox reaction rate at the electrodes is faster, and non-precious metal catalysts such as Ni, Co, and Ag can be used, which reduces the cost of fuel cells. However, the mobility of OH- is only 56.97% of that of H+ under the same conditions, and its stability is poor, so improving the ionic conductivity and mechanical properties of anion exchange membranes (AEM) is the key to the commercialization ...

Hairy polymer balls help get genetic blueprints inside T-cells for blood cancer therapy

Hairy polymer balls help get genetic blueprints inside T-cells for blood cancer therapy
2023-09-30
Tokyo, Japan – Scientists from Tokyo Metropolitan University have realized a new polymer that can effectively transport plasmid DNA into T-cells during chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, a key treatment for blood cancer. Importantly, it can get genes into floating T-cells, not only ones fixed to surfaces. It is stable, non-toxic, and doesn’t use viruses. It outperforms polyion compounds considered a gold standard in the field, paving the way for new therapies. T-cells, or lymphocytes, are a type of white blood cell that helps our immune system fight germs and protect us from disease. Recently, technology has become available that helps reprogram T-cells to fight cancer. ...

Reducing fishing gear could save whales with low impacts to California’s crab fishermen

2023-09-30
(Santa Barbara, Calif.) — Sometimes simple solutions are better. It all depends on the nature of the problem. For humpback whales, the problem is the rope connecting a crab trap on the seafloor to the buoy on the surface. And for fishermen, it’s fishery closures caused by whale entanglements. Managing this issue is currently a major item on California’s agenda, and it appears less fishing gear may be the optimal solution. So says a team of researchers led by Christopher Free, at UC Santa Barbara, after modeling the benefits and impacts that several management strategies would have on whales and fishermen. ...

Engineering researchers to study wireless communication and machine learning with NSF grant

2023-09-30
A virtual reality (VR) game crashes. A robot rolls dangerously close to the edge of a cliff. An autonomous vehicle speeds toward a pedestrian. Without intelligent control happening every millisecond, accidents can occur. This control can mean applying the brake of an autonomous vehicle to save a life or creating a more user-friendly augmented reality experience. Two professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University are working to enhance and advance the future ...

Wheat's long non-coding RNAs unveiled: A leap in understanding grain development

Wheats long non-coding RNAs unveiled: A leap in understanding grain development
2023-09-30
Wheat is a global staple food and plays a pivotal role in the livelihoods of billions of people. Although long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been recognized as crucial regulators of numerous biological processes, our knowledge of lncRNAs associated with wheat (Triticum aestivum) grain development remains minimal. Seed Biology published an online paper entitled “A comprehensive atlas of long non-coding RNAs provides insight into grain development in wheat” on 04 September 2023. To ...

New study will examine irritable bowel syndrome as long COVID symptom

New study will examine irritable bowel syndrome as long COVID symptom
2023-09-30
Researchers with the ongoing Arizona CoVHORT research study at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health were awarded $3.2 million by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for a five-year study of gastrointestinal symptoms, specifically irritable bowel syndrome, as a condition of long COVID. Led by epidemiologist Kristen Pogreba-Brown, PhD, MPH, the CoVHORT study is a longitudinal research study of COVID-19 and post-COVID conditions. The ...

Department of Energy announces up to $500 million for basic research to advance the frontiers of science

2023-09-29
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced up to $500 million in funding for basic research in support of DOE’s clean energy, economic, and national security goals. The funding will advance the priorities of DOE’s Office of Science and its major programs, including Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Basic Energy Sciences, Biological and Environmental Research, Fusion Energy Sciences, High Energy Physics, Nuclear Physics, Isotope R&D and Production, and Accelerator R&D and Production. This funding opportunity will help achieve the Biden Administration’s ...

Neural activity associated with motor commands changes depending on context

Neural activity associated with motor commands changes depending on context
2023-09-29
Standing at a crosswalk, the signal changes from “don’t walk,” to “walk.” You might step out into the street straight away, or you might look both ways before you cross. In either scenario, you see the light change, you cross the street. But the context is different; in one case, you didn’t think twice. In the other, you waited; looked to the left and right; saw the coast was clear; then stepped into the street. Researchers have known that certain brain activity when you see the light change and certain brain activity when you step out into the street are the same no matter the context -- there’s a known “pathway” ...

Argonne joins Illinois manufacturers for ​“Makers on the Move” tour

2023-09-29
Manufacturers throughout Illinois will have the chance to learn about working with the Materials Manufacturing Innovation Center (MMIC) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, when the MMIC gets on the bus for the second annual Makers on the Move tour.  The Illinois Manufacturing Association and Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) sponsor the eight-day, 1,000-mile tour, designed to showcase high-tech, clean, diverse and sustainable modern manufacturing. The branded Makers on the Move bus will stand out on the state’s roadways as it visits facilities, colleges ...

LAST 30 PRESS RELEASES:

Bioinformatics approach could help optimize soldiers’ training for improved readiness and recovery

Earth scientists describe a new kind of volcanic eruption

Warmer wetter climate predicted to bring societal and ecological impact to the Tibetan Plateau

Feeding infants peanut products protects against allergy into adolescence

Who will like beetle skewers? What Europeans think about alternative protein food

ETRI wins ‘iF Design Award’ for mobile collaborative robot

Combating carbon footprint: novel reactor system converts carbon dioxide into usable fuel

Investigating the origin of circatidal rhythms in freshwater snails

Altering cellular interactions around amyloid plaques may offer novel Alzheimer’s treatment strategies

Brain damage reveals part of the brain necessary for helping others

Surprising properties of elastic turbulence discovered

Study assesses cancer-related care at US hospitals predominantly serving minority populations compared with non-minority serving hospitals

First in-human investigator-initiated clinical trial to launch for refractory prostate cancer patients: Novel alpha therapy targets prostate-specific membrane antigen

Will generative AI change the way universities communicate?

Artificial Intelligence could help cure loneliness, says expert

Echidnapus identified from an ‘Age of Monotremes’

Semaglutide may protect kidney function in individuals with overweight or obesity and cardiovascular disease

New technique detects novel biomarkers for kidney diseases with nephrotic syndrome

Political elites take advantage of anti-partisan protests to disrupt politics

Tiny target discovered on RNA to short-circuit inflammation, UC Santa Cruz researchers find

Charge your laptop in a minute? Supercapacitors can help; new research offers clues

Scientists discover CO2 and CO ices in outskirts of solar system

Theory and experiment combine to shine a new light on proton spin

PKMYT1, a potential ‘Achilles heel’ of treatment resistant ER+ breast cancers with the poorest prognosis

PH-binding motifs as a platform for drug design: Lessons from protease-activated receptors (PARs)

Virginia Tech researcher creates new tool to move tiny bioparticles

On repeat: Biologists observe recurring evolutionary changes, over time, in stick insects

Understanding a broken heart

Genetic cause of rare childhood immune disorders discovered

With wobbling stars, astronomers gauge mass of 126 exoplanets and find 15 new ones

[Press-News.org] Metaphors for human fertilization are evolving, study shows