April 29, 2004

Ladies Unite! Kaguya was created with no father. It's the first time a mammal has been born via parthenogenesis.

Do my fellow lesbians out there have anything to say about this?

  • I'm a woman trapped in a man's body, but fortunately, I'm a lesbian. *rimshot*
  • I'm a straight male, but: It's obvious that with sufficient technology (and given this news I doubt we're many years away from it) an all-female society could be created, and if I could see into the future I wouldn't be that surprised to find in a thousand years that some such societies exist. Some things would obviously be very different—family structure would be much less rigid without most people having two parents, and without crossing-over of genetic data (although that's possible to finagle, perhaps, with two eggs? not yet, I don't think) physical variation between individuals would change (in several ways: related people would look a lot more alike, but another future genetic scenario, that of complete racial mixing and averaging-out, would be impossible). On the other hand, it would be silly to pretend (as some people do) that all the kinds of trouble men have historically been responsible for would disappear. Women are, after all, only human. Greed, selfishness, ambition, jealousy, and hatred are the burden of every possible society. Do I think that an all-female, parthenogenic society would be, on the whole, better? Yes, because the elimination of gender differences reduces the possibility for suffering.
  • You know, there's a SF novel about this somewhere, but I'm too lazy to look it up. (I think I heard a friend talking about it - and that it wasn't particularly good)
  • "gender is the soul's pajamas" -i forget who
  • Personally, I'd rather see effort going into artificial wombs. I know a number of women who would kill for the chance to not bear their children 8).
  • My back yard is full of these. Every one is female, they reproduce by parthenogenesis.
  • (Actually looking at the article now, rather than talking out of my ass about the headlines I've seen: It's clearly possible NOW to have normal genetic crossing-over involving two eggs, and that's what's been done here. So this isn't really parthenogenesis, which involves an unfertilized egg turning into a full individual. In that case, disregard my comments about physical variations in the population.)
  • Yeah, okay, you little Susan B. Anthonies... this is real cute and everything, but who's gonna open jars and stuff for you, eh? ehh? ...oh. Well, then, on a more serious note: won't this destroy the sanctity of all the little heterosexual mouse marriages? And if we let mice do this, then soon enough all the homosexual invertebrates are gonna want to, too!
  • I have no trouble opening jars and stuff on my own, thank you. 100 ton hammers are good for more than just bopping heads. Here's a list of stories involving female-only worlds. I wasn't aware Leviathan's Deep could be considered one, but I was looking for Whileaway, which I read some years back. As a story, it lacked sufficient depth, since the author postulated a world much like a gendered one (pairs of parents, one more dominant, I suppose, taking care of children).
  • Ooh (from Alneda's list) - Elisabeth Vonarburg's In the Mother's Country (orginaly anglo-Canadian title The Maerlande Chronicles) is brilliant. Not a female-only world, but one with very few men, and very few fertile anyone. Interesting images of a post global warming Europe too. But best of all, it's also a poetic growing up story, not common in the SF genre. Okay - back to real life science fiction...
  • Don't think Alnedra's list has "The Disappearance" by Philip Wylie. The world splits (we're never told why) into one where all the men have disappeared and one where all the women have disappeared. I suppose this technology opens the way to two women having children with a genetic relationship to both. I can see why that would have an appeal, though it does have a slight "designer children" flavour. It surely indicates some degree of paranoid insecurity to interpret it as a move towards the total eradication of men...?
  • It's not just opening jars, ladies. I'm pretty sure that vehicle maintenance, lawn care and spider-killing are still our purview, and until advances have been made in those areas (like, say, telling me the oil light comes on the DAY it comes on), there'll still be a place for us in your lives. But I wonder - why does this fantasy meme (the elimination of men in the world) even exist? I can easily see the uses for this technology (Plegmund summed it up nicely in half a sentence); does anyone think it's odd that the world seems to easily fall into this idea, but the converse - no women - never comes up? Is it that women secretly desire an all-female world, while men can't bear the idea of an all-male world?
  • I haven't read any of the books Alnedra and jb mention, but I have read one book positing an all-male world (well, the start of one): Frank Herbert's The White Plague, and the earth is portrayed as (ahem) rather dystopiac. By contrast, are the fictional all-female worlds portrayed as utopian?
  • By contrast, are the fictional all-female worlds portrayed as utopian? Not necessarily. I think all-female worlds tend to be portrayed as rather static, but harmonious. It's a common trope that men give a society impetus and women give society cohesion.
  • I, for one, welcome our duovogenesian overladies.
  • Dammit, why does it always come back to the idea that if women want something done, they have to do it themselves?
  • well, this looks interesting but the article points out that genetic imprinting is a big obstacle to overcome. here's the skinny: you get half your chromosomes from each parent. mom and pop, before sending egg and sperm on their merry way, play a dirty trick on each other - they selectively turn on or off specific genes by methylation - adding a methyl group to the DNA, effectively blocking molecules that promote a gene, or removing these blocks to allow a gene to be turned on again. mom turns on genes that are good for women, dad turns on genes that are good for men. it's an evolutionary game of chess - dads want strong, fast-growing, healthy kids, while moms want kids that are small enough at birth that they can actually be birthed, and so on. so they compete with each other, not by removing genes permanently but by playing the "on or off" game - genetic imprinting. the trick is that the methylation pattern you get at birth is the one you're stuck with forever - you don't get a chance to change your DNA methylation pattern until just before you reproduce. your developing eggs or sperm get re-methylated before you pass them on to your own kids - women methylate in a female pattern, men methylate in a male pattern. what these people needed to do was combine a mature egg from mom #1 with a primordial egg that had not yet been re-methylated by mom #2, meaning that they had a good chance of getting the male methylation pattern from some of the chromosomes. they probably had to keep trying until (randomly) they got an egg from mom #2 that had mostly her dad's chromosome set. too many of her mom's chromosomes would have likely been fatal or very deleterious to the embryo. getting screwed up methylation patterns will result in some bad outcomes - a few examples are Prader-Willi syndrome and Angelman syndrome in humans, the result of inappropriate activation (or deactivation) of mom- or dad-specific genes, either by screwed-up methylation, nondisjunction events (too many chromosomes from one parent), or deletions of sections of a chromosome. so while the idea of, say, homosexual couples being able to have a kid that genetically is related to both of them sounds very cool, there's no way this will happen any time soon, not unless you're willing to have it go wrong 99% of the time (or more), have the cash and willpower to keep trying until it works, or until we can find some way to artificially methylate DNA in mom- and dad-specific patterns. plus, uh, why spend so much money on a procedure with a less-than-miniscule chance of success, and unknown health risks to the resulting kid, when there are so many perfectly good kids out there up for adoption?
  • Isn't it nice to have an actual scientist around who knows lots of things? *bows low to caution live frogs in the traditional manner*
  • Yes, but he has proven ineffectual in some areas. We need more chief specialists in the Monkey Science Court.
  • beauty post frogs. Don't sweat the astrophysics- it's all a bunch of numbers anyway. pfft - like numbers mean anything
  • Frogs, will you marry me?
  • Fes - the good world without men novels are not utopias. I seem to remember my rather feminist friend doing a gender studies course, and complaining about the male bashing in a woman only utopia (that was the one I thought of first). In the Mother's Land (a world with only a few men) is a much more complex book with all sorts of interesting gender bending - but it's main themes are growing up, imagination and responsibility.
  • <> oh, sweet lord. if only i could rest so comfortably on such ignorance and make another take care of me with all of that. (sigh) "Calgon, Take Me Away!"
  • But I don't want to kill the spiders.
  • bluehorse - don't think my wife would like that much ;)
  • But I wonder - why does this fantasy meme (the elimination of men in the world) even exist? I reckon it might be because society has always been male run, basically. Its an exercise in imagining a female run society - how would it differ from ours, where would it stay the same. And because its impossible to imagine men giving up power, you need to imagine them gone completely...