Malekind has dominated for centuries, but with the tides of change against gender bias in full flow, perhaps now on International Women’s Day it’s a pertinent time to ask: Does the world need men?
What if everyday, for the rest of eternity, was International Women’s Day in its most literal sense?
Like a global version of Wonder Woman‘s Themyscira, but with more scatter cushions:
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What if malekind, and the bodily manifestations of its patriarchal glory and privilege – funny and kind and protective and caring as so, so many can be – ceased to exist?
The question isn’t as far-fetched as you might think, since scientists have identified evidence showing the human Y chromosome – the very genetic building blocks of maleness – is on course to ‘self-destruct’.
Before you mistake this scientific investigation for International Women’s Day misandry, read what Professor Jenny Graves, a distinguished geneticist with the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science in Australia, has to say.
Prof Graves told UNILAD evidence collected over her fifty years of research shows the human Y chromosome will ‘poop out’ – not the technical term – and it’s just ‘a question of when’.
Citing the stable primate Y chromosome for the past 20 million years, she said:
I still expect that our Y chromosome to poop out. The question is when. The primate Y has been relatively stable for at least 20 million years. But ultimately the human Y could lose the rest of its genes quite suddenly.
It could suffer a sudden collapse, as has happened in some rodent groups that have lost their Y already.
In some rodent species, such as the mouse, she explains most of the gene on the Y chromosomes are gone, ‘and the Y has been completely lost in two rodent lineages’.
This happens for two reasons, she adds:
Firstly the Y is very mutagenic because it is always in a testis every generation by definition. The testis is a dangerous place to be because making sperm involves many cell divisions, during which mutation is more likely.
Secondly, the Y can’t repair itself by crossing over because it is genetically isolated from the X, so two mutant chromosomes can’t swap the good bits.
Graves first heralded the ‘death’ of the Y chromosome in a 2009 speech titled The Decline and Fall of the Y Chromosome, and the Future of Men, and despite fierce opposition from conflicting scientists – as well as so-called meninists on the world wide web – is sticking to her guns almost a decade on.
She explained what everyone who studied biology to GCSE level already knows: You need a Y chromosome to be male.
Yet, three hundred million years ago the Y chromosome had about 1,400 genes on it, and now it’s only got 45 left, so at this rate, Prof Graves posits, ‘we’re going to run out of genes on the Y chromosome in about five million years’. Uh oh.
She adds, ‘The Y chromosome is dying and the big question is what happens then’. Allow me to play devil’s advocate.
Well – beside the hypothetical but obviously catastrophic loss of human life; brothers, boyfriends, husbands, sons and dads – the prediction poses an interesting opportunity to explore how (and if) a new matriarchal milieu would work.
So what would happen if all women woke up in this weird dystopian misanthropic fantasy land starved of men?
We can look to an unlikely case study, in the aftermath of tragedy in Rwanda, for answers.
After the genocide in 1994, Rwanda was left in tatters; a nation in mourning for many thousands of its men.
Two decades on, and women who survived the conflict with both emotional and physical scars have rebuilt their country.
From the ashes of a bloody genocide came the foundations of an equal – and more importantly, peaceful – society with a 64 per cent female majority in government.
Rwanda now ranks fifth in the World Economic Fund’s Global Gender Gap report – meaning it is the fifth best country in the world to live in, if you identify as a woman, after Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden.
Britain ranks 20th while Canada came in 35th and America lags behind in 45th place.
Matriarchal societies, the likes of which have been shot into the mainstream with the origin story of Wonder Woman, are well documented. They’ve existed in nature with the elephants and bonobo apes for ages.
With scientists from Nanjing Medical University in China creating artificial sperm which has been used to successfully fertilise mouse eggs and produced healthy offsprings, the technological advances does beg the question of male value.
But, of course, the world wouldn’t be quite the same place of joyous diversity, humour, creativity, and innovation, without the men who have helped develop the human race.
Arguably, society would have witnessed fewer wars, mass shootings, and cases of sexual violence, too. But we, as individuals, would also be without our brothers, sons, fathers, and grandads in arms, and that’s a notion nothing short of devastating.
Rather than threatening one without the other, we still need to strive towards a world in which men and women can play nice. We’re not there yet.
Gender inequality is an issue which, since the dawn of suffrage, 100 years ago, has fought its way into the mainstream consciousness. Feminism and its keystones of equality for all are not going anywhere fast.
The dissemination of the fourth wave has bled into popular culture.
When it’s not calling for an end to grid girls, it inspires female-only retreats, such as SheIsland, feminist political parties like WE, and champions a renewed sexual liberation, as well as a wider acceptance of women’s body autonomy and the importance of individual choice.
The feminist movement, backed by scholarly thought, is hoping to eradicate child mortality rate, female genital mutilation, the gender pay gap, period poverty, sex trafficking and so many other global evils which largely affect women.
Feminism has also bolstered an outpouring of empowering creativity which delivers a two-finger salute to the patriarchy.
…And of course, subsequent accusations of man-hating misandry from those who try and squash the already oppressed in their fight for equality.
The seminal book written by The Economist’s Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas D. Kristof, Half The Sky, outlines exactly how equality of the sexes – and they’re existence – benefits all, financially and sociopolitically.
The academics put it plainly when they write:
Think about all the major issues confronting us in this century. These include war, insecurity and terrorism; population pressures, environmental strains and climate change; poverty and income gaps.
For all these diverse problems, empowering women is part of the answer. Most obviously, educating girls and bringing them into the economy will yield economic dividends and help address global poverty.
Professor Graves hopes an appreciation of the diversity of sex determination ‘might defuse the hype and get rid of the obnoxious moral overtones’ which make discussion of human sex so fraught.
Noting the ‘biological differences which cause so much discrimination’ – namely women’s unique role in reproduction ‘and its attendant time commitment’ – Graves calls for ‘practical solutions’ to this unjust treatment.
Concluding, she told UNILAD:
I think we do need to recognise men and women are biologically very different, and the more we understand these differences, especially in disease susceptibility and treatment, the better off we will be.
But we also must recognise that these biological differences don’t affect the ability of men and women to do most jobs, especially those that don’t depend on physical size.
Today, on International Women’s Day, it’s time to celebrate the men and women alike who champion equality.
Let’s play nice, shall we?
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.