Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Moltherhood Tuesday 2: On Potential Motherhood And Research Biases in the Field
This late 2013 post talks about a study which, among other things, tells us the reasons why almost all parenting studies are really about women, not about men, and what problems this creates: Little attention is paid to the influence of fathers, and in some cases the stubborn focus on mothers has delayed research in areas such as Down syndrome and autism.
More recent research shows that the age of the fathers matters about as much in both Down syndrome and autism fields as the age of the mothers, and in some cases more.
But for decades research focused only on mothers. When I asked one researcher in the field for the reasons he answered: "Surely the period of pregnancy matters more than the production of sperm." That this assumption then turned into "let's not study sperm" was something he didn't get.
The more recent emphasis as women always being potentially pregnant is of great concern from a human rights point of view. The above linked post talks about those issues, too.
Note that I'm not at all opposed to informing people about the potential impact of their choices on their future fertility. I'm, however, very opposed to the assumption that it's necessary to tell women to view themselves as just temporarily empty aquaria for future fetuses and to maintain that aquarium carefully, because this gives scope for dramatically unequal lived experiences for men and women, increases the likelihood of further controls on the behavior of women and might even become one of the issues that forced-birthers promote.
It's also useful to keep in mind that the studies arguing for behavioral changes in today's men and women (presumed to be potentially procreating) are actually done on mice and rats, not on humans.
The only thing I would change in that post now is to note that all men are finally included among the potential parents. That's because the new rodent studies find effects being passed from granddad rats to grandson rats and daughters. So now men, too, get to be told that they should eat their spinach, not for their own sake, but for the sake of future generations, whether imaginary or not. And they won't be released from that even by a menopause!
But women are not yet released from the view that they are all pretty much just potential mothers, as this recent post demonstrates.