Hit & Run

Isn't It Simply Grand to Have a Penis?

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Marianne J. Legato, director of the Partnership for Women's Health at Columbia, argues that two decades of concentration on women's health have led the medical community to ignore the most glaring gender disparity in physical fitness:

What emerges when one studies male biology in a truly evenhanded way is the realization that from the moment of conception on, men are less likely to survive than women. It's not just that men take on greater risks and pursue more hazardous vocations than women. There are poorly understood—and underappreciated—vulnerabilities inherent in men's genetic and hormonal makeup…

Men's troubles begin during the earliest days in the womb. Even though there are more male than female embryos, there are more miscarriages of male fetuses. Industrial countries are also witnessing a decline in male to female birth ratios, and we don't know why.

Some scientists have argued that the probability of a male child declines as parents (especially fathers) age. Still others have cited the prevalence of pesticides, which produce more birth defects in male children.

Even when a boy manages to be born, he's still behind the survival eight ball: he is three to four times more likely than girls to have developmental disorders like autism and dyslexia; girls learn language earlier, develop richer vocabularies and even hear better than boys. Girls demonstrate insight and judgment earlier in adolescence than boys, who are more impulsive and take more risks than their sisters. Teenage boys are more likely to commit suicide than girls and are more likely to die violent deaths before adulthood…

Considering the relative fragility of men, it's clearly counterintuitive for us to urge them, from boyhood on, to cope bravely with adversity, to ignore discomfort, to persevere in spite of pain and to accept without question the most dangerous jobs and tasks we have to offer. Perhaps the reason many societies offer boys nutritional, educational and vocational advantages over girls is not because of chauvinism—it's because we're trying to ensure their survival.

It's possible, too, that we've simply been sexist. We've complained bitterly that until recently women's health was restricted to keeping breasts and reproductive organs optimally functional, reflecting the view that what made women valuable was their ability to conceive and bear children. But aren't we doing the same thing with men? Read the questions posed on the cover of men's magazines: how robust is your sexuality? How well-developed are your abs? The only malignancy I hear discussed with men is prostate cancer.

So maybe more manliness isn't the answer, but it's interesting to see Legato's path intersecting that of Christina Hoff Summers and other war-against-boys types, who get hot and bothered over the way males are being physically and mentally marginalized. For my money, all these people are just pikers compared to Valerie Solanas, whose SCUM Manifesto foresaw the era of mechanical reproduction and the obsolescence of men:

Retaining the male has not even the dubious purpose of reproduction. The male is a biological accident: the y(male) gene is an incomplete x(female) gene, that is, has an incomplete set of chromosomes. In other words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples…

The sick, irrational men, those who attempt to defend themselves against their disgustingness, when they see SCUM barrelling down on them, will cling in terror to Big Mama with her Big Bouncy Boobies, but Boobies won't protect them against SCUM; Big Mama will be clinging to Big Daddy, who will be in the corner shitting in his forceful, dynamic pants. Men who are rational, however, won't kick or struggle or raise a distressing fuss, but will just sit back, relax, enjoy the show and ride the waves to their demise.