On Becoming A Woman/Man Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Where Did You Come From?

This chapter is, word for word, the exact same as chapter two in On Becoming A Man (OBAM). So consider this post as applying to both books equally.

This is the chapter in which Shryock makes sure we all have a solid understanding of…well, I’m not entirely sure.

Brushing aside all the stories and fairy tales about babies being brought by the stork or in the doctor’s black bag, the present chapter is intended to give you a simple and matter of fact explanation of the beginning of life.

Spoiler alert: it fails.

Doubtless you understand a considerable amount of this subject already. It may be that you have read books, or that your parents have discussed the matter with you. Also, your general observations have given you considerable insight into the principles of the origin of life.

Um, what? My general observations… of what? Did children of the 1960s frequently walk in on their parents without knocking? Is Shryock referring to children who work with animals a lot? What does he mean “general observations?”

Personally, my parents, well, mother, actually, talked with me about inserting tab A into slot B, and when I was properly horrified, gave me a book on the subject.* For the record, “General observations” played no part in it and I am genuinely confused as to what the hell that means.

In any case, Shryock wants to make sure we are getting correct information, so he is going to talk to us about “where we came from.” And no, he doesn’t mean which pre-historic ancestor we most likely evolved from.

First off, every person has two parents, a mother and a father, even if said father or mother are no longer living/otherwise out of the picture. A person may look like their mother or have their father’s temper. Sometimes characteristics aren’t from the mother or father at all, but from grandparents or great grandparents. Also, you get an equal amount of genetic information from your father and mother.

That’s a very simplistic explanation, but in essence correct. I just got done reading about this in The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins. Fascinating stuff, at least in my opinion.  I debated going on for 3 or 4 paragraphs about it but ultimately decided that might be too rambly.

Each parent possess glands capable of producing specialized germ cells that make it possible to start the life of a child. These cells are called Germ cells simply because they function in a similar matter to the germ in a kernel of wheat. It only takes one germ cell from each parent to start the life of a child….the cell from the mother’s body must be joined by a cell from the father.

According to the great and all knowing Wikipedia

A germ cell is any biological cell that gives rise to the gametes of an organism that reproduces sexually.

That being said, I can’t figure out why Shryock is using the term “germ cells” instead of “sperm” and “egg.” Did these terms not exist in 1968? I kind of doubt it. This seems incredibly vague to me, and isn’t actually explaining much.

So, Germ cells. Ok, how exactly does one go about combining a male germ cell with a female one? Hold your horses, we’ll get there… sort of. In a few more pages.

Each germ cell contains genes, which determine features and traits. The union of the germ cells is called conception. Because one cell from the mother is combined with another from the father, the child inherits genes equally from both sides.

These same cells likewise determine whether the new child will be a boy or a girl. The gender is decreed by chance and depends upon the particular genes that are present.

Isn’t sex (not gender, sex) determined by the father’s “germ cell?” I’m not sure of the science behind it (Dawkins didn’t cover that in his book) but I seem to recall reading that somewhere.

The union of the two germ cells occurs within the body of the mother, the cell from the father having been implanted within the mother’s body.

How? How are the “germ cells” implanted in the mother’s body? We’ll get to that in a few pages, calm down, sheesh. Yanno, I don’t think this book is very well organized.

Here [in the uterus] the cells grow and multiply in a truly remarkable fashion.

Oh yeah, I read about embryology in Dawkins’ book too. It’s pretty interesting, and way more detail than we are going to get into here.

At first all the cells that result from the growth of the original two sperm cells are exactly alike. Within a few days, however, certain cells begin to develop in such a way as to produce muscle, bone, nerves…within a very few weeks the tiny body of the newly formed infant is quite well defined, with head, face, arms, legs, even fingers and toes.

Creationists will deny that humans could evolve from a couple of cells, yet they freely admit that every single one of us has already done so. And we only took 9 months to do it.

I’m not sure what Shyrock means by “a few weeks.” We’ll assume he means 8 weeks:

I don’t think it’s quite done growing yet. I’m seeing fingers, but not really any toes. Shryock kept embryological development quite vague, which is odd for a pro-lifer.

Shryock goes on to talk about how the fetus gets nourishment and oxygen, while also expelling waste. Infants are ready to be born 9 months after conception

As one thinks of this remarkable process by which a new life comes into existence, he is forced to a greater appreciation of the marvelous work of creation and God’s kindness to his human children.

Yes, every time I contemplate the pain of childbirth, I am forced to wonder at the kindness God shows towards me.

It’s important that parents guard their health, so they can pass on “a favorable legacy” to their child.

Even though the heredity of an infant is determined at the time of its conception, its personality must be molded by the influence of the parents throughout the years of childhood. Let me appeal to you, a teenage youth, to order your life and habits in such ways that when it later becomes your privilege to be a parent, you will need make no apologies but will be able to pass on to your son or daughter the best of health, the best of mentality, and the best of spiritual development.

Develop good characteristics now, children, because you will be a mother or father someday! At least this warning is the same across both books, so this advice isn’t just given to women. However, I think this is shitty advice. Not everyone wants to have children. You should tell me why I need to develop good characteristics for my own personal benefit, in case I wind up childless, either by choice or by chance.

Now back to our story of the developing infant.

Maybe you should’ve just edited the manuscript and moved the text around so you wouldn’t have to “go back” to anything.

But we’re actually not talking about embryology, so we’re not talking about developing infants. We’re talking instead about childbirth.

the birth canal consists of the vagina and the surrounding structures of the mother’s pelvis. At times other than childbirth the vagina is a slender passage which leads from the lower part of the uterus to the outside, opening between the mother’s thighs. It was by way of the vagina that the original sperm cell from the father was implanted in the mother’s body. At the time of childbirth the vagina becomes tremendously enlarged so as to accommodate the body of the infant as it is born. Immediately after the infant is born…

Emphasis mine.

This, right here, is the only clue we get as to how the “germ cell” from the father got into the mother’s body in the first place. But the book never specifies what the germ cell is, or exactly how it is put in there.

Now, most people who read this are probably smart enough to figure this all out for themselves. But what about those teenagers who, though very intelligent, are simply uneducated. How exactly does this book help to educate them?

Shryock, remember what you said in the last chapter about it being a bad idea to be evasive or give out misinformation? You are being evasive right here, right now, and the teenagers who read this are going to go out of their way to find the real knowledge, and from your perspective it won’t be pretty.

In any case, after the infant is born the doctor cuts the umbilical cord, which leaves a stump. This scar known as the belly button.

 Admittedly the process of childbirth is painful to the mother. The pain results, principally, from the stretching of the tissues that form the birth canal. Also, the powerful contractions of the muscles in the wall of the uterus produce considerable discomfort.

What he really means is “hurts like hell” and “feels like you are being ripped apart from the inside out.”

I’ve never experienced the pain of childbirth, but if it is anything like the pain of getting my IUD, I will absolutely not be doing this naturally. You will give me my painkiller and you will give me a double dose and you will give it to me yesterday.

Childbirth is a normal process, however, and the mother soon forgets the pain and discomfort. A healthy mother with a wholesome outlook on life finds great pleasure in the knowledge that she has had an important part of bringing a new life into existence.

Not every woman wants children.

The chapter ends with Shryock telling us that love for her newborn child makes the mother quickly forget the pain. I won’t speak to that because I have no experience on the topic.

So, that was chapter 2 of OBAW/OBAM. It’s…. bad. It’s very vague, and I am disappointed. I was at least expecting a basic textbook explanation of “insert tab A into slot B,” and  “sperm+ egg+implantation=baby.” But we don’t even get that. Instead we get vague terms like “Germ cells” and “the vagina is how the father puts his germ cells into the mother.”

My mother actually felt it was very important that us children get a basic understanding of the birds and the bees, so she talked to us and gave us books. I disliked this topic greatly as a child, but now I am grateful that somebody out there did their best to give me correct information. Heaven help me if I had had to rely on this book. I would have been totally and completely lost and confused.


*I’m not actually sure if the book was on sex, actually, but it was an American Girl book called The Care and Keeping of You.








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