DO OTHER ANIMALS DO ABOUT GENDER ISSUES?
has been a contentious social issue in the United States for well over
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed by Congress in 1919 and ratified
by most states in 1920 was necessary to establish the point that women
should have the right to vote. The topic was a long-lasting and controversial
one considering it was initially introduced to the U.S. Congress in
1878 and was still being contested in 1922 when the Supreme Court unanimously
ruled in favor of the amendment. Equality of the sexes in the workplace
continues to be debated, and recent transgender issues have introduced
yet another wrinkle.
at gender distribution patterns in other animals probably won't provide
any insights for humans. However, looking at what other animals have
to deal with, some similar and some different from the human condition,
gives a fresh perspective on our own situation. In some parts of the
animal kingdom, the gender issue could easily become confounded, at
least by human standards, because the diversity of sexual differentiation
among species is immense. The array of patterns is fascinating. For
some species, determining how to balance male-female rights would be
baffling, especially if they had to deal with voting rights.
difference between the sexes in many species is body size. In some species,
including humans, adult males reach larger sizes on average than females.
Such is true for African elephants, tilapia and American alligators.
In even more species, however, females get noticeably larger than males.
Female size dominance occurs in black widow spiders, slider turtles
and red-tailed hawks.
hypotheses have been proposed to explain why the sexes have evolved
to be different sizes among different species. Those having larger males
generally have social systems in which males engage in physical combat
or display with other males of the species. Contests are typically fought
for possession of resources, including access to females. One relatively
reliable attribute of species having female size dominance is that larger
females produce more offspring on average than smaller ones. As with
American citizens, despite the difference in average body size between
the sexes, each individual, male and female, in such species should
get one vote.
of many animal species that could lead to dissension of whether "one
critter, one vote" should apply is a frequently observed feature
of some animal populations. That is, the sex ratio is nowhere near equal.
For example, garter snakes in Manitoba have a notable excess of males.
Should females get twice as many votes as males because they are so
outnumbered? Or should a heavily male-dominated society let females
vote at all?
other direction, the Brahminy blind snake, an Asian species now naturalized
in Florida, has a population sex ratio that should cause no problem
with proponents of gender equality. These tiny snakes that are the size
of earthworms are all females. A mother Brahminy blind snake lays unfertilized
eggs that hatch into little female snakes that are genetic copies of
themselves. The 19th Amendment would be unnecessary. Either everyone
votes or no one does. With regard to gender politics, this might be
the most harmonious society imaginable.
animal species differential size and number of the sexes would pose
no problem for another reason, because each individual possesses both
male and female reproductive organs. For example, when two earthworms
mate, each provides sperm to fertilize eggs in the other. Each earthworm
would naturally get two votes in an election. That might be handy when
trying to decide whether to vote for Candidate A or Candidate B. Just
vote for both. But imagine how confusing the issue of sexual harassment
or gay rights would be among earthworms.
voting rights for the sexes could clearly get very complicated among
many other animal species compared to humans. But the issue of where
any of them go to the bathroom never has caused a problem.
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