By Prashant Garg:
As sea exploration progressed and we began to understand sea life, scientists came across Anglerfishes. During their exploration, they were faced with this extraordinary situation where all the captured specimens were females. The search for the male Anglerfish began. Before we explore this issue further, let us understand feminism in our times.
Taking on Karl Marx’s theory of alienation, the separation of things that naturally belong together eventually leads to mutual antagonism. With time, one party is subjugated and the other party assumes a commanding position. This produces a feeling of discontent in the minds of the subjugated, eventually leading to alienation. In Marx’s world, the final stage comes in the form of a revolution, often militant, which establishes a new world order. Feminism can be seen evolving under a similar paradigm.
We can invoke the utopian past where gender equality was the norm and idealize it. But evidences to that effect are few, also the texts have gone through countless revisions and rewritten over a period of millennia. One might even take it all as a hangover of the type: “everything was better when everything was worse.” Yet, what one needs is a focus on the present scenario. Over the past 50 years, the idea of feminism has gained momentum and gender equality has become the buzzword. It had its genesis in the separation of males and females, which naturally belong together, into two groups where male domination exploited females in various forms with varying degrees across humanity. Eventually, the alienation developed, and with education the subjugated found their voice. Feminist groups launched campaigns of empowerment. They have achieved some success, yet the discrimination and suppression continues. Ranging from the ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon in the corporate world to patriarchal mindsets at home, we have reached a point where a group equally aware of its rights and potentials is being held back by a group which does not know its limitations. The situation is akin to a pressure cooker where the lid of ‘male superiority’ is trying to control the steam of ‘female aspirations’. Eventually, the steam grows out of control blasting the cooker as well as the lid. This is not to suggest that feminist groups will take over males through militancy, rather this will lead to extreme form of feminism where feminism will mean indifference towards the males.
Let us go back to Anglerfish to understand this. Where are the male Anglerfishes? When scientists analyzed female Anglerfishes, they realized that almost all of them had some parasites attached to them. Further study made it clear that these parasites were highly reduced male Anglerfishes. It was a case of extreme sexual dimorphism where considerably smaller males never get to mature without parasitizing a female and die if they are unable to find one. Due to their size and lack of mature body system, it becomes difficult for them to find food. To find and mate with a female becomes the only purpose of their lives. Just after birth, male starts looking for the female and bites into her skin as soon as he finds one. Due to enzymes released in this process, the mouth of the male gets fused with the skin of the female. Thereafter, the male becomes dependent on the female host.
The evolutionary explanation provided to explain such sexual parasitism is rooted in ‘Resource Constraint’ at deep sea conditions. The resource poor environment forces females to develop specialized features on one hand and males to shrink to reduce metabolic costs on the other. When nature induced constraints can force two groups to adapt in such an extreme way, we need to ask ourselves what can happen when one group, in its ignorance, knowingly imposes restrictions on the other group?