Monday, June 01, 2015

Thinking Pink

Men excel at a lot of things. Like opening pickle jars, grilling meat, killing spiders, changing the oil, unclogging toilets, moving furniture.

But they also fancy themselves as great problem solvers which may be a bit of an exaggeration.

To underscore this, we need to look no farther that the Wisconsin State Legislature where a mostly male bipartisan group of lawmakers has tackled the thorny problem of how to get more women involved in hunting.

This may seem strange in Los Angeles where the only thing we hunt are parking spaces. But out there in the forests, fields and streams of America, this is serious business.

So after considerable deliberation, the lawmakers decided that the best way to make hunting female friendly is to allow hunters to wear pink.

I kid you not.

Under Wisconsin law, no one can hunt anything except waterfowl during deer season unless at least half of each article of clothing worn above the waist, such as jacket or a hat, is colored blaze orange.

This is intended to prevent your hunting buddy, who may have taken a few belts of Old Grandad to ward off the cold, from mistaking you for an eight-point buck.

It stands to reason then, according to the legislative group, that by allowing hunting gear in a more feminine pink, women will flock to the woods like mosquitoes in springtime.

Which is like saying that if the NFL used pink uniforms, more women would play football.

It remains to be seen how this will play with the women of Wisconsin but don’t expect the male hunters to look pretty in pink. Most guys who slug their way through the northern woods in search of game are getting in touch with their inner-Neanderthal. 

They want to come home from a successful hunt with the kill draped over their massive shoulders, successfully providing food for the clan. Call it Paleolithic Age old school.

Most of these guys would hunt wearing bear-skin loincloths given the choice. Don’t expect them to think pink.

In the meantime, we salute our Wisconsin friends for their attempts at inclusiveness. But their solution may insult more women than it attracts.

Speaking of males, it turns out that British researchers, having apparently wondered for a long time why the gender even exists, have come up with a reason.

From a purely biological standpoint, the existence of the male sex is kind of perplexing: When it's time to create a new generation, the males of a species often contribute nothing but genetic material to the mix.

"Almost all multicellular species on earth reproduce using sex, but its existence isn't easy to explain because sex carries big burdens, the most obvious of which is that only half of your offspring -- daughters -- will actually produce offspring," lead author Matt Gage told the Washington Post.

 "Why should any species waste all that effort on sons? We wanted to understand how Darwinian selection can allow this widespread and seemingly wasteful reproductive system to persist, when a system where all individuals produce offspring without sex -- as in all-female asexual populations -- would be a far more effective route to reproduce greater numbers of offspring."

Many males are deeply involved in the rearing of their children -- take penguins, sea horses, and humans, for example -- but in extreme cases, males are nothing but parasitic sperm-producers that latch onto their females of choice, according to the Post. So 50 percent of most species are capable of producing young, and 50 percent are just around to provide genetic variety. And to look good shirtless.

But the study concluded that males are required for a process known as "sexual selection" which helps species to ward off disease and avoid extinction.

A system where all offspring are produced without sex -- as in all-female asexual populations -- would be far more efficient at reproducing greater numbers of offspring, the scientists said.

But they found that sexual selection, in which males compete to be chosen by females for reproduction, improves the gene pool and boosts population health, helping explain why males are important.

So next time a guy slides up and says, “Come here often?” remember he’s just trying to improve the species.

The good news: I’m not just a Genetic Material Producing Unit. The bad news: Oxford University human genetics professor Bryan Sykes believes that with the declining sperm count in men and the continual atrophy of the Y chromosome, within 5,000 generations (approximately 125,000 years) the male of the human species will become extinct.

You’ll miss us when we’re gone. Especially if you need a pickle jar opened.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

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