Document Type




Format of Original

22 p.

Publication Date

Spring 2015


Johns Hopkins University Press

Source Publication

Feminist Formations

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1353/ff.2015.0006


A narrative analysis of videos of human conception from medical and nonmedical sources aired in the democratic space of YouTube finds that stereotypical gender roles are consistently assigned to cellular behavior. Sperm are represented as little men and embodiments of hegemonic masculinity, with heroic sperm winning the egg prize after a competitive athletic contest fraught with peril. Eggs are represented as featureless planets floating in a murky void and are without agency or action. Almost every video is about the “journey” or “adventure” of the sperm; the egg has no adventure. These videos represent a view of a persistent gendered narrative of human fertilization that does not coalesce with emerging scientific narratives that appear to attempt to be more gender-neutral in accounts of conception. The imposition of gendered social scripts onto biology—even pop-culture biology—may work to obscure common understanding of the nature of gender and of humanity, as well as reveal vivid and enduring stereotypes.


Published version. Feminist Formations, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring 2015): 24-45. DOI. © Johns Hopkins University Press 2015. Used with permission.

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