Carol Hunt: Once more into the fray on the oldest battlefield of all
It was political philosopher Mary O'Brien who said that the discovery of paternity was a seismic world historical moment. And I'm inclined to agree with her. In fact, it's the only thing that makes sense of how the world has been run for millennia.
O'Brien, in her book The Politics of Reproduction, insisted that when men realised they actually had something to do with the creation of new life they were ecstatic, delighted, smug even. They'd always suspected that something as important as reproduction shouldn't be just the gift of mere women. The human need to reproduce was so primal, so elemental; surely the men should be in charge of it? And so paternalism was born. Father knew best.
But there were problems. Primarily of the "who's your Daddy?" kind. A woman's link to her child is obvious and involuntary. But how could a man be sure the child was his and not the offspring of the neighbourhood Lothario? It was awfully frustrating for the boys to be forced to sit by while the women got on with the important business of populating the planet. They needed to be in control.