What would you rather have measured: your IQ or your testicles?

Where maternity is concerned, studies are quick to generalise. But when paternity comes in, research hardly ever gets further than the testicles.

The 21st century has been relatively kind to women in the workplace: homemaker is no longer seen as the pinnacle of female ambition; law, medicine and engineering have all seen impressive numbers of female students (with ‘warnings’ from the Royal College of Physicians suggesting that by 2017, most doctors will be women); all-women political shortlists have seen encouraging results in the Labour party. The time is gone when men retired from the dinner table to ‘talk politics’ while their womenfolk expressed a love of kittens to one another in a constant feedback loop. And it all happened fairly quickly: there is certainly a generation alive today who sat at that dinner table.

What has survived all of this progression is the idea that no matter what sort of a career a woman pursues – whether publishing, lecturing, nursing, computer game designing, or engaging in armed combat – her maternal instinct will win out. Discussions about whether women can ‘have it all’ imply that ‘all’ for women necessarily includes children. And yet procreation is going out of fashion: the average British family has 1.7 children, statistically miles away from the oft-quoted 2.4 of years gone by.

Perhaps it’s because we’re educating women too much that they’re refusing to breed. That certainly seems to be the view of (male) researcher Satoshi Kanazawa, an analyst at the London School of Economics who ‘found’ that the maternal urge of women decreases with every 15 IQ points. Setting aside the fact that measuring intelligence is a highly sketchy art at best, and measuring ‘maternal instinct’ presumably even sketchier, the media has been quick to label Kanazawa’s findings ‘innovations’. “If any value is truly unnatural, if there is one thing that humans (and all other species in nature) are decisively not designed for, it is voluntary childlessness,” Kanazawa then writes in his book The Intelligence Paradox, brazenly throwing around the terms “unnatural” and “designed for” like so many toys out of a rare baby’s pram.

When it comes to maternity, intelligence is first in the firing line. But when it comes to paternity, we clearly have other concerns. Emory University in the US has found a definitive link between the parenting involvement of a man and the size of his testicles, according to BBC News. In a nutshell (no pun intended), the results were: small testicles, better daddy. Researcher Dr James Rilling commented: "It tells us some men are more naturally inclined to care-giving than others, but I don't think that excuses other men.” Quite.

When maternity is investigated, it is all too often extrapolated into evolutionary theory, the downfall of the species, and the potential collapse of western society. Where paternity is concerned, testicles are about as far as you get. The most telling part of Emory’s study is the disclaimer that “cultural and societal expectations on the role of the father are... not accounted for in the study.” Meanwhile, Kanazawa’s “paradox” is found in the idea that smarter women might not be doing as much as what they were “designed for”. Perhaps it’s another one of those pesky social factors. Like not wanting to.

Either way, I think I’d rather have my (huge, metaphorical) testicles measured than be told that my intelligence quotient is a problem for my ovaries.

A mother and father feed their son a burger in Brooklyn. Image: Getty
Holly Baxter is a freelance journalist who writes regularly for The Guardian and The New Statesman. She is also one half of The Vagenda and releases a book on the media in May 2014.
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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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