The Woman That Never Evolved

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Harvard University Press, 1999 - Science - 266 pages
2 Reviews

What does it mean to be female? Sarah Blaffer Hrdy--a sociobiologist and a feminist--believes that evolutionary biology can provide some surprising answers. Surprising to those feminists who mistakenly think that biology can only work against women. And surprising to those biologists who incorrectly believe that natural selection operates only on males.

In The Woman That Never Evolved we are introduced to our nearest female relatives competitive, independent, sexually assertive primates who have every bit as much at stake in the evolutionary game as their male counterparts do. These females compete among themselves for rank and resources, but will bond together for mutual defense. They risk their lives to protect their young, yet consort with the very male who murdered their offspring when successful reproduction depends upon it. They tolerate other breeding females if food is plentiful, but chase them away when monogamy is the optimal strategy. When "promiscuity" is an advantage, female primates--like their human cousins--exhibit a sexual appetite that ensures a range of breeding partners. From case after case we are led to the conclusion that the sexually passive, noncompetitive, all-nurturing woman of prevailing myth never could have evolved within the primate order.

Yet males are almost universally dominant over females in primate species, and Homo sapiens is no exception. As we see from this book, women are in some ways the most oppressed of all female primates. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is convinced that to redress sexual inequality in human societies, we must first understand its evolutionary origins. We cannot travel back in time to meet our own remote ancestors, but we can study those surrogates we have--the other living primates. If women --and not biology--are to control their own destiny, they must understand the past and, as this book shows us, the biological legacy they have inherited.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - quantum_flapdoodle - LibraryThing

The author sets out to dispel many of the myths surrounding women's biology, using the apes she studies as a guide to where we might be getting things wrong. She notes that for the most part, we have ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Devil_llama - LibraryThing

The author sets out to dispel many of the myths surrounding women's biology, using the apes she studies as a guide to where we might be getting things wrong. She notes that for the most part, we have ... Read full review

Contents

Some Women That Never Evolved
1
An Initial Inequality
16
Monogamous Primates A Special Case
34
A Climate for Dominant Females
59
The Pros and Cons of Males
72
Competition and Bonding among Females
96
The Primate Origins of Female Sexuality
131
A Disputed Legacy
160
Afterword
189
Taxonomy of the Primate Order
193
Notes
200
Bibliographical Updates 1999
243
Index
253
Copyright

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About the author (1999)

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis.

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