Why Bonobos Are More Successful Feminists Than You Are

Anonyme, Jeudi, Avril 9, 2009 - 22:37

Ciaran Dubhuidhe

Bonobos have no ideology, they just do it.

Science is often inconvenient to ideology. Take, for example, the Republican need to repress science under the Bush Administration, or the clash between evolution and fundamentalist Christianity. When science elucidates, silly beliefs struggle. This is how it has been throughout the history of science. There is no reason to believe that science will fail to continue to present inconvenient truths to ideologies.

Few things propel science forward more than the observation of similar examples. For example, until we were able to study other planetary bodies, geology and geophysics were limited to studying a single example: the Earth. As we expanded our investigation to other worlds, we came to better understand our own. Similarly, as we come to accept the fact that we are not unique amongst the creatures of this Earth and that, in fact, there exist several species on this very planet that are very similar to our own, we learn more and more about ourselves. In recent years, scientific investigation has revealed that chimpanzees are not only very close to us genetically, but that they share sophisticated intellectual and emotional mechanism with us. For example, chimpanzees feel empathy, they have a sense of fairness, they know how to deceive, they know how to exaggerate, they have self awareness, they are good with numbers, and they are able to innovate. Among the more fascinating similarities are those dealing with the relationship between male and female chimpanzees. It turns out that chimpanzee females exchange sex with male chimpanzees for meat. Additionally, it also turns out that chimpanzees are hunter-gatherers, just like primitive humans, and that they have a division of labor based on gender. Male chimpanzees hunt and gather while female chimpanzees gather but do not hunt. Like humans, there are exceptions. Some females of both species hunt and some males of both species gather. However, for the most part, there is this gender based division of labor.

Female chimpanzees prefer males who are successful hunters. In various hunter-gatherer civilizations currently existent, the same is true. The female human members of these groups measure the sexual desirability of a male based on his ability to hunt successfully.

The similarities do not end there. One common feature of nearly all primate species is pronounced sexual dimorphism. Sexual dimorphism is when the males and females of a species are easily distinguished by pronounced physical differences. In primate species, the male is usually larger and stronger than the female. The greater the difference in male size over female size, the more polygynous the relationship between males and females. When males and females are nearly the same size (within a species), the sexual grouping of males to females is usually one to one. When the males are much larger than the females, the sexual grouping of males to females is usually one to many. Put differently, the greater the sexual dimorphism in favor of the size of the male the more intense the patriarchy within the species. Gorillas are an example at one extreme (where larger males have many loyal female mates) and bonobos, with less dimorphism, show a more egalitarian relationship between males and females with the social bonding of females compensating to the point where their relations are more matriarchical than patriarchical (interestingly, bonobos are more closely related to humans than any other ape).

Though bonobos show less dimorphism than other chimpanzees, they are still sexually dimorphic. Bonobo males exchange food with bonobo females for sex and bonobo females often use sex to resolve tensions caused by the distribution of food. The female bonobo's ability to use sex to control food makes it possible for female bonobos to exert authority over male bonobos and other female bonobos (sounds a lot like mom in the kitchen, doesn't it?).

This leads me to wonder, “Is it to be expected that human males will engage in physically aggressive behavior, tend towards infidelity, and use his greater power to acquire sexual opportunities?” It seems that the behavior of “male chauvinist pig” is essentially primate behavior. That by acting as a “male chauvinist pig” the human male is behaving as millions of years of evolution have made him. Indeed, to act otherwise would be to deny his actual physical identity. Likewise, it appears that exchanging sexual favors for material gain is in the nature of the human female. It has been programmed into the human through evolution. Sex is the female primate's method of obtaining power. This is very much contrary to the aims of feminist idelogy. Does it mean that feminist thought is all for naught? Of course it doesn't mean that feminism is all bunk (though it may mean that some of it is). More on that later. However, these recent discoveries are highly inconvenient for feminism.

There is a difference between the lives of chimpanzees and the lives of homosapians. While intelligence is advantageous in both chimpanzee and human life, the fact remains that hunting has become less common and that a growing portion of human labor is almost exclusively intellectual. As best I can tell, no one has discovered a chimpanzee who earns his or her living through philosophy, teaching, or software development. Increasingly, the world that we live in is a world were females can and do use their intelligence to obtain the very same things males obtain without requiring the exchange of sex with a male. The average female can go down to the supermarket and purchase her meat with money. Female humans are as intellectually gifted as human males (and I see no reason to suppose that female chimpanzees are any less intellectually gifted as male chimpanzees). A discord seems to have developed between what we are and how we provide for ourselves. We still inherit the genetic instructions to behave as chimpanzees do, in a world where behaving like chimpanzees does not assist in our self preservation. Our intellectual and productive worlds have out-evolved us. This leaves us in a predicament. How can we be happy if we cannot satisfy what is right for ourselves in terms of who we are as animals with what is right for ourselves in terms of who we are within society?

The feminist might argue that males should just learn to be different from what they have evolved to be. This is easily said, but it is impossible for any individual male to achieve. Perhaps, as the ages pass we will evolve into something physically and emotionally compatible with our intellectual and productive reality, but this is doubtful. The intellectual realm evolves much faster than the physical realm. What this means is that we can expect this discord to increase over time. Moreover, who is to say that the feminists are right about how it is that male humans should be? We do not dictate to other species how their males and females should interrelate. We do not dictate such because it is something beyond our control. They are what they are. The same is true for us: we are what we are. Admonitions will not change our nature.

It is not merely from the observation of chimpanzee behavior that feminism is confronted with the inconvenient realities of science. Another challenge comes from field of neuroscience. A recent study shows that male humans do, in fact, objectify women. The brains of male humans are wired to objectify women when presented with soft-porn images of women. There is nothing males can do about this fact. It isn't even clear that males should do anything about this fact. Many females know the power of using their female form to manipulate men (and bonobos have found that this is the key to resisting patriarchy). No doubt this ability is rooted in the fact that men cannot control what their brains are hardwired to do. More than likely, this is exactly how female chimpanzees are able to get male chimpanzees to hand over the meat.

If some of the central goals of feminism go against human nature (e.g. that men will stop objectifying woman, that men will not be womanizers, that men will not use their power to obtain sex, and that women will not use their sex to obtain power), what chance does feminism have to succeed? I propose that feminism can still succeed, but only if it drops its misandery. Put simply: you cannot turn a normal heterosexual male into your girlfriend.

Males will objectify females that are dressed in revealing clothes. No, this doesn't mean that he can treat females like objects, but it does mean that he will see a sexily clad woman as something he would like to sexually devour in a way analogous to a child dreaming of eating a cup-cake. That is how he is wired. He is not bad for being this way. He just is who he is. Likewise, the woman who wants to show some flesh to get what she wants is feeling exactly what evolution programmed her to feel. It doesn't mean she should be able to move up the corporate ladder by wearing a loose blouse and flashing her tits at her male boss, but it doesn't mean she is a bad person if she wants to do just that.

It seems to me that an enlightened feminism would encourage males and females to enjoy their genetic makeup by encouraging play that involved the expression of what we evolved to be, while discouraging that behavior in the world of productivity. Most importantly, an enlightened feminism would not attempt to force males to live unnatural lives and to feel ashamed of what they are by nature. An enlightened feminism would not place value judgments on instinctual behavior, whether male or female.

Of course, I am writing of an enlightened feminism. If have no expectations (or even hope) for the misandry that masquerades as radical feminism. The kind of feminism that sees each and every male as the enemy (unless he is gay or transgendered) is little more than a mental disorder that springs forth from a history of abuse. It is the moral equivalent of racism based on bad experiences with a member of a different race. This feminism, unfortunately, is pervasive on the hard left of American politics. It is a hate movement and nothing more. This misandric feminism cannot succeed because science negates it.

I end with a question to you the reader: How do you believe feminism will adapt to what science reveals?

The Insolent Media Center
Documents inclusTaille
bonobo.jpg0 octets

Dossier G20
  Nous vous offrons plusieurs reportages indépendants et témoignages...

Très beau dessin: des oiseaux s'unissent pour couper une cloture de métal, sur fonds bleauté de la ville de Toronto.
Liste des activités lors de ce
« contre-sommet » à Toronto

Vous pouvez aussi visiter ces médias alternatifs anglophones...

Centre des médias Alternatifs Toronto

Media Co-op Toronto

Toronto Community Mobilization
(en Anglais)

CMAQ: Vie associative

Collectif à Québec: n'existe plus.

Impliquez-vous !


Ceci est un média alternatif de publication ouverte. Le collectif CMAQ, qui gère la validation des contributions sur le Indymedia-Québec, n'endosse aucunement les propos et ne juge pas de la véracité des informations. Ce sont les commentaires des Internautes, comme vous, qui servent à évaluer la qualité de l'information. Nous avons néanmoins une Politique éditoriale , qui essentiellement demande que les contributions portent sur une question d'émancipation et ne proviennent pas de médias commerciaux.

This is an alternative media using open publishing. The CMAQ collective, who validates the posts submitted on the Indymedia-Quebec, does not endorse in any way the opinions and statements and does not judge if the information is correct or true. The quality of the information is evaluated by the comments from Internet surfers, like yourself. We nonetheless have an Editorial Policy , which essentially requires that posts be related to questions of emancipation and does not come from a commercial media.