"The Madame Curie Complex" Sample Chapter: Part Two "Louis Leakey's 'Primitive' Feminism"

This is part two of a multi-part presentation of a sample chapter from a forthcoming book, The Madame Curie Complex. Part One can be found here. Part Three can be found here.

Recently I was approached with an offer to share with my readers a sample chapter from a forthcoming book called The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science. A caveat: I have not read the whole book, and offering the sample chapter here for you to read does not constitute an endorsement by me of the book. But I was sufficiently intrigued by the sample chapter I read to think it was worth sharing with you, to let you read if you want. You can make up your own minds and decide if you want to purchase the book, which is on offer at the Feminist Press site for a reasonable price. About the book:

This March, The Feminist Press will release The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science by historian Julie Des Jardins. The book tells the stories of women scientists, from Marie Curie to Maria Mayer, who took enormous chances and made great discoveries in spite of, and at times because of, the resistance they faced in a male-dominated field. Des Jardins compares their stories with prominent male counterparts in an exploration of whether, and how, women research, collaborate, and come to different conclusions about the natural world.

The chapter I have been given to share with you is chapter 7, The Lady Trimates and Feminist Science?: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. It came to me in a pdf version and a lot of formatting has been lost in moving it to this blog, but I hope you will still enjoy be able to enjoy reading it. I hope locating the footnotes will not be too hard. I've broken the chapter into sections for a series of posts, and the reference footnotes for each section will be at the end of each post.

On to the second section of the chapter...

Louis Leakey's "Primitive" Feminism

The Trimates tracked uncharted paths toward communities of apes that were little understood by anyone. One can only wonder what each was thinking; men, let alone women, hadn't spent the intense time they would observing animals in their native habitats. Local officials thought Goodall insane for having no male escorts; colleagues thought Fossey suicidal when she set up camp with no survival training; and Galdikas traveled to areas so remote that her reference guides had been written by turn-of-the-century explorers. Personnel at the Indonesian Embassy could not confirm whether people in her area continued to hunt heads or practice bone-cleansing ceremonies, but she proceeded anyway.22 Few women raised with the creature comforts of Western life would have surrendered to such unknowns. Their shared love of animals led the Trimates to water, but it was the charismatic Louis Leakey who convinced them to drink.

Like no other field scientist save Margaret Mead, Leakey captured the attention of the American public, with his news of exotic digs and prehistoric finds. By the time he met his lady primatologists, he was already a chubby white-haired man, easily mistaken for a retired weekend golfer rather than an Indiana Jones type who excavated sites throughout the world. It may sound grandiose to describe his life's work as the quest for the physical origins of humans, but that's truly what it was. He grew increasingly convinced that answers to his questions lay in the primates that continued to roam the earth, and he piqued the interest of American sponsors about the need to observe apes in their natural habitats.23

But Leakey's physical ailments prevented him from conducting the long-term study of apes he had in mind. He theorized that women should do this research, for he had long admired their abilities in the field. Women, he decided, read social cues and observed the nature around them differently from men. These abilities were not learned in school, he once told Goodall. University training served only to desensitize intuition, which was why he didn't recruit primatologists from academic faculties. "He wanted someone with a mind uncluttered and unbiased by theory," she recalled, ". . . someone with a sympathetic understanding of animals. I think his reasoning was that, if you look at human mothers, they've got to have patience to be successful. Secondly, any human female must have some kind of programming to be able to understand the wants, the needs of a small creature that can't speak. . . . And thirdly, women traditionally have been responsible for keeping peace within the family. . . . And all that means a lot of patience and ability to just watch for little nonverbal signs. So that may give one an edge on looking at very complex social behavior."24 Forty years later, Goodall remained convinced of his logic.

Leakey was a great admirer of women, though he rarely observed boundaries with them. Mary Leakey replaced his first wife after she, too, had been recruited for the field. They had three sons, and Louis's willingness to take on child-rearing responsibilities allowed Mary to dig for long stints of uninterrupted time. In 1948 she found a nearly intact skull of the extinct ape Proconsul, and she unearthed numbers of prehistoric tools and animals before discovering the jaw of Zinjanthropus, the "Nutcracker Man," in 1959. With Mary firmly ensconced at Olduvai, Leakey turned his attention to younger women who could carry out his primate studies in the field. Mary resented his exploits and believed his "primate ladies" were nothing more than dispensers of affirmation for a man sapped of virility. She had seen it all before.

Goodall was only twenty-three when she met Leakey, Fossey was thirty-one, Galdikas twenty-five. "He is so sweet, so utterly adorable," Goodall wrote in 1957, though he became less so as she continually rebuffed his romantic overtures. She was able ultimately to channel Leakey's feelings into father-like affection, but Fossey received love letters from him until his death in 1972. Galdikas thought his adolescent crushes harmless, even endearing. "Louis craved female attention and warmth," she explained. He truly loved women, "but it was 'women' in the collective more than the particular."25

Regardless of how one might judge him, Leakey's special fondness for women brought them to the field and propelled primatology into public consciousness. The social astuteness he observed in women had little to do with any stereotyped proclivity to make small talk at cocktail parties; it was an ability to notice the smallest details while assessing the larger community or system. He made this observation at the same time that David Botstein was noting similar powers in Barbara McClintock at Cold Spring Harbor. As a roomful of people listened to papers, she quietly observed and decided that Botstein must be hard of hearing. He asked her how on earth she could have known that, to which she told him that she noted his preference for sitting in the back row of the auditorium even though he was talkative. Given the acoustics of the room, she figured he must sit in the back to hear better.26 McClintock's perceptiveness in the lecture hall was what Leakey appreciated about women in the field. His litmus tests for choosing his researchers were brainteasers from popular magazines and a series of innocuous card games. Placing cards facedown on a coffee table, he asked Galdikas to tell him which cards were red and which were black. Although she couldn't tell him which were which, she noted that about half of them were bent and half were not. Leakey had bent the black ones, a detail noticed by his Lady Trimates but never by a man with scientific credentials. Women, he concluded, were better able to see details that did not yet appear important.27

Leakey believed not only that women were better observers, but also that they had more patience for such long-term studies as the ones he envisioned of primates. What required more commitment than nurturing lifelong relationships and rearing children into adulthood--feats that he assumed women accomplished more adeptly than men? He also expected that women would appear less threatening than men to the male-dominated ape communities they observed. His experiences had shown that men in the field would try to do what most had since the beginning of modern times: conquer nature and move on. Henry Nissen had observed chimpanzees in French Guinea only for two and a half months in the 1930s, and his was the longest study in the wild before Goodall's. George Schaller lasted a full year with the gorillas of Zaire, but then he moved on to lions and pandas. Fossey surpassed his logged hours within her first year in Africa, and Galdikas easily eclipsed R. K. Davenport's eleven months with orangutans in Malaysia. By 1975 she had surpassed John MacKinnon, who had logged more field hours than anyone in the world. When she wrote up her dissertation she had more than sixty-eight hundred hours of field observation to draw from.28

In the lab, scientists felt pressure to produce data quickly, to be in the vanguard of theoretical and technological advancement. In the field, however, slow and steady finished the race; persistence and dedication were key qualities. Leakey knew from the start that his Trimates were committed people, and he was careful about helping them prepare for the fieldwork. When he discussed the logistics of Fossey's study with her in 1966, for example, he warned her to remove her appendix ahead of time, since no one would be able to save her if it burst in the field. He was pleased to discover that she arranged for the surgery, undaunted by his warning. Similarly, in the interest of avoiding all medical emergencies, Galdikas agreed to have her tonsils removed if such action would get her to Borneo.29 She endured the initial years of physical discomfort and frustrating results, while her husband, Rod Brindamour, left, as Leakey predicted all men would. Although Brindamour had endured in Borneo for seven years, he couldn't help feeling like a "displaced housewife," with no career or paycheck of his own. He had been stripped of his virility in the Western sense. "Our divorce was as much a reflection of our culture and of the different ways Western men and women view the world," Galdikas later reflected:

The archetypal Western male, Rod went to Borneo in search of adventure.
. . . He was the Marlboro Man with a mission, saving the forest and the orangutans. But when you have the same adventure day after day, the exhilaration and the feeling of triumph fade. After seven and a half years, Rod felt that the laws protecting orangutans were being enforced and the reserve boundaries were secure. The job was done and it was time to move on, time to go back to "real life." I went to Indonesia for so-called "female" reasons: I wanted to help. If I had to take risks, I did. But I wasn't interested in adventure for adventure's sake. My triumph came from feeling at one with the orangutans and the forest; I exulted in the peace and the quiet. Because I wasn't looking for thrills, I never got bored. The more I knew about orangutans, the more I would be able to learn. After seven and a half years I felt even more committed than when I arrived.30

Galdikas believed that her accomplishments could be attributed to maternal persistence, albeit socially conditioned, not biologically based. Leakey, however, believed that such persistence was as innate as a mother orang's when protecting her young. On the one hand, he opened doors for women to experience the exotic adventures of virile turn-of-the-century naturalists. On the other, he based his beliefs in women's natural proclivities as mothers and nurturers, and feminists who believed in "difference" came to agree with him in the 1980s. Perhaps he was enlightened in the Western sense, or simply non-Western altogether. One need only be reminded of his advice to Galdikas to understand the difference: She recalled that he approved of her practicing birth control in the field, but insisted that in his Kikuyu experience painful clitorectomy proved the surest form--it had deterred women from engaging in sexual activity for centuries.31

James Krasner argued, more skeptically, that Leakey's choice of women over men in the field was gimmick more than anything else: "Leakey no doubt understood that readers [of National Geographic] who would not be interested in evolutionary theory or animal behavior would be arrested by photographs of middle-class white women embracing apes."32 Regardless of motives to innovate or titillate, it's remarkable that Leakey acted to appoint women, given the potential risks at stake. What if his Trimates reported observations that the scientific establishment considered highly improbable? What if, in their propensities as feeling women, they committed the most heinous crime of all by growing attached to the animals?

In the end, most of the dire predictions came to pass. When Jane Goodall told the primatological community in 1960 that chimps were entirely habituated to her presence, it was more than most could swallow. That same year, leading expert Vernon Reynolds, who had just returned from Uganda, had concluded it couldn't be done. Before the 1950s primatologists caught no more than brief glimpses of the animals they studied; most refused to attempt habituation altogether, shooting the animals and studying their remains back in the lab. One need only know of the experiments performed in American labs to see how unorthodox Goodall appeared. Harry Harlow, a researcher of rhesus monkeys at the University of Wisconsin, ironically designed artificial conditions in the late 1950s and early 1960s to elicit animals' most natural responses. To prove the importance of the mother-child bond, for instance, he isolated babies from the mothers to whom they instinctually clung in the wild, putting them in cages with "surrogate" parents made of terrycloth and wire or with no surrogates at all. He left monkeys alone, devoid of social interaction, in darkness in his "pit of despair" for six-week stints, to note the depression and dysfunctional behavior that resulted. Somehow his man-made experiments were supposed to provide more accurate truths than what Goodall humanely determined in the forest.33

Professional peers approved because the role of master controller was unquestioned in Western science. Goodall, the novice, knew no better than to proceed with a different approach, letting chimps grab food from her hand and wander into camp. "Ah-ha," her detractors exclaimed, "then her data must be tainted." Touching animals in the field was tantamount to spitting into urine samples in a biomedical lab. Goodall thought just the opposite. She blended in, wearing the drab colors of the forest and making no effort to interact with animals who didn't approach her first. She viewed her dealings with the chimps not as manipulative, but rather as being on their terms. A sympathetic colleague called Goodall's "a humble science": "She asks the animals to tell her about themselves." Others were less generous, at which point Leakey defended his protégée as a lion defends her cubs--or, as Goodall observed, as a mother chimp defended her babes.34

Fossey's habituation of mountain gorillas took much longer, and the awaited point of contact was too monumental for her to remain detached in the way field texts advised. "One of my first rules to visitors was 'Never touch the gorillas,'" she recalled. "This rule was occasionally broken once I learned how much gorillas loved to be tickled." Before long she belched with them, groomed their fur, and cuddled their infants like her own. Torn by heart and head, she rationalized her methods as a balance between "open" and "obscured" contacts: "Obscured contacts were especially valuable in revealing behavior that otherwise would have been inhibited by my presence. The drawback to this method was that it contributed nothing toward the habituation process. Open contacts, however, slowly helped me win the animals' acceptance. This was especially true when I learned that imitation of some of their ordinary activities such as scratching and feeding or copying their contentment vocalizations tended to put the animals at ease more rapidly than if I simply looked at them through binoculars in an attempt to disguise the potentially threatening glass eyes from the shy animals."35

In 1960 George Schaller had been the only researcher to glimpse mountain gorillas in their habitat; twenty years later Fossey compiled the most complete set of data in existence on wild gorillas. From nose print sketches; to spectrograms of vocalizations; to studies of diet, birthing patterns, and anatomical proportions, she left few stones unturned. Ian Redmond, her most devoted assistant, took on the unpleasant task of heading up a parasitological study, classifying and drawing the organisms found in gorilla stool samples. Colleagues approved of his empirical data but criticized Fossey's subjective analysis of gorilla behavior. She was unmoved, believing that she had to proceed as an altogether different kind of scientist, one who wore the hat of behaviorist and genealogist in addition to the traditional primatologist who brought specimens back to the lab. She trusted the knowledge she gained by observing the animals in their natural habitat and believed that her persistence bestowed continuity on her observations; in eighteen years she followed four extended families of animals over three generations, charting births, deaths, relocations, bouts of disease, and feuds among clans. She was essentially a Margaret Mead of the apes.36

Schaller, too, observed primate behavior in the wild, but his impulse as a Western scientist was to limit contact before immersion tainted his objectivity. As a policy, he took notes at least 150 feet away from the animals. When Fossey, however, let the animals crawl all over her, peers feared it was for her own emotional needs rather than the good of objective science. Sandy Harcourt, a primatologist at Karisoke until 1974, thought that Fossey's relations with the gorillas were inappropriate, sometimes pathetic. As poachers, scientists, and sponsors threatened to remove Fossey from her mountain, she took solace in what she interpreted as the apes' unconditional acceptance. She was known to wander alone to lookout points with no equipment. Harcourt believed that even if Fossey did witness "natural" behavior, she couldn't record anything beyond anecdote since she didn't have her charts.37

Leakey would have ignored the criticism were Fossey's funding not in jeopardy. Although he never intended to alter their field techniques, he made arrangements that allowed Goodall and Fossey to gain appropriate scientific certification, a kind of "union card," enrolling them in graduate programs at Cambridge University, under the renowned Sir Robert Hinde. Hinde's New Ethology was based on statistical measurements, maps, and charts, not the free-flowing description of behavior that Goodall and Fossey spoke into tape players and transcribed into their logs. It's in the numbers, he told them, not the narration; his science was, in a nutshell, without context of any kind. Fossey reluctantly kept tabs of animals' age, sex, and corresponding dung size and used the computers on campus to work up her data. Invariably, however, she settled into her own methods when she got back into the field. Goodall fell into bouts of depression as each semester began and she had to leave Tanzania for England. She was the first woman admitted to a Cambridge doctoral program without a bachelor's degree, but by the time she earned her PhD she was not convinced that formal training had informed her work for the better. Galdikas had come to the same conclusion: "In the classes I had taken at UCLA in the mid- to late sixties, budding anthropologists and primatologists learned to put their emotions aside, observe, and not interfere." This advice fell on deaf ears once she got to Borneo, for it didn't account for how she would be moved and her instincts heightened by what she observed.38

In the end, Leakey's Trimates turned into "professionals": he saw to it that all earned doctorates and eventually academic positions. Goodall and Galdikas spent several semesters in the 1970s as visiting professors at Stanford and Simon Fraser universities, and in 1980 Fossey left Karisoke to teach at Cornell. Still, they had their academic detractors who believed that their field methods tainted the purity of their observations. Zoologists, ethologists, primatologists, and animal behaviorists accused them of a crime more heinous to professional sensibilities than poaching for sport: anthropomorphizing their apes. They thought it inappropriate that Goodall gave chimps names rather than numbers for identification, for this practice seemed to value intimacy over emotional distance. The controversy was ironic, for famed baboon expert Irven DeVore had named his animals in 1958. Moreover, Goodall demonstrated that the practice served pragmatic needs. She differentiated between families of animals through the first letters of names. Flo's offspring, for example, were Flint, Figan, and Fifi; visitors to Gombe knew, if nothing else, that Pom and Passion were related. Graduate students also traced genealogical histories through the names of orangutans near Camp Leakey. Galdikas named the first wild animal she recognized Alice, followed by her son Andy, and then Beth, Cara, Carl, Cindy . . . Martha, Merv, and so on. Fossey designated gorilla groups with numbers, but within them animals had names like Peanuts and Icarus.39

The practice of naming betrayed a wholly different orientation to subject than that of gentleman behaviorists who had studied primate "types"--the chimp male, the gorilla female, the orangutan infant--earlier in the century. The Trimates sought to understand animals as individuals with unique traits within a larger system, much as McClintock studied her strains of corn. The psychoanalyst Nancy Chodorow has theorized that women's viewing of the world from the perspective of connection, men's from detachment, may be the inherent consequence of early identity formation: girls ultimately identify with their mothers, their primary love-objects, while men grow detached from them. Carol Gilligan also uses psychological theory to explain women's tendency to individuate. Women are holistic and integrative thinkers, according to Gilligan, but they also particularize as they carry out their ethic of care; men generalize and sort into categories, imposing laws on nature so that it can be easily controlled. But names not only particularize; they open doors to infused meanings. Was it an objective practice to label animals according to physical traits, as in the case of Goodall's Throat Pouch or David Greybeard? What of labels bearing symbolic significance? When Passion bore a baby in 1977, it put an end to her killing of other females' offspring, and thus Goodall named her newborn Pax. Fossey named a gorilla in memory of her uncle Bert; one can only begin to speculate about the emotional baggage attached to that decision.40

Goodall recalled that when she began her study in 1960, "it was not permissible--at least not in ethological circles--to talk about an animal's mind. Only humans had minds." She was referring to an animal's emotions as well as intellect, and yet years of observation led her to conclude that chimps were nearly human emotionally, if less so intellectually. "I have often felt like an anthropologist taking notes on a tribe of people," she explained. They had thoughts, imaginations, feelings--all of which were understandable so long as one learned how to bridge the gulf in communication. It was vindicating when university labs confirmed that, genetically, chimps and humans were nearly 99 percent alike. The data made sense, given the parallels Goodall had noted in the field: "the long period of childhood dependency, the importance of learning, non-verbal communication patterns, tool-using and tool-making, cooperation in hunting, sophisticated social manipulations, aggressive territoriality, and a variety of helping behaviours, to name a few." Galdikas also viewed orangutans as "our relatives . . . our kin." Their only difference, she thought, was that they had never left the "Garden of Eden" and thus had never lost their innocence.41

The Trimates were so moved by the tightness of the mother-child bond in primates that they modeled primate mothers in rehabilitating orphaned apes and raising their infant boys. Much the same way in which Flint clung to Flo, Grub clung to Goodall and grew accustomed to constant cradling and caressing. Photos in National Geographic revealed a virtual interchangeability between infant human and primate at Gombe, Karisoke, and Camp Leakey: Binti Brindamour, Galdikas's son, took baths with primate orphans; Goodall and Grub posed in ways identical to Flo and Fifi; Fossey graced a magazine cover cradling baby apes much as Galdikas did five years later. Her instinct to mother was not Brindamour's instinct to father in the nuclear sense, but she explained that it wasn't the orangutan male's either. When it became clear that the orphaned orangutan Sugito had chosen her to become his adoptive mother, Brindamour's knee-jerk reaction was to insist on differentiation, while Sugito's was to bite and urinate on his male competition. Galdikas's response was to become the perfect primate mother, patient and protective. Despite her husband's objections, she conceded her supper to the orphan and let him accompany her in the tub. "Under Rod's suspicious gaze, Sugito became my infant. . . . There were moments when I glanced down at Sugito holding on to me, and for a split second I forgot that he wasn't human and wasn't my biological child."42

In this moment Galdikas felt much as McClintock had when McClintock "got down in there" to study her corn: she achieved a feeling for her organism and had been forever changed by it. Critics believed that her emotional attachment made her blind to the ways in which apes actually differed from human beings. Sometimes she agreed: "I could rattle off a list of the differences. But I had lost that gut feeling of separation, which is an integral part of Western intellectual consciousness." Asymmetries did strike her once she observed her own son playing with infant orangs. Binti had come to climb trees and gesticulate like baby Tarzan, and for a time it seemed that distinctions between primate and human infants had "virtually disappeared." But then Binti's physical and emotional development diverged from his primate friends'. She eventually banned his playmates from camp, fearing that their nearly human feelings of sibling rivalry would result in a nonhuman display of physical strength against him.43

Goodall thought that there was a fine line between observer and observed but that her close proximity to the chimps gave her more in sight in the end. "We are not, as once we believed, separated from the rest of the animal kingdom by an unbridgeable chasm," she wrote in 1990. "Nevertheless, we must not forget, not for an instant, that even if we do not differ from the apes in kind, but only in degree, that degree is still overwhelmingly large." It was large enough for her, too, to limit the chimps' interactions with Grub, who never entered the forest without a parent. Although he had lived at Gombe since four months of age, it was increasingly clear that if given the opportunity, the chimps would likely devour him. In her efforts to study apes outside captivity, Goodall caged her son as he slept. To her horror, the chimps Pom and Passion had posed a threat to their own, killing others' chimp babies and eating them. Her descriptions of the unexplainable violence took experts aback at a UNESCO conference in Paris; many wanted to believe that violence was peculiar to the human species, that it was a result of culture, not nature. Goodall left the door open to wonder if the nature of apes was in fact the nature of humans.44

References for this section:

22. Hayes, Dark Romance, 124-25; Galdikas, Reflections of Eden, 72.

23. Mary Leakey, Disclosing the Past (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984); Montgomery,
Walking with the Great Apes, 70-75.

24. Goodall, In the Shadow of Man, 6; Jocelyn Selim, "Why Chimps Still Deserve Our
Respect," Discover 25 (May 2004), 18-19.

25. Leakey, Disclosing the Past, 46, 80-81, 122, 156; Goodall, Africa in My Blood, 109;
Galdikas, Reflections of Eden, 65; Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes, 86-87;
Mowat, Woman in the Mist, 80-81.

26. David Botstein, "Discovery of the Bacterial Transposition Tn10," in The Dynamic
Genome: Barbara McClintock's Ideas in the Century of Genetics, ed. Nina Federoff and
David Botstein (Plainview, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 1992), 225.

27. Galdikas, Reflections of Eden, 49; Spaulding, A Dark Place in the Jungle, 65;
Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes, 78.

28. Fossey, Gorillas in the Mist, 2; Hayes, Dark Romance, 189; Galdikas, Reflections of
Eden, 32, 277; Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes, 80-81.

29. Fossey, Gorillas in the Mist, 4; Mowat, Woman in the Mist, 23; Gallardo, Among the
Orangutans, 10; Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes, 80.

30. Galdikas, Reflections of Eden, 309, 330.

31. Galdikas, Reflections of Eden, 300.

32. James Krasner, "'Ape Ladies' and Cultural Politics: Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas," in Natural Eloquence: Women Reinscribe Science, ed. Barbara T. Gates and Ann B. Shteir (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997), 239.

33. Deborah Blum, The Monkey Wars (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 95;
H. F. Harlow, R. O. Dodsworth, and M. K. Harlow, "Total Social Isolation in Monkeys,"
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 54 (July 1965): 90-97; Londa Schiebinger, Has Feminism Changed Science? (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 6; Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes, 93, 111-12.

34. Goodall, Africa in My Blood, 156, 190; Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes,
111, 127.

35. Fossey, Gorillas in the Mist, 11.

36. See statistical appendices in Fossey, Gorillas in the Mist, 245-86.

37. Hayes, Dark Romance, 138-39, 198, 292-94.

38. Mowat, Woman in the Mist, 85-86, 88; Goodall, Africa in My Blood, 190-91;
Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes, 101-2, 105-6, 143, 147-48; Galdikas, Reflections of Eden, 246-47.

39. Hayes, Dark Romance, 140.

40. Nancy Chodorow, "Family Structure and Feminine Personality," in Women, Culture,
and Society, ed. M. Z. Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974), 43-66; The Reproduction of Mothering (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978); Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982); Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes, 104.

41. Goodall, Through a Window, 14, 206; Africa in My Blood, 231-32; Galdikas,
Reflections of Eden, 19.

42. Galdikas, Reflections of Eden, 131, 139-40, 316; Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes, 35.

43. Galdikas, Reflections of Eden, 311-15.

44. Goodall, Through a Window, 207; In the Shadow of Man, 258-59; Beyond Innocence, 192.


More like this

This is fascinating. I'm going to have to get the book to read it all, though, as I don't want to read the whole chapter on the computer monitor.

One confusion - does anyone have any information about the "bone-cleansing ceremonies" mentioned in the first paragraph? Like, what that means? I tried some preliminary web searching but with no real luck.

Hmm... somehow I seemed to have forgotten that the references aren't just there to look pretty. Thanks for the reminder.

I would encourage readers to check out the comments on the final post in this series (link to Part Three at the top of the post) where at least one reader has left an extensive comment analyzing the chapter.

I have encouraged the book author to participate in the conversation here so if you have read and are just lurking, do leave comments or questions for her to consider. D00dly jackasses can expect to have their whiney irrelevancies deleted.

Fascinating indeed. Are there any data on how widespread the gender difference Leakey believed in is, and to what extent it's cultural? Patriarchal, competitive cultures tend to train as much emotion and quiet observation/contemplation out of boys as possible.

It's also very interesting how the Trimates' children grew up. All I had known was how Goodall had to fear for her sonâ¦

One need only be reminded of his advice to Galdikas to understand the difference: She recalled that he approved of her practicing birth control in the field, but insisted that in his Kikuyu experience painful clitorectomy proved the surest form--it had deterred women from engaging in sexual activity for centuries.

And that he called "birth control"? That only works as long as the woman isn't raped. :-/

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 14 Mar 2010 #permalink

Late to this, but a thought -- I don't necessarily think that gender determines sensitivity to minutiae of interactions and social cues, except in one way: social status. The lower someone's social status is, the more sensitive they need to be to nonverbal signals and social cues and situational dynamics, for their own safety and comfort. The closer one is to the top of the social food chain, the more safely and easily one can completely ignore subtleties of interactions, and just expect those around one to make accomodation. (Obviously there are skilled statesmen who are close to the top of the food chain AND extremely sensitive to nonverbal signalling, etc., but it seems to me this is often the result of deliberate study, not "instinct", and it is possible to be in a position of power and be perfectly successful without such sensitivity; the reverse is not really true.) I can't find my reference for it at the moment, sadly, but I remember reading somewhere that people who have been in situations of slavery become extremely sensitised to interactions, whether they are male or female. From personal experience, I will say that the people I've seen who are most adept and fastest at reading interpersonal dynamics and nonverbal signals are abused children, where the ability to read someone's shifting mood may literally be a matter of survival.

Following on from this, the cultural expectation in previous decades was very much that women were going to be sensitive to male needs and would provide the social easing and graces for any situation (just look at how many of those reflexes persist in those of us over 30); it doesn't surprise me a bit that women would be sensitive to social interactions as ethologists as well. I just don't attribute it to "biological" instinct.

...I'm gonna have to get and read the book, anyway. :)

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 25 Mar 2010 #permalink