Johnson: How did your research in primates influence your own parenting choices? Yet she knows from experience that, as a female writing about females, her life comes under the lab lights. But then I looked more closely and I realized that it was my handwriting. Supposedly, because the ovary was bigger and more resource rich than the sperm, it meant there were many tiny sperm actively competing for a large, resource rich ovum. The notion of women being genetically predisposed to be natural nurturers and thus better suited for raising children that is, the traditional gender role , is more of a societal evolution of mores, and not a genetic or biological evolution based on survival of the fittest. It was very much based on hard science, but in the end, I wasn't sure what her point was - she seemed ambivalent about some key questions regarding a woman's role in mothering.
There are two important inventions in history that had immediate impacts upon the choices women were able or not able to make. The invention of agriculture changed this dynamic, and unfortunately for women, it was for the worse. The views expressed are those of the author s and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. The result: those awful orphanages where children were abandoned in droves. Hrdy's first book about infanticide among primates, The Langurs of Abu: Female and Male Strategies of Reproduction, was published in 1977.
The goal of the male langur is to maximize the proportion of his offspring and, according to Hrdy, a male who attacks his own offspring is rapidly selected against. The couple already had three young children, but this fourth birth was given clear priority over his wife's well-being as well as that of her other children. How we can shift our society to reemphasize community will be the project that this generation will grapple with. Abortion, too, is not unknown in a variety of species. We need more bonobos in public life. How was your work in primatology influencing your decisions as you were thinking about family life and having children? I was preadapted to be impressed by attachment theory. We have these powerful social prescriptions about this with really no data to back it up.
The resulting book Mother Nature is really about maternal love and ambivalence. I entered graduate school with a background in anthropology and biology, joining the world-renowned department of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University to pursue a PhD in great ape behavioral ecology. Whenever I get the chance I go on backpacking trips in the mountains of British Columbia or catch the latest film from Zhang Yimou, the Coen Brothers, or Deepa Mehta. In her most recent book, Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species, she demonstrated that mothers may abort, abandon, or even kill offspring they do not have the resources to rear. Sarah Hrdy is tough-minded about a tender subject.
She focused her research around a field study on Hanuman langurs which she carried out in India. Killing their dependent infants makes the females once again. Once again, Hrdy has woven together strands of material from many sources into an elegant tapestry of insight and logic, emblazoned with her vision of who we are, and why. It engaged me wholly, making me re-examine many ideas I had already thought deeply about pertaining to culture, patriarchy, reproductive autonomy, and my own life. If age-old pressures are allowed to erode hard-won laws and protections, it is far from certain that the unique experiment we have embarked upon can persist. Eric Michael Johnson: You made a difficult decision, just before you got your offer to write Mother Nature, to choose a different life-work balance than the standard tenure track career. But this is only one way to look at it.
In this provocative, groundbreaking book, renowned anthropologist and mother Sarah Blaffer Hrdy shares a radical new vision of motherhood and its crucial role in human evolution. I just figured I needed to understand maternal ambivalence a lot better than I did and I made that a research priority. Due to the high cost of raising a human, mothers who were choosy about which babies they would raise did better. Ever been desperate to go on vacation without the kids only to miss them terribly the whole time?. Perhaps only half the females, in an average generation, left grandchildren. In the Sacramento Valley of California, where I live, 40 percent of all grown women who died between 1890 and 1984 left no surviving offspring. In 1977 it was published in her second book, The Langurs of Abu: Female and Male Strategies of Reproduction.
He and his wife were informed that the fetus she carried suffered a fatal defect. It's a dense, often disturbing read, because Hrdy pulls no punches when describing maternal behavior across species, cultures, and times. Her theories about why mothers—as well as fathers—behave as they do brought her scorn, and then respect, as one of the most radical evolutionary thinkers of our day. The studies have all looked at married versus unmarried or nuclear family versus single mother. However, a strict no-babies rule was imposed by a male co-organizer.
A mother who squandered the resources needed to maintain her own health would be quickly weeded out — and her family would probably follow her into oblivion. Fortunately for most of those reading this book, childhood death is a rarity. As a holiday treat, we asked Sara Lodge, author of Inventing Edward Lear to reflect on Edward Lear as a Christmas poet. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy looks exhaustively at the biological data regarding mothers of all species, and explodes the Victorian archetype of the sexless, submissive, and nuturing wife and mother. Hrdys—he genial and tidy, she wired and messy—have been together ever since. Her thought-provoking book will interest students, specialists, and general readers alike and should focus attention on the neglected roles of mothers and others within human evolutionary theory.