98% chimp, how about you? - Tactical Ninja
Dec. 22nd, 2010
09:12 am - 98% chimp, how about you?
For pombagira. A study has found that within a group of chimps, playing with sticks as if they were dolls (ie carrying them around, making pretend beds for them) happens roughly twice as much amongst female juveniles as it does amongst male juveniles. It's interesting because all the chimps seem to stop doing it by the time they hit puberty, therefore unlike sticks-for-aggression or sticks-as-tools-for-food, it's not a behaviour they learn by copying adults. There seems to be an aspect of peer learning going on, which emerges as gender-differentiated play behaviour. But there's also the possibility that this is a biological difference. Some male chimps do it, but nowhere near as many as females.
It has only ever been observed in this one group of chimps, out of all the chimps ever observed. And let's face it, tool-related behaviour is one of the things people studying chimps have observed a lot, because it's one of the things they think will give clues to the evolution of human behaviour.
So my conclusion from reading the study was "Hmm, interesting. Why would one isolated group of chimps exhibit this behaviour, and how do we find out if there's something inherently different between female and males in this group or if it's a unique form of peer-learning? Clearly it needs more research." And off I went, lalala.
Enter the OMGSCIENCE!* brigade, waving an article from that esteemed academic journal, MSNBC, which sports the headline "Female chimps play with stick dolls". By the third paragraph, this article is taking the isolated result from one study and extrapolating it to humans. "There is something innate that predisposes girls and boys to react differently to the same objects", one of the writers is quoted as saying.
Further down, the article talks about how female vervet monkeys play with cooking pots and how this is further evidence to suggest there's a biological basis for human sex differences. Yes really. Even though cooking pots have no use among wild monkey populations, this 'science' takes it to mean that gender roles may be biologically based in humans.
*sigh* This happens every single time. Last week it was the stress/learning thing as 'proof' that women are more sensitive, and people extrapolating that to mean women shouldn't be allowed to go into stressful situations. etc etc ad infinitum. Pick a study about gender, I guarantee you'll find people using the result to tell me I'm inferior in some way and "shouldn't *insert whatever you like here*"
This is the problem with gender science. It's not the science itself, it's the way it's used to reinforce gender roles in humans. And maybe it's coincidence (but I don't think so) that the gender roles the science is always taken as validation for are the ones that disadvantage women (read: me). You know, call me a
scary militant feminazi** cynic, but when someone says "Look, wild monkeys play with cooking pots, you belong in the kitchen, make me a sammich!" I generally suspect there's an agenda. I have yet to figure out what the agenda is, why it exists and why some people put so much effort into finding 'proof' to back this agenda.
It's actually one of the big confusions of my life - why are some people so invested in convincing me and all my XX peers that we are biologically inferior? What exactly are these people afraid of if they go "Hey, we're all more or less the same, let's get in the kitchen and make that sammich together!" Why is it important to 'prove' that I can't drive as well as you? I'm still going to drive and your 'proof' is not going to stop me from being better at parallel parking than you. And your 'proof' that some group of chimps somewhere in Africa play with sticks like they're dolls is not going to make me go "Oh, well then. I guess I'd better give up my career to have babies." I will have babies if I so choose, and under no other circumstances. I do not assume that my gender makes me naturally better at child-rearing than a man, and I expect a man having contact with children to do so as competently as he as an individual is capable.
Because my agenda is not disempowerment of the opposite gender.
* These are the people who will grasp onto anything they see that could be construed as OMGSCIENTIFICPROOF! of innate gender differences in behaviour, and trumpet it from the rooftops like it's some kind of victory. For any of those type of people reading this (which is unlikely but you never know), I'd just like to point out a couple of things:
1. I am wondering why so much effort is going into trying to prove that male and female humans are biologically different in the brain. What does it achieve?
2. I can only assume that proving these differences will somehow validate the different treatment and expectations of behaviour applied to females vs males.
3. I don't understand why it's so important to be validated in this different treatment.
4. I have no problem with the idea that males and females are inherently different. The problem I have is with the use of inherent differences as a 'reason' to force women into gender-related roles that disadvantage them.
** Because expecting to be treated like a human being is totally the same as invading Poland.
Today is my last day at work. We finish at lunchtime. Blogging may get a bit sporadic over the holidays but that's normal, right? Meanwhile, I only need a two day window of fine weather to get the last sheep done. Please make this happen.