Saturday, February 24, 2007

Amazon Apes

In my youth, feminists were accustomed to argue that, if only women were in charge, there would be no wars or violence. After all, they argued, women are by nature pacific and nurturing, while men are violent and aggressive.

Needless to say, this argument depended upon a Victorian vision of women, dismissed by later versions of feminist theory as "essentialist." Apart from matters of theory, it would have been politically inconvenient to advocate for assigning female soldiers to combat duty while maintaining that they were genetically averse to violence.

Well, no problem. It turns out that women may have invented weapons.

Such, at least, is the hypothesis emerging from recent studies of some chimpanzee populations, in which the meat is scarce, and the males are disinclined to share what they kill. The female chimps -- lacking the brawn of their male competitors -- sharpen sticks with their teeth, and use them as spears. Apparently, the boys aren't bright enough to figure this out.

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