Posted by: soniahs | September 3, 2010

More on science, culture, and feminism

In my post yesterday about Donna Haraway’s book, “Cyborgs, simians, and women,” I talked about how it called for a rethinking of how primate research and human culture shape one another. More importantly, I argued that science doesn’t have to be anti-feminist just because it’s science. Here’s a timely example:

To illustrate how powerful the influence of culture can be for primate societies consider the most extreme example of a sexually coercive species: savanna baboons. Males have been known to viciously maul a female that has rejected their advances and the level of male aggression is strongly correlated with their mating success. However, in a unique natural experiment Stanford primatologist Robert Sapolsky observed what developed when the largest and most aggressive males died out in a group known as Forest Troop (because they were feeding at the contaminated dump site of a Western safari lodge). In the intervening years Forest Group developed a culture in which kindness was rewarded more than aggression and adolescent males who migrated into the troop adopted this culture themselves.

Read the rest of this post- it’s a great example of how scientific tools and methods are not necessarily tied to maintaining traditional, oppressive social frameworks, as suggested by Haraway.

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