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An overemphasis on males. Review of Primate Paradigms Sex Roles and Social Bonds by Linda Marie Fedigan. Montreal Canada Eden Press 1982 386 pp $18

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American Journal of Primatology 4:99-100 (1983)
An Overemphasis on Males
Review of Primate Paradigms: Sex Roles and Social Bonds by Linda Marie Fedigan.
Montreal, Canada, Eden Press, 1982, 386 pp, $18.95.
This book, like Hrdy’s [1981] The Woman That Never Euolued, was written to help
correct a bias toward a n overemphasis on the behavior of primate males in the
discipline of behavioral primatology. In addition, the author leads the reader away
from an acceptance of simple explanations and toward a n appreciation of the complexity and subtlety of primate behavior.
There are five parts to the book. Part I introduces the primates and gives examples
of the ways in which our language affects our ideas. Part IT analyzes the controversial concepts of aggression, dominance, roles, and kinship. Part 111 surveys and
compares the experimental, socialization, and deprivation approaches to primate
behavioral research. Part IV describes the life ways of nine different species of
primates (this is the section of most value for primate behavior courses), and Part V
discusses evolutionary and sociobiologicaltheory and, in particular, sexual selection.
A theme throughout the book is that “humans are largely what t,hey make of
themselves” and that “people become what they think they are” (p 7). Labels used
by scientists become metaphors and the metaphors become the message. Examples
are presented of labels indicative of androcentrisni.
In an otherwise illuminating book there are, in my opinion, only a few lapses.
Fedigan seems to select studies supportive of her thesis while disregarding some
substantive ones not as flattering to her focus on females. There is nothing unusual
in this; those championing androcentric themes have done this for years. To me, it
is a delight to see the tables transposed; and, it is more thought provoking.
In chapter four, the author brings back on old schism which really no longer exists
in the minds of most modern primatologists- field worker vs. laboratory worker.
(Carpenter and Harlow are not modern representatives of two such “camps”).
At several places in the book, the author writes about a need for more accurate
assessment of biological paternity, yet does not cite David Smith’s 119801 work on
paternity exclusion which offers exciting possibilities along these lines. Fedigan also
makes the point that the type of mounting in copulation (either single mount or a
series of mounts) is little explored, yet there are many ongoing studies of these
phenomena [Shively et al, 1982; Taub, 1982; Dewsbury, 19721.
At times, less than perfect examples are used l o make a point. For “idiosyncratic
behavior,” Fedigan uses a female Japanese monkey’s “underlining her threats with
a demonstrative bite of her own wrist.’‘Rut many macaques do this. Better examples
could have been selected for behaviors specific to individuals.
Fedigan also underestimates the numbers of species that are monogamous. It
provides more support for her thesis to know that there are at least six or seven
more prosimian species and at least two more Old World monkey species that are
monogamous [see, for a n example, Fragaszy et al, 19821. She also appears to underestimate the variability in behavior between monogamous species (see p 254).
0275-2565/83/0401-0099$01.000 1983 Alan R. Liss. Inc.
Finally. she has a tendency to devalue laboratory research on primate behavior.
Even if “ is not clear how relevant the findings are to (the behavior) of freeranging groups” (p 1831, laboratory research findings are at the very least of some
relevance to husbandry and prirnate medicine.
There are a few (but not an excessive amount of) typographical and/or grammatical
errors. The author index is, in general, accurate, and the subject index is very well
I do not wish to convey the impression that I disliked the book. I did not. I am, in
general. in sympathy with most of the points she makes. Her view that labels are
metaphors and that metaphors become the message, her coverage of the controversies over aggression, dominance, and roles, and her point that primate behavior
from the female perspective has been slighted are all important contributions,
although not necessarily original with her. Her recognition that even scientists have
their own unique and divergent views of the world, patterned by past experience
and culture, is also not a new point; but her willingness t o include herself as one
who just might also be weaving a n “evolutionary creation myth” makes her contribution quite palatable. The book is useful as a text for primate behavior and sex
difference courses, or as a supplementary reading for courses in women’s studies. It
is also a handy reference source for the serious behavioral primatologist. Dr. Fedigan
has provided us with an exceptionally thoughtful and scholarly volume which I
recommend to all primatologists.
G. Mitchell
Department of Psychology
University of California, Davis
Davis, CA 95616
Dewsbury, D.A. Patterns of copulatory behavior in male mammals. THE QUARTERLY REVIEW OF BIOLOGY 47:l-33,
Fragaszy, D.M.; Schwarz, S; Shimosaka, D.
Longitudinal observations of‘ care and development of infant titi monkeys. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PRIMATOLOGY
2(2):191-200, 1982.
EVOLVED. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.
Shively, C.: Clarke, S.; King, N.; Schapiro,
S.; Mitchell, G. Patterns of sexual behavior
i n male macaques. AMERICAN JOURNAL
OF PRIMATOLOGY 2:373-384, 1982.
Smith, U. Paternity exclusion in six captive
groups of rhesus monkeys (Mocacu m u l a t t ~ )AMERICAN
Taub, D.M. Sexual behavior of wild Barbary
macaque males (Macaca syluanus). AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PRIMATOLOGY
Z1):109-1 14,1982.
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