Bigamy ; Polygamy Definition Polyandry is the practice of having more than one husband or male mate simultaneously. It is among the rarest of human mating systems. Only 1. Its existence challenges many assumptions about human sexual and marital relationships and challenges evolutionary thinkers because of the assumption that it dramatically limits male reproductive success.
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While she never intended to be a radical, she has nevertheless had a radical influence on how primatology and evolutionary biology address female strategies as well as the evolutionary influences on infants.
Hrdy graduated summa cum laude from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts and received her Ph. She is currently professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis. In our discussion, Hrdy explores both her own life as well as how her personal experiences inspired her to ask different questions than many of her scientific colleagues.
While it may not seem like a particularly dramatic idea to emphasize the evolutionary selection pressures on mothers and their offspring, it is a telling insight into the unconscious and at times fully conscious sexism that has long been a part of the scientific process. It is a body of work that continues to provoke and inspire a new generation of scientists and was highly influential in my own scientific work.
Hrdy: You have to take into account where I grew up and when. It was in south Texas. I was born in so I was growing up in the 50s. This was a very segregated and really quite patriarchal society. Growing up in Houston was a lot like growing up in South Africa. Also within my family males had a very special role.
The good news, in a way, is that I was the third daughter born in a family eventually of five. It was a very wealthy family and I was sort of the heiress to spare. But once I was out of sight off at school, I was pretty much out of mind which was good for me. So I went off to school when I was 16 and that really was the beginning I think of my intellectual development. Johnson: This was during the midst of what Betty Friedan later called "the feminine mystique.
How did you interpret this as a girl when looking to grownups for a model of womanhood? Hrdy: Oh Eric, I was so clueless. I had no political awareness at all. I was really finding it out for myself. I still recall sitting in a simian seminar at Harvard and the discussion revolved around women being exchanged between groups as a way of connecting male brotherhoods and achieving alliances between groups.
I had no sense of what this was really about and how it was working. At that time primate behavior and the whole evolutionary endeavor was steeped in these very Victorian preconceptions.
So I was reacting, at a very visceral level, even before I realized what was going on. Johnson: And when you entered college? Female role models, especially in the sciences, were almost nonexistent. Moving closer to biology was a different thing for me than being an undergraduate in cultural anthropology.
The dominant narrative about primate social lives was the savannah baboon where males are very political and dominant and they would support each other so they could control females. Are you familiar with those stories? Johnson: Of course, that was one of the dominant paradigms for human evolution at the time. Hrdy: And it was. There was really no consideration of how much variation existed among females.
It was assumed every female would be a mother and would breed to the maximum of her capacity so that females would be producing about the same number of offspring each whereas, with males, they could do tremendously well or be a complete zero -- what was referred to as "the Bateman paradigm". 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. This was the basis for the assumption that there was stronger selection pressure on males than on females.
Johnson: What led you to question this paradigm? Hrdy: It was after I started studying langur monkeys that it began to dawn on me how many sources of variation in female reproductive success there were. It brought the old paradigm into question. For so long it had been assumed that males were basically polygynous [many sexual partners] while females were monandrous [one sexual partner]. Watching langurs convinced me that this was not true. When I examined the wider literature I realized just how common polyandrous mating by females actually was across primates.
This was all starting to emerge at the time and it really gelled for me in a paper I prepared for the first and really only overtly feminist conference I ever attended organized by Ruth Bleier in The essay was about how inapplicable, or wrongly applied, the Bateman paradigm was. There was so much more selection on females to mate with multiple males for a variety of reasons, from genetic reasons to extracting more investment, or confusing the issue of paternity.
By the s, I recognized that paternity confusion was what was going on with langurs. But this was heresy back then. I think the history and the feminist provenance of this idea has been forgotten which, in a way, is too bad because we know what happens when you forget history, old mistakes get repeated, old biases reinserted.
In contrast, matrilocal societies are more likely to be egalitarian. What are the factors that lead to the differences between these two systems? Hrdy: I think in societies where women have more say, and that does tend to be in societies that are matrilocal and with matrilineal descent or where, as it is among many small scale hunter-gatherers, you have porous social boundaries and flexible residence patterns.
If I had to say what kind of residence patterns our ancestors had it would have been very flexible, what Frank Marlowe calls multilocal. I think these porous boundaries and flexible residence patterns were very important for our ancestors.
The boundaries became less porous but also men would tend to stay together. Sons would stay near where their brothers and fathers were because they made the best allies for defending a particular resource. The ranging areas were so large that is very difficult to imagine anyone defending them. Some people have argued that they were defending women because men are always going to be looking for extra wives and extra women to mate with.
But the thing is, among hunter-gatherers, the way to breed successfully is having alloparental help and provisioning help from others. For these reasons, I think our hunter-gatherer ancestors had a flexible residence pattern and that group boundaries were porous. Johnson: As you argue in your latest book, Mothers and Others, humans evolved as cooperative breeders. However, most psychology studies and nearly all parenting advice books assume that the nuclear family is integral to human nature.
How does this assumption influence the kind of advice parents receive? Hrdy: By the time I was finishing Mother Nature I had realized that there was simply no way an ape with the life history traits observed in humans could have evolved unless our ancestors had been cooperative breeders. By this I mean a species where alloparents, individuals other than the parents, had helped to care for and also provision the youngsters. So the dependency is lasting a very long time.
He estimates that it takes 13 million calories to rear a human from birth to nutritional independence and this is far more than a woman could provide by herself. Johnson: So who was helping? It can come from grandmothers, as Kristen Hawkes has stressed, and post-reproductive females. It can also come from fathers and males that might be the fathers, from patrilineal relatives, matrilineal relatives, older siblings, aunts, uncles, and even sometimes nonrelatives who happen to be in the group who are earning their keep by helping to rear the youngsters.
It would be a varied assortment of helpers, albeit group members very familiar to the child. Johnson: How could this human past help us today to design more compatible childrearing systems that are more geared to the needs of children? But where I depart from Bowlby is in assuming that the mother is the sole attachment figure. Of course, later, Bowlby did correct himself somewhat under the influence of Mary Ainsworth , so I want to give Bowlby credit for changing his views over the course of his career.
But, for the most part, he was convinced that the mother was more than the primary caretaker, she was the one that mattered most. Yet a handful of studies that actually looked, noted that children with multiple attachment figures are better able to integrate the perspectives of multiple people.
Perspective taking is one of the key differences between humans and some of our closest ape relatives. However, I predict that they would. Johnson: How does the assumption of the standard nuclear family affect the kinds of approaches that humans have towards parenting?
If, as you say, we have evolved as cooperative breeders? Out of that long tradition there emerges this view of the mother as an all-giving, totally dedicated creature who turns herself over to her children. I went back and read some of the early stereotypical views of motherhood in Western Europe and all of them were conflated with notions of charity and a woman giving of herself as the model for what a woman should be.
The views expressed are those of the author s and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. I would take all day hikes with my cat in the canyon just below our property, and the neighbor kids taught me to shoot a bow and arrow. I always loved reading and wrote short stories, poems, and screenplays that I would force my brothers to star in. A chance encounter with a filmmaker from Cameroon sent me to Paris as his assistant and I stayed on to hitchhike across Europe.
Nearly a year later, I found myself outside a Greek Orthodox Church with thirty Albanian and Macedonian migrants as we looked for work picking potatoes. After my next year of college I moved to Los Angeles to study screenwriting and film production. My love of international cinema deepened into larger questions about the origins of human societies and cultures. 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.
But larger questions concerning the history and sociology of scientific ideas cut my empirical research short. I am now completing a dissertation at University of British Columbia on the intersection between evolutionary biology and politics in England, Europe, and Russia in the nineteenth century.
In I met the economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen whose work inspired my award-winning research. My writing has always been a labor of love and a journey unto itself.
I am currently working on my first book. If I am not engaged in a writing or research project I spend time with my young son, Sagan. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Recent Articles.
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