Women the Gatherers: Sexuality and Feminism at the Animal-Human Boundary
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Presented by the History and Philosophy of Science Section
In 1972, Elaine Morgan published Descent of Woman, in which she outlined a critique of current theories of evolution as androcentric. All theories of human evolution, she suggested, denigrated the contributions of women to the evolution of modern humans. Inspired by Sir Alistair Hardy's proposal that early humans may have gone through an aquatic phase in their evolutionary past, she compiled a list of common sense evidence to which popular readers could relate, like the pattern of hair on a man's back, that pointed to the importance of water in the acquisition of humans' upright posture, bipedalism, language, tools for gathering food, and social organization. In short, everything that distinguished us from our primate ancestors.
The legacy of her book today exists in both the gender and science literature, where she is cited as one of the first authors to call attention to the widespread male bias in anthropological theories, and in the small, but steadily growing literature on the idea that humans may have undergone an aquatic phase in our evolutionary past. On the one hand, her work highlights a historical moment when anthropologists and evolutionary biologists self-consciously mobilized to change the dominant theories of human evolution by including women as self-determining actors. On the other hand, advocates of the aquatic ape increasingly distanced the theory from its historical origins. In order for Morgan's ideas to be accepted as scientific, they were stripped of her sharp feminist wit, dissociated from Morgan herself, and repackaged as legitimate science. In this form, her ideas are now getting the professional hearing she always wanted. In 2005, Morgan was asked whether she felt like an "outsider" in biology. "Not nearly as much as I used to," she replied.
The reception will be held after the event.
We look forward to seeing you there.
|Nonmember (Student / Postdoc / Resident / Fellow)||$20|
Erika Lorraine Milam
Erika Lorraine Milam is an Associate Professor of History at Princeton University. Her first book, "Looking for a Few Good Males: Female Choice in Evolutionary," focused on evolutionary theory and the connections between biological investigations of reproductive and courtship behavior in animals and humans, from Charles Darwin in the mid-19th century to Sociobiology in the 1970s. Her current research turns to the controversy over instinctual aggression in defining human nature in the 1960s and '70s
Travel & Lodging
The New York Academy of Sciences
7 World Trade Center
250 Greenwich Street, 40th floor
New York, NY 10007-2157
Hotels Near 7 World Trade Center
Recommended partner hotel
Club Quarters, World Trade Center
140 Washington Street
New York, NY 10006
The New York Academy of Sciences is a member of the Club Quarters network, which offers significant savings on hotel reservations to member organizations. Located opposite Memorial Plaza on the south side of the World Trade Center, Club Quarters, World Trade Center is just a short walk to the Academy.
Use Club Quarters Reservation Password NYAS to reserve your discounted accommodations online.
Other nearby hotels