Have you heard the pseudo-scientific news? Human girls are biologically programmed to play with dollies like little mommies! A recent study suggests that female juvenile chimps play with sticks and nurture them like babies, whereas male juveniles turn their sticks into weapons or other manly toys–it’s scientifically proven. Echidne has the goods, as I knew she would. She’s got an interesting follow-up post on a 2007 study of a Senagalese chimp community that found that female adult chimps led the way in tool-making and killing in their communities–but as she notes, that study didn’t go viral now, did it? She writes, “[I]t’s every bit as significant as the new stick study, only it shows female chimps as tool makers and as killers. So are we going to draw conclusions about human society from that one, too?”
One of the aspects of these studies that purport to show the essential or biological basis for gendered behaviors in humans is how selective we are in looking to the non-human animal kingdom for justification of human behaviors. After all, what is “natural” behavior? $hitting outdoors, scratching our crotches, and smearing our scent everywhere is “natural,” I suppose. Human societies have developed multiple different technologies and etiquettes for dealing with all of these “natural” needs and urges.
Well, never mind the study from one community that suggests that female chimps are natural born tool-makers and killers. Because of course the play of one community of chimps living in captivity can stand for all of chimpanzees worldwide, and juvenile chimps are the same as human girls and boys, all you need to get for the kiddies this Christmas is one stick each, and sit back and watch the fun happen! (Is anyone else thinking of this classic from the 1990s cartoon, Ren and Stimpy?)
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