Alison Joy, an American-born primatologist died in England the other day. In a quiet manner, she upended some basic tenets of evolutionary biology by studying lemurs in Madagascar.
“Writing in the journal Science in 1966, she suggested that the many hours lemurs spent in play, mutual grooming and social networking — activities that establish the social ties and hierarchies that determine access to food, mate selection and migration patterns — may have been as important to the evolution of intelligence as the development of weapons and tools of hunting and protection, then considered the hallmarks of evolutionary advance.
“More unnerving to colleagues was her discovery that in some primate species, females run the show. The finding upended a bedrock assertion in evolutionary biology — based on studies of chimpanzees and orangutans in captivity — that males dominated females in every primate species, including humans.” (NY Times)
More unnerving to male colleagues, I would guess. But I don’t think Mr. Darwin would have been surprised, and I’m sure an ordinary man like Richard Wilson wasn’t. Our social constructs all reflect the fact that women have what men want, and what, incidentally, men cannot give to women. That kind of power scares us.