Friday, February 23, 2007

Prehistoric Xenas?

Remember when professional gasbag Camille Paglia huffily opined that "if civilization had been left in female hands, we would all be living in grass huts"? This is back when rehashing old, tired tripe was supposed to be shocking and radical. Here's something really shocking and radical. Anthropoligists have studied chimpanzees and now have a theory, based on the chimps' behavior, that weapons may have been invented by--surprise!--females, not males. The logic behind this is actually very sound.

The use of spears and axes to hunt and kill is commonly thought to have been pioneered among humanity's ancestors by males, but research has indicated weapons may have been a female invention that compensated for their lesser size and strength.
Anthropologists' observations of chimpanzees in Senegal have revealed they gnaw the ends of sticks to create rudimentary spears, which they use to hunt bushbabies, a small primate.

The findings are the first evidence of the systematic use of weapons in a species other than humans - and they are intriguing because all but one of the chimps using the spears were females or immature males.

This gender imbalance has led scientists to theorise that female chimps pioneered hunting with weapons as the only way in which they could compete with the physically stronger males to add animal protein to their diets. While males can hunt with their bare hands, females need weapons to help them.

"Females have to come up with creative ways at getting at a problem, whereas males have brawn," said Jill Pruetz, of Iowa State University, who led the research.

Maybe someone could mention this to Erin Solaro, who's written extensively on women in the armed forces. Somehow, allowing women in combat makes more sense. And maybe someone could send a copy to Paglia, who seems to have made this year's most unwelcome comeback as a Salon columnist. Would she stop talking about herself long enough to read it?