A groundbreaking exploration of how female biology shaped human society
For centuries, the study of human biology and evolution has been heavily biased towards men, with women’s bodies often overlooked or misunderstood. However, recent scientific discoveries have shed light on the profound and fascinating differences between male and female biology. In her book “Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution,” author Cat Bohannon delves into the evolutionary history of the female body and its impact on the development of human society. From the emergence of breast milk to the role of wet-nursing in urban development, Bohannon presents a bold and ambitious feminist retelling of our origins.
The Complexity of Breast Milk and its Social Significance
Bohannon begins by exploring the intricate composition of breast milk and its co-evolution with bacteria. Human breast milk is not only tailored to nourish infants, but it also plays a crucial role in shaping their microbiome, which influences their overall health. Moreover, breast milk is a social product, reflecting the society in which it is produced and shaping that society in turn. Maternal stress, for example, can alter the composition of breast milk, affecting infant behavior and trust in others.
The Role of Wet-Nursing in Urban Development
Contrary to popular belief, Bohannon argues that the development of cities may have been driven not solely by agriculture but by the practice of wet-nursing. Throughout history, women have been employed or enslaved as wet-nurses, allowing for more frequent childbirth and ensuring infants receive immunological support to survive childhood illnesses. This perspective challenges traditional theories of urbanization and highlights the significant role of women’s bodies in shaping the course of history.
Rethinking the Origins of Tools and Language
Bohannon questions the prevailing narrative that attributes the development of tools and language to male innovation. She suggests that women, with their smaller bodies and the need to care for infants, may have had a greater incentive to innovate. Furthermore, she proposes that the first words spoken by our ancestors were not grand or heroic but rather simple utterances between a mother and her child, laying the foundation for language as we know it today.
Evolutionary Roots of Abortion and Contemporary Politics
Drawing from evolutionary history, Bohannon examines the prevalence of abortion in the animal kingdom and its potential implications for human understanding. She argues that understanding abortion as a natural phenomenon could help reframe the issue in contemporary society. By recognizing the deep evolutionary roots of sexism and its detrimental effects on health, wealth, and intelligence, Bohannon challenges us to confront and overcome these biases.
“Eve” offers a fresh and feminist perspective on the evolutionary history of the female body and its impact on human society. Bohannon’s exploration of breast milk, wet-nursing, tool development, and language challenges traditional narratives and highlights the significance of women’s bodies in shaping our past and present. While evolutionary history can provide valuable insights, it is ultimately up to us to define our future and reject the harmful effects of sexism. “Eve” serves as a powerful reminder that women’s bodies and experiences deserve equal recognition and understanding in the scientific and societal realms.