Biological anthropologist Ashley Montagu’s classic, The Natural Superiority of Women, was published to great acclaim in five editions from 1953 to 1999, and is said to have influenced Second Wave Feminism. In March, Konner published Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy, inspired by Montagu’s book but taking a current approach in which neural and neuroendocrine research is brought to bear on sex differences in some behaviors (notably violence and driven sexuality), in the context of neodarwinian sexual selection and cross-cultural, historical, and psychological perspectives. Konner will only sketch these arguments, familiar to many attending this colloquium series. He will go on to discuss their presentation in the general press, including The Wall Street Journal, Salon.com, The Times of London, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and other publications. He had predicted that the book would offend four groups: 1) men feeling threatened by women’s successes and outraged by the suggestion that women might be superior in any way; 2) academic feminists who—rejecting a tradition of “difference feminism” going back to Elizabeth Cady Stanton—insist that all behavioral differences between men and women result from culture, upbringing, and media; 3) women who think that little is changing and that the book exaggerates in projecting ongoing trends; and 4) people who think that evolution didn’t happen. All but the last joined the conversation in the first months after the book came out, but the first group was remarkably nasty and the second both humorless and obtuse. Some women and men found the arguments persuasive and inspiring.
Mel Konner, M.D. and Professor of Anthropology at Emory University presented a talk based on his newest book Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy. Konner argues that in the biological battle of the sexes, women and men fundamentally differ – and women come out on top. He explores the links between evolutionary and neuro-biology, anthropology, psychology, embryology, history, economics and politics.
Dr. Konner’s talk was followed by an interdisciplinary panel discussion among experts in the fields of primatology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and gender studies. The conversation promises to be both wide-ranging and thought-provoking. A video of the panel discussion is also available on our CEM videos page.
Professor, Department of Anthropology
Women After All? Adventures in ‘Natural Superiority’