Well I just spent a horrific weekend pouring through a hate-filled diatribe against mothers called Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection authored by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. I generally don’t even read these sorts of books knowing that my blood pressure is sure to go through the roof (and it did, it’s not down to normal yet); but I’ve decided that I can’t really ignore them either; since my blog exists to combat just this sort of hate-filled propaganda against mothers. Thus to not engage almost negates the mission, so to speak; not to mention the oft quoted: silence = assent.
AND since nobody else chose to say anything, I guess it’s up to me.
Anyway “to the chase Watson”, as Sherlock Holmes would say.
Basically Hrdy has produce over 500 pages of claptrap against mothers. She’s scoured the world over for the most marginalized groups of women from African-American mothers on crack in the United States to a tribe of indigenous peoples living in Papua New Guinea and used these marginalized groups to paint a picture of human mothers as being murderous to their infants and uncaring if our children lived or died.
Actually according to Hrdy human mothers are the worse in the world. It’s probably a freakin miracle that we’ve managed to produce any living descendents never mind the BILLIONS of little people scattered all over the world today. Hrdy really feels chimps, for instance, make far better mothers then human mothers do. By example Hrdy shows a picture of her favorite mother, Flo, a chimp who Jane Goodall studied and wrote about (see page 30). In Flo’s picture she sits surrounded by her family lovingly holding her youngest. By contrast the human mother on page 456 that Hrdy profiled is busy unburying her poor infant from a pile of old leaves and twigs after changing her mind about leaving the poor thing there to die. This, of course, is to illustrate what a typical human mother would normally do to her kids versus kind-hearted Flo, the chimp.
The other interesting question to me is would the photographer have picked the kid up if the mother hadn’t unburied her? Or like nature photographers do when photographing in the wild, would they have just allowed nature to take its course and left the poor kid buried there?
Anyway, don’t get me wrong I LOVE Flo. I saw all Jane Goodall’s specials, read all her books and Flo is my favorite of the chimp mothers as well. Nevertheless, I think there is someplace else on the bell shaped curve where most human mothers should fall other then in the last curve featuring the Eipo mother burying her kid alive (in the dead last percentile) no pun intended.
I hate to point out the obvious to Hrdy but this entire books reeks of good old fashion racism including the many pictures scattered throughout it. As every bleak mother who represents the supposed “humankind Pleistocene” Eve we are supposedly all descended from is either black or Indian and most are painted as either having murdered their kids or been so negligent that they killed them off through neglect.
What’s up with that Hrdy?
I mean one of Hrdy favorite profiled mothers is a Kung mother from the bush, who wasn’t able to raise even one of her children to adulthood. Yet Hrdy obviously doesn’t see the irony here in using this mother as an example of the quintessential Pleistocene mother that we all supposedly descended from. I mean in a world where human mothers have, if nothing else, fulfilled the prime directive to be ‘fruitful and multiple’ using this mother as a representative for most of the rest of us in our role as mothers is nothing more then a joke really. Clearly Hrdy picked this woman to profile since she fit what Hrdy wanted to paint as the profile of a poor mother, not like most of us normal mothers at all.
Hrdy constantly refers to mother committing infanticide. Yes, they do but she never mentions the society that demands a mother do this, frequently at the risk of her own life if she disobeys. I mean Augustus Caesar exposed his own infant grand daughter at birth because she was illegitimate and does Hrdy think ANY person would have defied him by trying to pick the baby up and bring it into shelter? Obviously she hasn’t read too much of the bible, one of our founding documents, as the story of Moses illustrates the conniving mothers were forced into, at the risk of their own lives, to keep their children alive when others decided they had to die for whatever reason. From an archaic mother forced to give up her youngest daughter to be sacrificed for a ‘fair wind’ to Troy, right up through our own American history of slavery with thousands of stories of the scheming mothers had to do trying to save their kids, there is no mention whatsoever of the outside forces driving mothers to commit these atrocities.
In essence Hrdy appears to be trying to give men a free pass.
Not to mention that after a couple of eons of having to submit to these horrors, yes probably most women do wind up accepting, justifying and eventually even perpetuating the very crimes against their nature that Hrdy writes about…but that is not the essence of human motherhood, not by a long shot. Anymore then a cocker spaniel today represents his distant ancestor the wolf. Human mothers are like lionesses in their natural state. It is the society and laws of greedy men that have turned them into the bastardized version of mothers that Hrdy profiles today.
Unfortunately I didn’t see any recognition of this fact in her book.
Hrdy bends over backwards actually to paint men in a far better light then they merit considering their leadership role in building the societies where many of these crimes against children have been written into custom and law. She deliberately gives them cover in many instances. Even going so far as to paint the current genocide that has taken place in Asia against women, with about 50 to 60 million missing girls either aborted or abandoned at birth, as having some logic to it. Hrdy claims that the upper classes abort or abandon girls while the lower classes do not in order to have girls that will marry up.
Clearly looking at the numbers of missing girls in the region, however, we can see that this is not the case. Every class must be doing the same thing for these sorts of numbers to appear. Reading Valerie Hudson, “Bare Branches” you can see that Hrdy is making an incredible leap of faith here in assuming there is any sense or logic to these society’s actions. It is almost as if they were on auto pilot to replicate their past history no matter how damaging it is to their present. Actually most animal societies, which Hrdy conveniently forgets to mention when they go against her thesis, have far fewer males then females. It’s pretty obvious the reasons why. Too many males = too many aggressive alphas fighting for hunting territory, access to females, dominance displays ending in death and injury, etc. A few alpha males and many females is the usual equation in nature. Now too many males and few females in any society, animal or human, is probably going to wind up being a recipe for disaster as Hudson points out in her much better book “Bare Branches”.
Well I have to wrap this up now, but before I do I’m going to take one more shot at this author as she deserves it for the many many mothers she denigrated with this piece of vicious propaganda trashing mothers that she wrote. Just because Hrdy, herself, abandoned her own kids to paid minders and had no problem being away from them, sometimes for weeks at a time, doesn’t mean every other mother is cut from the same cloth. I think one of her professional colleagues had her number down when he said and I quote: “My own view is that Sarah ought to devote more time and study and thought to raising a healthy daughter. That way misery won’t keep traveling down the generations.”
A word to the wise is usually sufficient.