Sarah Blaffer Hrdy Term Paper

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Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is an anthropologist who specialized in the field of primate sociobiology (Zika 2002). Her undergraduate thesis was a study of mental adaptations that shape how and why humans fabricate imaginary demons, and then graduated at Radcliffe College in 1969. In 1975, she earned a Ph.D. At Harvard University for her research on why a species of monkey engaged in infanticidal behavior. It became the first socio-biological study of wild primates' wild behavior in connection with their gender. In 1981, 1984 and 1996, Hrdy wrote best sellers on female primates as active strategists and the natural selection and common traits shared by higher primates with other living creatures on earth.

Hrdy's works reveal the motivations behind some of our most primal behavior patters, including gender roles, choice of mate, sex, reproduction and parenting, along with the ideas and the institutions that have been established around them. They have been recommended readings for every human being who wants to understand himself or herself. Through her extraordinary body of scholarly works, Hrdy presents the social and psychological history of women as child-bearers as well as review male and female biology and behavior through the species of kindred primates. These works interpret and speculate on what mothers and babies are all about and how these relate with today's conditions of women.

Review of Literature

Hrdy, Sarah Blaffer (2000). Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection. Ballantine Books

In this most important work, Hrdy shares a radical deviation and new view of motherhood and its role in human evolution. She does away with stereotyped and gender-biased myths about the maternal instinct and maternal behavior traditionally imposed on women. She presents successful primate mothers, not as passive and selfless, but as ambitious nurturers who combine mother love with sexual love and ambivalence with devotion. She reinterprets the mothers' relationships with fathers, their babies and social groups in struggling for their own survival as well as that of their offspring and in dealing with competing demands, using different and often conflicting methods. Hrdy gives the reader an important and new understanding of human evolution through this book, which is her valuable contribution to the human species and its understanding of its evolution.

Publishers Weekly and Library Journal chose it as one of the Best Books of 1999 and it was a finalist for a Pen (west) Literary Award.

Hrdy, Sarah Blaffer (1981). The Woman that Never Evolved. Harvard University Press

To Hrdy, evolutionary biology presents evidence, which argues against the belief that natural selection operates only on males and that female primates were competitive, independent, and sexually assertive who contributed as much to the evolutionary process as the male. These females competed among themselves for rank and resource but bonded together for mutual defense; risked lives in protecting their offspring but sexually related with the male who destroyed the lives of the offspring if successful reproduction depended on it. They also exhibited a kind of "promiscuity" that ensured a range of breeding partners. Hrdy demonstrates that the sexually passive, uncompetitive and all-nurturing female was an inaccuracy and that an understanding of evolutionary origins can explain why woman is the most oppressed of all female primates and that it is not biology but this understanding, which can enable women to control their own destiny.

This work was named one of the Notable Books of 1981.

Hrdy, Sarah Blaffer. (1984). Infanticide: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives.

This work derives from the author's first on infanticide among primates, entitled "The Langurs of Abu Female and Male Strategies of Reproduction, published in 1977. Hrdy witnessed male langurs attacking infants sired by rivals and leaving them for dead so as to impregnate the females with their own genes. Hrdy also observed how the females managed the situation by pretending to ovulate and to mate with the male leader to convince him that he was the father of their offspring in order to gain protection.

This work was chosen as one of the Outstanding Academic Books of 1984.

Prescott, James W (2001). Along the Evolutionary Biological Trail. Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. 15 (3): 225-232

Prescott views Hrdy's "Mother Nature" as a sweeping scientific overview of evolutionary biology, which has serious negative implications for human maternal behavior. He believes that the study should have been left to the special interests of the scientific community, which can document early "evolutionary trail." He thinks that the maternal behavior of earlier forms of…[continue]

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