The Paradox of Feminist Primatology

This article was interesting for me to read in that I am fascinated with evolutionary biology and considered myself a feminist but haven’t before considered primatology to be a feminist field of science and yet Fedigan makes a great argument for why it is so. However the main focus of her paper seems to be on why primatologist seem to refuse the idea that they are indeed a feminist field of science (or feminist themselves it seems).


She first introduces the idea of feminism and how it has affected the field of primatology. Primatologist, like some other scientist seem to have a distrust of feminist theory, and yet they readily applied feminist theory to their work.  On page 50, she describes how primatologist began to shift their research questions. Primatologist began to turn some questions around, asking things like “what’s the evolutionary benefit to being small?” as apposed to “why are males big?” Primatologist also began to ask more questions that dealt with gender related issues such as infanticide and intrasexual competition between females. Asking questions such as these allows primatologist to look at other aspects of life for primates that traditional ways of thinking wouldn’t allow us to explore.


Feminism has clearly allowed gender awareness and sensitively to be view as practical tools within the realm of primatology. It has also allowed women to ‘do science,’ in a way that is consider valid to the greater scientific community while still considering gender related issues.  All these tings seem amazing to me, however Fedigan states that the idea of the prevalence of feminist theory within primatology is met with resistance by most.  Fedgian believes that this mostly has to deal with the fact that primatologist much rather stay away from things that are political as well as the fear of having their field be viewed as feminized as well as holding traditional views of what is science.



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