Making males aggressive and females coy: Gender across the animal-human boundary

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Sexual selection, as conceived by Charles Darwin in the mid-nineteenth century, explained the origins of phenomena in the animal kingdom that could not be attributed to natural selection-why males and females differed in their appearance and behavior and the presence of beauty. 1 To explain beauty in the natural world-from the gregarious displays of wild turkeys in the spring to the vibrant contrast of red cardinals against the winter snow-without reference to our own pleasure presented a diffi cult problem for biologists committed to naturalistic explanations. Darwin suggested mate choice as a solution: beauty was useful for animals because it helped them attract mates. The idea of choice vexed other zoologists, however, because it seemed to grant to animals the same capacity for aesthetic appreciation and decision making that humans enjoyed. As Donna Haraway’s Primate Visions (1989) so vividly illustrates, the relationship between the animal and the human informs our scientifi c and cultural perceptions of what it means to be male or female today, much as it did for Darwin. In this article, I interweave two polarities, animal and human, male and female, to elucidate the evolution of biological constructions of animality and gender. In the early decades of the twentieth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWomen, Science, and Technology
Subtitle of host publicationA Reader in Feminist Science Studies
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781135055424
ISBN (Print)9780415521093
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Making males aggressive and females coy: Gender across the animal-human boundary'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this