Sep 24 2006


A. afarensis, as imagined at Archaeologyinfo.com

A recently discovered juvenile Australopithecine skeleton has been dug up, to which mouldy old fossil the New York Times warmfuzzily alludes as a “little girl.” The author goes on to refer to adult females of the species, who very likely swung from trees, as “women.”

A. afarensis, swings—if the reader will forgive this brief foray into the obvious—four or five branches back on the hominid phylogenetic tree. We’re not even in the same genus. Whether afarensis is a direct predecessor of even H. habilis or H. ergaster is debatable. Us modern gals have more in common with—dare I say it?—bonobos.

Blamers, of course, have long known that, though womanhood is contingent upon many things, human status ain’t one of’em.

Nothin against Australopithecae, but they’re, like, so 3 million years ago.


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  1. I’m surprised your own modbot didn’t get your post for that one, Twisty.

    I wonder if there is any standard way for anthropologists and their journalist lackeys to refer to such creatures that doesn’t offend modern human sensibilities. It seems to me that the writer was at least trying not to be offensive by not referring to the adult female as other than a woman, but not taking that impulse far enough and realizing she wasn’t human.

    It is difficult to refer to our proto-human ancesters in monkey or “just animal” terms, in part, because of the whole “intelligent design” dust up, yet referring to such creatures as if they were human also stirs the pot. Somehow, I suspect our sensibilities and understanding of the scientific and social with regard to non-human ancestors of humans are, um, still evolving?

  2. Twisty

    My main beef, Ms Kate, is with the gooey sentimentality with which the writer tosses around terms like “woman” and “child” and “little girl,” effectively enpedestalizing the little ape as the purported mother of all mankind. Mother, of course, being the primary function of woman.

    This is not, perhaps, the largest point in the history of patriarchy-blaming. But it’s Sunday.

  3. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    bonobo bonobo bonobo HAH!

    Ms. Kate, believe it or not I’ve often wondered the same thing. I’ve concluded that offending modern sensibilities probably isn’t high on their list of priorities.

  4. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    er, not offending them I mean.

  5. Oh, come on. They’re trying to anthropomorphize the skeleton in order to generate more interest in the topic. You should see how adorable the digital rendering of the “little girl” looks in National Geographic.

  6. Twisty

    It occurs to me that, maybe, if humans didn’t have to have every goddam thing presented flatteringly to them in terms of themselves, appreciation for nature might be less conditional, thereby allowing actual science to, you know, catch on. But no. Instead we have chimp “women” and fucking “intelligent design”. I barf.

  7. kathymccarty.info

    I sure as hell am prouder to be related genetically in some way to the Australopithecii pictured, than I am to, say, Christian Fundamentalists and Mormons.

    Of course I realize I am more or less genetically identical to the Mormons, etc. I am just saying I ain’t PROUD of it.

    I am all pissed off at Amurka right now because there is even ONE person out there who thinks women shouldn’t breastfeed in Public.

    After thinking long and hard about it, I think anyone who harbors such an OFFENSIVE (to me) belief needs to be thinned from the herd. HOW COULD ANYONE THINK THAT BREASTFEEDING YOUR BABY IS “gross” or “inappropriate”?

    I think they just don’t want to go to that place mentally where they accept that WE ARE MAMMALS !!!!!

    WE ARE MAMMALS!!! MAMMALS!! A TYPE OF (dare I say it) ANIMAL !!


    They don’t get to be mammals next time around. I hereby demote them to incarnating as reptiles next time, for their failure to identify as mammalian.

  8. mixingmemory.blogspot.com

    Strangely, even scientists use “men” and “women” to refer to male and female A. afarensis, sometimes even in the scientific literature.

  9. the link to the scientific abstract in twisty’s post refers to the remains as those of a “juvenile” “presumed female.”

    i can imagine folks [even scientists] casually saying “man” or “woman” in much the same way that a pet-lover might baby-talk a beloved, although furry, member of the household. everyone can understand that calling a pet ferret “my little man” is only a sign of besottedness, and does not make the ferret human. the besottedness may not be as obvious in this context.

    in a way, i guess this is the flip side of all the times women are referenced derisively as females of other species: cow, sow, bitch, filly, etc.

  10. faultline.org/place/toad


    Uh-huh, we are. And do you know why mammals are “mammals” rather, than, say, “quadrupeds” or “hairies”? (Would than be “trichophers?”)Hint: politics and breastfeeding.

  11. It’s too bad they had to ruin it with the little girl comments, from what I understand they found a pretty complete skull, which is exciting.

  12. unsanesafe.blogspot.com

    goddam, male scientists get that horny huh?

  13. Twisty

    Yeah, well, take a look at the oddly perky, wishful-thinking Pam Anderson boob on the afarensis drawing, and compare to the orange-in-a-tube-sock commonly found on actual apes. I’m just sayin.

  14. My but I do miss those nature shows since I don’t have a tv. You know, the ones where about 3.5 minutes into the program the narrator lowers his voice reverntly and sigh, the next shot will be apes/elephants/partridges fucking.

  15. Before I noticed the oddly perky breast, I noticed the smile. Women are supposed to smile, even the distant second cousin twice removed ancestral ones.

  16. grannyvibe.blogspot.com

    She’s be a fine looking little gal if only the damn artist would have done something about all that unsightly, embarrassing body hair. Don’t tell me they hadn’t discovered wax yet, I know know damn well there were already bees buzzing around by then.

  17. blog.3bulls.net

    When I read that, I thought they were being risque the other way- implying a strong relationship with peeps and ape-peeps that might ruffle some bag de Dieu feathers. I took it in the positive evolution hugging sense.

  18. I’m certain that if it was a picture of one of our male ancestors, he wouldn’t be smiling so wide.

    It has nothing to do with this, but I want to blame the patriarchy for this “sports game”: http://the-magicbox.com/0609/game060924d6.shtml

    Pole dancing = Sport?

  19. bitingbeaver.blogspot.com

    Vibrating Liz,

    Heh, you may want to remove your homepage link from your name if you can. I was all excited thinking that you were back up and running and I clicked on your name and lo and behold I was greeted with a huge vibrator. When I clicked the X a wonderful pornographic popup came up that featured the up close pic of a penis.

    And I haven’t even had my coffee yet this morning! *grin* Sorry for the thread derailment folks, I blame caffeine (or rather my lack of it).

  20. alphabitch.org

    File this under “weird things my iPod randomizer does:” As soon as I opened this post, the song “Feminist Rhetoric Falling on Deaf Ears,” by Johnny Magnet started playing.

    That is all.

  21. I think Twisty has a good point. It is possible to anthropomorphisize an anthropod.

    But I disagree about our being closer to Bonobos. The more fossils are found, the farther back they push the split between us (I mean hominoids) and the other apes.

    Yes Anthropod and hominoid both mean man-like.

  22. Okay that painting of the smiling Astralopithecus Afarensis with the momma boobs is really creepy yall.

  23. NICE TITS!

  24. Is that a waist under the tit? I hope she hasn’t had buttock implants too.

  25. A thread titled Mommy seemed the most appropriate place to post this.


  26. Smiling? Man, when a non-Homo sapiens gives you the tooth like that, you better not believe she’s smiling.

    (Although the breast is bizarrely fatty and rounded, as a prior commenter observed. Wtf, man?)

  27. I noticed the teeth first as well. Frightening.

  28. I can’t stop laughing! The Twisty patriarch and the primitive babe should get it on! Tooo toooo funny!

  29. Oh good. She was a mom. Cause I was worried that little smile might have meant something else. All’s well with the patriarchal world:


  30. Twisty

    Holy eyemelting primal scene, sockpuppet, that’s my dad. The fewer the references to him getting it on, the better. Yichhh!

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