Gender, through the eyes of a primatologist | Lifetime review

Pronouns, language, hairstyles, social roles and expectations surrounding gender identity have historically defined who we are. But is gender a uniquely human construct?

Frans de Waal, primatologist and author of the 2005 bestseller “Our Inner Monkey: Renowned Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Arehas spent decades studying animal behavior, particularly in our closest evolutionary cousins, bonobos and chimpanzees, which may hold the key to understanding our own behavior, identity and biological differences.

“Gender diversity is not something that we kind of invented or is superficial,” says de Waal. “I think it’s inherently present in other primates.”

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De Waal is Professor of Psychology at Emory University and director of Living Links Center to Yerkes National Center for Primate Research in Atlanta, Georgia. He has published numerous books and articles on animal behavior. In his latest book,Different: gender through the eyes of a primatologistde Waal focuses on the differences and similarities between male and female primates. Are these behaviors learned or genetically hardwired?

Jonathan Bastian talks with de Waal about his research and what we can learn from animals about gender. Are there specific male and female roles or traits? Does gender even exist in the animal world?

“Sometimes a mother dies, all of a sudden there is an orphan. And then male chimpanzees show a potential that we rarely see: they have nurturing tendencies,” de Waal explains. “A male adopts one of these orphans, not just for two days or so, but sometimes for five years.”

Primologist and author Frans de Waal. Photo by Catherine Marin. Book cover “Different: gender, through the eyes of a primatologist »

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