De-mystifying the Nature Phenomenon by Anna McBain

“In truth, the female role throughout the biological world is quite complex with an alpha or dominant female leading the social and educational factors of her family members.”

Women have been conditioned by society to be tools, objects, and slaves/property. Our minds and thoughts, our labor, our very bodies have been attacked by vicious campaigns enforcing ignorance and servitude or have been labeled by governments and religious figures who have dictated what we can and cannot do with our selves. It’s not just men doing this to women, but also women doing this to other women. They have become so well-conditioned they have joined the ranks of the global patriarchal mindset, a mindset that has proven to be harmful to the female of the species and subsequently, our planet. The excuse for the subjugation of women, time and time again, is stated as being “Nature.” Through “observation” of the animal kingdom, we are told the males are dominant over the females of their species. If it’s true in the wild, it must surely be true for human kind. Terms such as alpha-male, bull-figurehead, lead-stallion, and dominant-male are enhanced when reading the common magazine article or watching a television show on animal behavior. The role of the females of species is seldom as intricately told. For the “Nature” excuse of the treatment of women, this only reinforces the concept that females are “naturally” subordinate to their male counterparts.

In truth, the female role throughout the biological world is quite complex with an alpha or dominant female leading the social and educational factors of her family members. In wolves and most canines, the alpha female is the only female allowed to mate. With the alpha male at her side, all the social activities of the pack are decided and rules of the pack enforced. They are a balanced unit working together to maintain the social well being and survival of the pack. Scientists have noted this behavior not only in wolves, but also in domesticated dogs, when they are allowed to form packs. Hyena clans are ruled by a dominant female and her second in command and most fox species live solitary lives until they take a mate. Except for the desert and artic fox, foxes mate for life and both participate in raising the kits.

In the feline world, the female rules. Tigers, panthers, cougars, ocelots, leopards, cheetah, and 35 of the 36 species of wild cats in the world are either single living a solitary life until they go into estrus and start looking for a male, or are the dominant family member. The exception is the African Lion. There is no dominant female in a lion pride. Rather, outside of hunting to supply food to the family, female lions are non-communal within the pride. Only when cubs are produced do the females interact on a more social basis. This behavior does not, however, empower the male to dominate the pride, but rather encourages him to be social toward all the breeding females to increase the pride birth rate.

The Stallion, contrary to popular belief, is not the head of the herd. Wikipedia states, “The leadership role in a herd is held by a mare, known colloquially as the ‘lead mare’ or ‘boss mare.’ The mare determines the movement of the herd as it travels to obtain food, water, and shelter. She also determines the route the herd takes when fleeing from danger. When the herd is in motion, the dominant stallion herds the straggling members closer to the group and acts as a ‘rear guard’ between the herd and a potential source of danger. When the herd is at rest, all members share the responsibility of keeping watch for danger. The stallion is usually on the edge of the group, to defend the herd if needed.” The dominant mare role is the same in zebra and donkey herds as well. This same behavior is not limited, however, to only mare heads, but dominant females of wild deer, such as the Elk and White Tail, also maintain this important role for their herds.

Bears are amazing creatures. For the first two to three years of a young bear’s life, both male and female are very attached to their mother. Then the males wander off in search of territory and love while the daughters tend to stay with mother until they are ready to breed. Much like the feline, female bears rule their own world. They determine what male they want to mate with and how long they are willing to tolerate him hanging around. As males tend to be very aggressive toward cubs, in most cases a female bear will force a male to leave once she’s pregnant. She even rules her own body, as female Kodiaks have been known to “turn off” their hormones if they go into premature estrus (while still nursing very young cubs).

Humans are just one of the variety in the primate group. Other family members include chimpanzees, orangutan, gorillas, spider monkeys, and even the lemur. Primates are the most complex of all the animal kingdom, with each type of grouping or family unit possessing its own set of rules while still having a typed set. According to biologist Charlotte Hemelrijk, “The position of females in the hierarchy varies among different monkey species. In most species females are ranking below the males. However, in the case of the Lemur species of Madagascar the females are dominant, in bonobos, males and females roughly equal each other in dominance, and among a lot of other species (macaques and the grivet, for instance) females are weakly dominant.” Many primate species have one or two dominant males and a hierarchy of dominant females. Gorilla females compete for the protection and attention of the dominant silverback male, whose role is not only to protect the troop or family unit, but does the majority of the decision making as well. However, in 2008, researchers at the University of Groningen made a surprising discovery – the more males in the monkey family unit, the more dominant the females. Because the average family unit consists of an average of four males in the dominant male hierarchy, numbers beyond this create conditions within the unit that the females take advantage of to gain control.

It is the male bird of nearly every species that strives to please the female of his desire. He works very hard to look, dance, and even sing his best to catch her eye. The discerning feathered female, once her mate is chosen, becomes the queen of her roost. She dictates the nest and how it is built in many species. Both birds are responsible for feeding, rearing, and protecting the young.

Whales and dolphins in live in family units called pods. Pods consist of mothers and daughters and vary in size from a small group of four or five to a large group of ten or more. The dominant lead of the pod is a seasoned mother or grandmother type. Males, though they usually leave the family, maintain a connection to their pods.

From the domestic to the wild animal, “nature” has shown us that the female species of most species is not a subservient animal. She is a willful and dominant part of her family structure. Solitary female species do not bend at the presence of their male counterpart, but defend her independence and territory. As mothers, they cultivate the social structure of the family unit and their offspring are most often theirs alone to educate. Through observing “Nature” we see the true roles of women in society not as objects, property, or servants to man, but as equal partners and/or dominating of self. The myth of nature dictating the male rule over the female is just that, a myth.

Resources:

Animals Busch Gardens, web site, Elephant behavior, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_behavior

Daily Science, Females Monkeys More Dominant in Groups With Relatively More Males, web page,  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080715204745.htm

International Association for Bear Research and Management, web site, http://www.bearbiology.com/index.php?id=37

Mech, L. David 1999. Alpha status, dominance, and division of labor in wolf packs. Canadian Journal of Zoology 77:1196-1203. PDF file

http://www.wolf.org/wolves/learn/basic/resources/mech_pdfs/267alphastatus_english.pdf

Noble, G.K., Symposium: The Individual and the Species, 1939 vol. 56, The Role of Dominance in the social life of birds, PDF, http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Auk/v056n03/p0263-p0273.pdf

O’Neil, Denis, Social Structure, web site, http://anthro.palomar.edu/behavior/behave_2.htm

Sreedharan, Sreejit, Research on Wild Cats, web site, http://sreejit-wildcats.blogspot.com/

Stone, Linda, 1997 Kinship and Gender, Westview Press, Harper-Collins. Boulder. The Evolution of Kinship and Gender, http://socio.ch/evo/stone.htm

Wikipedia, web page, Horse Behavior, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_behavior

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MarySunshine
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Reblogged this on Female Biology Matters and commented:
Thanks to a link from Max Dashu and Kathy Miriam … 🙂

Anne Allen
Guest

This is wonderful information, Anna, and a beautiful reminder that we need only to open our eyes and observe the natural world to awaken to its message.

Grandma Sally Berkley
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Grandma Sally Berkley
When young & dumb ‘bull-headed’ proceeded my name from every voice. As grew a wee bit wiser, learned perception was important in every natural ruling relationships,.However inside, never, ever felt a man or woman of my equal was superior, walked beside, neither in front nor behind, because that’s where wanted them. Wasted less posturing & accomplish more that way for it’s our female ‘superior’ gift to do this. Don’t tell nor over think & fuss for they will figure it out. At this time in our evolutionary journey isn’t that our next step to take toward learning to be ONE?… Read more »
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