I’m hoping that Katherine J. Wu is trolling Vox with what could be a parody, but …
Lessons from female spotted hyenas for the #MeToo era.
By Katherine J. Wu Updated Jun 20, 2018, 7:46am EDT
Like many young women, I grew up aspiring to fit into a patriarchal world. While the boys in my elementary school were encouraged to focus on their professional achievement and financial success, I was instructed to cross my legs, minimize my food intake, and coo at plastic babies with fluttering eyelids.
Every cultural signal I encountered featured men at the top of the food chain, giving me the morning news, leading Fortune 500 companies, accepting Nobel Prizes. It was only years later, while studying biology, that I found empowerment in an unexpected place: through the tale of the spotted hyena’s evolution — possibly one of the most inspirational examples of feminism in the natural world.
Unlike most other mammals, spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) live in matriarchal societies led by alpha females. In these clans throughout sub-Saharan Africa, females do the majority of the hunting, dictate the social structure, and raise cubs as single mothers. Even the highest-ranking male in the group is subservient to the most junior female.
For example, in The Lion King, Whoopi Goldberg is the alpha female while Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings are her sidekicks. I’m sure that’s not a coincidence (seriously, screenwriters do a lot of research and they often pack a lot of weird details like that into shows).
… Much like the Greek Amazons and Wonder Woman, hyenas are a lineage of queens that prove the human assumption that patriarchies are inevitable — or even natural — completely wrong.
I like the “completely” in that sentence.