There is a human genetic fluke that is surprisingly common, due to a change in a key pair of chromosomes. In the normal condition the two look the same, but in this disorder one is malformed and shrunken beyond recognition. The result is a shortened life span, higher mortality at all ages, an inability to reproduce, premature hair loss, and brain defects variously resulting in attention deficit, hyperactivity, conduct disorder, hypersexuality, and an enormous excess of both outward and self-directed aggression.
It is called maleness.
In Women After All, Melvin Konner traces the arc of evolution to explain the relationships between women and men. With patience and wit he explores the knotty question of whether men are necessary in the biological destiny of the human race. He draws on multiple, colorful examples from the natural world – such as the mating habits of the octopus, black widow, angler fish, and jacana – and argues that maleness in humans is hardly necessary to the survival of the species.
In characteristically humorous and engaging prose, Konner sheds light on our biologically different identities, while noting the poignant exceptions that challenge the male/female divide. We meet hunter-gatherers such as those in Botswana, whose culture gave women a prominent place, invented the working mother, and respected women's voices around the fire. Recent human history has upset this balance, as a dense world of war fostered extreme male dominance. But our species has been recovering over the past two centuries, and an unstoppable move toward equality is afoot. It will not be the end of men, but it will be the end of male supremacy and a better, wiser world for women and men alike. Provocative and richly informed, Women After All is bound to be controversial across the sexes.
"Konner makes a powerful case for a provocative thesis [...] . he ranges from evolutionary biology through ethology, neurobiology, embryology, anthropology and history, with digressions into economics and politics. Not many people could pull this off – but Dr. Konner does."
– David Barash, Wall Street Journal
"Konner mines evolution and anthropology to probe gender identities in the light of biology, sexual conflict across species and more. The provocative scenarios he lays out include a man-free world where women reproduce using DNA from other women's eggs."
– Barbara Kiser, Nature
"Bold [...] Konner writes that the world will be a better place when women are finally leading it."
– Publishers Weekly
"Women After All describes what future historians will surely recognize as one of the momentous transformations in the human saga: the decline of men's political dominance, and with it many deplorable practices and belief systems. Engagingly written and persuasively argued, it shows how an acknowledgment of human nature combined with a long view of history can advance the human condition."
– Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, & author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
"A sparkling, thought-provoking account of sexual differences. Whether you're a man or a woman, you'll find his conclusions gripping."
– Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel
"Women After All is astonishingly insightful [...] . It is not always males who are the problem. At issue is the utterly ruthless processes of sexual selection which in humans are magnified still further by patriarchal ideologies. Women After All provides a richly informed, up-to-the-minute and sensible exploration of a highly charged topic. It is the best available examination of how and why men and women differ and how twenty-first-century humans can use this knowledge to forge a better world."
– Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of Mother Nature and Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding
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Melvin Konner, M.D. is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University. He is the author of Women After All, Becoming a Doctor and Medicine at the Crossroads, among other books.