There comes a time in all of our lives where we need to make a stand. There is an unspoken oppression that pervades our community. We are in 2017 and it’s time for a change. It’s time to we recognize that we are living in a society that actively discriminates and minimizes the experiences and contributions of bonobo males in our chimpanzee community.
Just last week, I was hanging from a Flowering Dogwood tree in the Congo Basin attempting to eat my daily intake of fruit when I was approached by a pack of three females. If my past experiences with groups of multiple females had taught me anything, it’s that I was about to experience harassment and intimidation. Sure enough, they surrounded me and began whooping and chattering at me in a sexually aggressive manner. The sad part is that, although it made me feel uncomfortable, I rationalized their behavior because I knew they were clearly in their estrus phase (judging from their swollen genitals, I’d say this was the case). Just another day living as a modern day male bonobo chimp, I thought to myself. But why am I expected to embrace my victimhood just because of their reproductive schedule? Procreation is important, but it’s no excuse for making me feel unsafe in my own tree.
This behavior has long been accepted as “female bonobos being female bonobos.” However, there is a double-standard for behavior. We all know what happens to rogue males of our species who attempt to engage in this aggressive behavior. They are labeled. They are looked down upon. Often times they are hunted down by females and clubbed or bitten to death. In one infamous instance last yer, a male’s genitals were bitten by two females simply because they did not want him to encroach on the large patch of fruit they had discovered. This one instance is awful on its own. Yet this type of violence against males happens every day and we say nothing.
This is not to say that all female bonobo’s are complicit in the mistreatment of males. There is a small but growing force of allies within the female ranks who understand that the institutional marginalization of male bonobos must come to an end. They recognize the privilege that our system bestows upon females (access to fruit, etc). As males, we must push the dialogue until one day, the matriarchal society will be a thing of the past and there will be equality among the sexes.
Let us hope that for a future where the skills that we male bonobo chimpanzees bring to society (brotherhood, fruit gathering skills) will one day be viewed on par with the “traditionally” valued skills that our female counterparts bring (domination of societal hierarchy, hyper-sexual promiscuity in order to increase genetic biogenetic diversity within the pack).