Women, Modernity and Progress Publication date : October 12, 2022
Pascal Picq is a paleoanthropologist and lecturer at the Collège de France. He published Au commencement était l’homme, Lucy et l’obscurantisme, De Darwin à Lévi-Strauss, L’Intelligence artificielle and Les Chimpanzés du futur, which were all bestsellers. In 2020, he published the widely acclaimed Et l’Evolution créa la femme, of which this book is a continuation.
Pascal Picq’s new book returns to the issues and history surrounding women’s fate in society, through the prism of evolutionary anthropology. Continuing on from his previous book, he explores the past in terms of the advent of modernity, rather than evolution.
Pascal Picq’s work goes beyond that of a historian. Using emblematic themes or major phenomena, he highlights the way in which the role and status of women has changed between the end of the Middle Ages and the contemporary period.
From the “Women’s Quarrel” – a literary debate among scholars reflecting social changes and a decline of the status of women – to witch hunts, the embodiment of female oppression on the threshold of modernity; from the Napoleonic Code that infantilises women, to their place in Freud’s psychoanalysis, heirs of a misogynistic anthropological unconscious, women are most often reduced to their “nature” and subjected to male domination. During the war, they were raped and then had their heads shaved once the invader left, if accused, rightly or wrongly, of complacency or collaboration. Women are victims of repeated violence, whether real or symbolic. They are not the winners of modernity. The rights that they have achieved were hard earned and they are still under threat today – just look at abortion.
The advent of modernity has not lightened the weight of male domination. Quite the contrary, according to the author. In addition to the constraints related to the ethological characteristics of human society, as described in the previous book, women are also the victims of the development of an ideological form of domination, yet another obstacle to their emancipation from the control of men.
This book traces some of the stages of the “endless anthropological struggle”, from the Renaissance to the beginning of the 21st century, for women to be recognised as equals.
A book that looks back at history from an evolutionary perspective, by bringing women to the forefront of history and rejecting gender stereotypes that are often endorsed by historians themselves.