Maybe it’s time to retire the image of knob-head and demand one with our correct proportions.
It’s funny what catches your eye. The New York Times published a photograph yesterday of a female figurine that was described as “one of the oldest examples of figured art in the world.” It was very crude of course, the artist’s focus on the bulk from neck to legs. The thing that caught my eye was the tiny head, like a little, extraneous knob atop. “Isn’t that the way of it?” I thought. Knob head.
The image sent me to a book titled The Living Goddesses by the late archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. It is full of primitive drawings and figurines of the feminine, and there are common threads—prominent breasts, womb, thighs, and vulva, and a miniature or missing head. Where the head appears, features are often indistinct, the mouth tiny or absent.
Could any imagery be more eloquent? The feminine reproductive gift has always been the one most valued, the mind and the voice least appreciated. Even in modern times, men in various tribes, cultures, and religions see women very much as breeders of the numbers needed for self-aggrandizement and dominance. Unbelievably, this continues to be so at a time when overpopulation could become a catastrophic problem for the human species.
The photograph of the figurine was attached to an interview with British paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer. He spoke of discoveries indicating that distinct populations of humans thrived and then died out in places all over the world over thousands of years. It could happen again. He also shared research indicating that people outside of Africa, which remains the primary focus of the study of human origins, have about 2.5 percent Neanderthal DNA.
Of course, not everyone believes in evolution. The skeptics wouldn’t have been interested in the answer to the last question Stringer was asked, namely, “What is the future of human evolution?” Stringer responded that urbanization and developments in agriculture and lifestyle are producing rapid change. He said that each of us has about 50 mutations in our DNA compared with our parents.
It makes one stop and think about just a few of the mutations that are very visible—the birth defects caused by poor diet, toxic environments, and the abuse of drugs and alcohol; the obesity epidemic and its complications caused by unhealthy eating habits; and all the evidence of loss of intellect and character in people hooked on drugs and pharmaceuticals.
We think of evolving as advancing, but it could be that we are devolving, a very clear degeneration. And all of this is taking place in a world dominated by the masculine, where women still are widely perceived as inferior in intellect and ability, unqualified for equal voice or equal sway.
Through thick and thin, however, our reproductive capacity has endured. With a veiled threat, we could use that gift for the common good: Try going it alone, guys. Maybe it’s time to retire the image of knob-head and demand one with our correct proportions. I’m sure Mother Earth would be pleased.