Primatologist Frans de Waal in Conversation with Isabella Rossellini

Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal argues that the study of our closest genetic relatives (an absolutely crucial way we make sense of our own biology) has been misguided by patriarchal assumptions. Primatologists, he says, have historically focused on masculine and feminine archetypes, and have systematically overlooked all who don’t fit this mold. In his experience, these outliers—gender non-conforming apes—comprise between 5-10% of chimpanzee populations. Unlike in human society, the chimpanzees are fully accepting of this diversity.

He is joined by cinema icon Isabella Rossellini—creator of the natural sciences video series Green Porno, with a master’s degree in animal behavior and conservation—to discuss his most recent book, Different. Together, they explore the matriarchal hierarchies of the ape kingdom, articulating all that we may learn about sex, gender, and nature from our simian cousins. This is inspiring without being maudlin: instead of looking to chimpanzees to justify who we are, we may look to bonobos to think about who we could be. ♦