Dreamshadow® Book Group on Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Evolution, by Cat Bohannon

By Ronit LeMon and the Dreamshadow® Book Group

The Dreamshadow® Book Group is an offshoot of the deep desire that members of the Dreamshadow community have for connection, personal development, deep diving, and discussion. We meet every couple of months during the winter season for an hour on Zoom to examine a book suggested and voted on by members. The leadership is shared: each session has a different member facilitating the discussion. All book suggestions are welcome.

In January, we met to discuss the fascinating book Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Evolution by Cat Bohannon. We were deeply interested in the missing history of women and how the female body shaped this world. We expected to learn; what we didn’t expect was to be delighted by her wit and humor. Reading the footnotes made many of us laugh out loud!

What follows is a pastiche of comments and responses to the book, submitted by our members. If you are interested in joining us, please email us at Ronitlemon@dreamshadow.com to get on the list. We’d love to have you!

Kari Kovick:
The author, Cat Bohannon, seems to be giving female bodies their due credit in shaping our evolutionary history by shining a spotlight on different “Eves” along the way. I was surprised at how relieved I was to hear that women were probably the first tool makers (because, yeah, they are at least as smart as men. WHAT???)  I was also surprised to hear her speculate that our ancestor Homo habilus propelled our species to survive birthing their babies’ impossibly large heads by assisting each other in labor and delivery. (So “gynecology,” as Bohannon terms it, was an invention of prehistoric women, not a certain male physician in the early 1800’s who experimented on the bodies of Black slave women.)
I appreciated her putting the female at the center of this extremely thorough scientific overview. I didn’t appreciate how she still advanced in that discussion the same mechanistic and reductionist views of our humanity being determined by the evolution of its physical parts.
She has a whole chapter on the brain that assumes it is responsible for all forms of intelligence and consciousness, which just seems shortsighted to me. Beware, as well, the first part of the chapter entitled “Voice” in which she claims (with lots of scientific facts behind her reasoning) that children’s vocal mechanisms are too undeveloped before the age of five to carry a tune or sustain a musical phrase. I know LOTS of children who sing on pitch in their first and second years, and who can imitate melodic phrases that their caregivers sing to them. There is plenty of scientific research to back this phenomenon, too, but apparently early childhood music research is not on Cat’s radar. It makes me wonder what other parts of her conclusions might be based on her own biases rather than objective science, as she would like us to believe. Still, it’s nice to hear her hypothesis that language developed when a long-ago mother felt the first impetus to tell her child a bedtime story. That’s a really nice way to imagine our species evolving.
Patricia van Dijkhuizen:
The book underscored how much medical research has been based in the male body only, not taking into account that women may respond differently to medicine and dosages, and may present differently, for example, when having a heart attack. This may well have been the impetus for writing this book, putting the female body as the focus of research.

One could argue that the book was written from a linear time perspective, taking a Darwinian approach, although it did go beyond that with postulating that some of our female bodily processes such as lactation can be traced to Morganucodons, Morgie for short, a type of rodent! It was incredibly well-researched, with extensive footnotes, often very witty although in the later chapters the humor fell a bit flat, maybe as the author was running out of steam.

We discussed whether this book could be regarded as prequel to Stan Grof’s work as it covers pregnancy before the gestational last 3 months, the period to which Stan applied to BPM (Basic Perinatal Matrices). There was a discussion whether BPM I also included the period before gestational pregnancy, how the humans baby’s relatively large head could account for BPM II stuckness, and also the development of cooperation among women as it was difficult for a woman to have a child without assistance.
Elizabeth Gibson:
As I read this book, I was struck by the themes of connectedness, collaboration, and co-creation throughout. How, during the breastfeeding process, the mother’s breast absorbs the baby’s saliva, and the milk is adjusted, right away according to nutritional messages from the saliva. All the while, the baby and the mother are communicating in so many other ways…it made me think a lot about the several generations, beginning in the early 1900’s, and peaking probably sometime after WWII, of babies who were not breast-fed (including myself).
And another example: that the placenta is actually a shared organ between the mother and baby, made by both of them, together. We could write so much more just about that!
The possible themes that relate to all we are learning together around breathwork and process philosophy are the significance of the birth process, the collective wisdom and magic that happens in groups, the added dimension of the whole evolutionary process, and the voices of women that weren’t heard during the rise of our western culture as the Christian Church became dominant.