Tracing Ancestry Via Mitochondrial DNA: A Patriarchal View

The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry

by Bryan Sykes

W W Norton and Company (2002)

Book Review

This book is an account of geneticist Bryan Sykes’s discovery of the value of mitochondrial DNA in tracing the maternal lineage of all contemporary human beings to a few dozen cave women. Mitochondrial DNA is unique in that it’s only inherited from the egg (sperm discard their mitochondria once they penetrate the egg). It’s also far less genetically complex than nuclear DNA and only rarely undergoes mutation.

Sykes first used his discovery to establish that Polynesian navigators (including New Zealand Maori) originated from Taiwan or coastal China, and not south America, as claimed by Thor Heyerdahl. Heyerdahl came to public attention after piloting the balsa raft Kon-Tiki from the South American cost to the Tuamotu islands near Tahiti.

Sykes also used mitochondrial DNA to settle a longstanding debate over the origin of Europe’s agricultural revolution. The old view was that Europe’s hunter gatherers had been overwhelmed and displaced by an “invasion” of Middle Eastern farmers. Sykes’s genetic studies revealed otherwise – only about 17% of current Europeans carry typical Middle Eastern mitochondrial DNA. This suggests that Europe’s hunter gatherers gradually learned techniques for domesticating plants and animals from a small number of Middle Eastern farmers.

I had real problems with the final section of the book, in which Sykes fantasizes about each of the seven “daughters of Eve” (aka clan mothers) who are direct ancestors of nearly all people of European ancestry. His reconstructions depart significantly from existing anthropological studies of hunter gatherer societies – especially his portrayal of males heading households of nuclear families, his minimization of women’s roles in domesticating plants and most farm animals, and his heavy emphasis on hunting as the primary source of nutrition among hunter gatherers.

His premise that hunter gatherer females nursed 3-4 year old children every four hours (resulting in natural birth control) is just plain wrong. Although hunter gatherer females typically breast fed children for fours years or more, after age 12-18 months breast milk became a secondary source of found as young children shared shared the same solid food their parents ate.

See Patriarchy: An Anthropological Study and Patriarchy: The Crucial Role of Women’s Unpaid Labor Under Capitalism

Medical Establishment Ignores Industrial Causes of Women’s Reproductive Illness

Guest post by Gloria

There have been precipitous increases, in the incidences of women’s reproductive-related, diseases and syndromes, in the past 50 years, in America. All of these women’s diseases and syndromes have Increased.

1. Uterine fibroids
2. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
3. Endometriosis
4. Ovarian cysts
5. Pre-eclampsia
6. Dysmenorrhea

The diseases and syndromes all involve reproductive issues. They all affect a woman’s ability to have children. They are all debilitating in some way. They are painful. They can lead to much more serious complications.

The medical establishment will not come out and say that these diseases, are related to Environmental health issues.  Issues like the large increases of estrogenic chemicals in the environment thanks to the petroleum and chemical industries. Chemicals that surround us in our homes, clothes, cars and food. Chemicals that are in plastics and synthetics. Chemical that are in everyday goods and in food packaging. The chemicals are everywhere.

The establishment will not talk about the toxic chemicals and radionuclides, that now flood our environment. Chemicals and isotopes that are highly toxic in very small amounts. Chemicals and elements that cause drastic physiological changes in women’s bodies. These highly potent chemicals, pesticides, and radionuclides cause hormonal disruption in the delicate balance of female reproductive systems.

The worst chemical toxins like dioxins, pthalates and pesticides are teratogenic and can be mutagenic, as well as hormone disruptors.

By far and a cry ahead of the chemical poisons are the radionuclides, that are mutagenic . Radionuclides can cause heritable conditions. Radionuclides disrupt physiological process in very small amounts. They alone could be accountable, for the exponential increases in uterine fibroids, in the past 50 years.

Uterine fibroids are painful. Quite often doctors perform hysterectomies, because of them.

Here is an example of what the medical establishment calls environmental factors for uterine fibroids:  “Environmental factors: Uterine infections, menstruation at an early age, high blood pressure, usage of birth control pills, obesity, vitamin D deficiency, a diet high in red meat but lower in green vegetables, fruit and dairy, and alcohol intake (mainly beer)”

The medical system in America, blames the victims of uterine fibroids and, other female reproductive illnesses. The American medical establishment says these illnesses are from bad lifestyle choices, poor genes, or ethnicity. They study certain Asian and South American populations who happen to have less pollution and radionuclides, in the environment. They find that these demographics and ethnicities have lower incidence, of female reproductive illnesses like uterine fibroids. The American medical establishment will never attribute exposure to chemicals and radionuclides as primary causes or, even a contributing cause, in the divergence between American and other populations.

It seems odd to me that scientists who study radionuclide effects have many studies that document decreases in male sperm count. Studies of male infertility due to radiation and radionuclides showing direct effects. Scientists warn that male human sperm-count is declining precipitously, in males in industrial countries. Industrial countries like China and America.

However the medical establishment refuses to address environmental exposure issues involving female reproductive illness and disease.

It is well known in scientific communities that hormone disruptors and other potent toxins affect women’s reproductive health and related reproductive health issues. The scientific and medical community choose to ignore this issue.

How the Protestant Reformation Gave Rise to Women’s Liberation

The Protestant Revolution: Part 2 The Godly Family

BBC (2005)

Film Review

In Part 2 of the Protestant Revolution, historian Richard Jones-Nerzic explores the steady transformation of women’s lives following the Protestant reformation.

Whereas men and women were assigned segregated seating in the medieval Catholic church, they began sitting together in Protestant churches. Likewise sex ceased to be a sin, and clergy began to marry. Luther himself set the example when he married a former nun.

Luther’s idealized family life changed radically when the industrial revolution forced men out of the home into factories. During the Victorian era, well-to-do educated wives assumed an evangelical role as they led charitable crusades among the urban poor – building Sunday schools, orphanages and hospitals. They quickly became frustrated that this charitable work produced little real reform and began campaigning for real political power through anti-slavery and women’s suffrage campaigns.

However, according to Jones-Nerzic, their work in the war industry during the two world wars was definitely the most liberating factor in the lives of 20th century women.

The last third of the film explores the vehement backlash against equality and control over their own reproductive lives with the rise of fundamentalist Christianity.

The Link Between Globalization and Violence Against Women

witches and witchhunting

Witches, Witch-hunting and Women

by Sylvia Federici

PM Press (2018)

Book Review

This book is a collection of essays that continue the theme feminist historian Sylvia Federici introduced in her 2004 book Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation (see Witch Burning and Women’s Oppression). In addition to re-exploring historical links between witchcraft trials, enclosures, land privatization, and systematized oppression of women, Witches, Witch-hunting and Women extends her analysis to the present day. Federici sees strong links between increasing violence against women and “globalization,” a euphemism for an elitist campaign to dispossess third world peoples of their lands and livelihoods. This dispossession, in turn, has led to the largest mass refugee migration in history.

In tracing its historical origins, the book makes the case that capitalism was actually a “counterrevolution” against the widespread 14th century rebellions that improved both the working and living conditions of both peasants and early urban workers. In constant fear of new rebellions by landless peasants (expelled from common lands under enclosure laws), the landed and merchant classes introduced a totally new form of production that imposed even harsher labor discipline than feudalism.

The witchcraft trials of the 16th and 17th century were essential to this transformation. They were primarily directed against women who resisted enclosure, widows, women who had children out of wedlock, landless women who were driven into the streets (either as market vendors or prostitutes), midwives and women who practiced folk healing.

At a time when thousands of women were killed for accusations of witchcraft, all women were banned from guild membership and prohibited from engaging in crafts other than brewing or spinning and bringing legal cases to court. Under capitalism, they were generally confined to the home to perform unpaid domestic labor in total submission to their husbands.

In looking at modern equivalents, Federici sees a direct link between the massive dispossession occurring under globalization and escalating violence against women. She points to a big increase in domestic violence and rape (especially “handbook” rape*), in sex traffcking, in unprosecuted murders of women (especially women of color), in witchcraft accusations against tribal women in Africa and India, and in dowry and honor killings in India and Pakistan.

She also sees strong links between the current mass incarceration of people of color and the 17th century Great Confinement, in which droves of peasants were incarcerated in prisons and workhouses after being driven off their land.


*”Handbook rape” rape by trained military and paramilitary forces is deliberately designed to terrorize targeted populations. Examples include inserting knives or guns into a woman’s vagina or slitting open her pregnant belly.

Fracking, Rape, Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

Sex and the Oil City: Sex, Crime and Drugs: The Dark Side of North Dakota’s Oil Boom

RT (2018)

Film Review

As its title suggests, this documentary mainly concerns the escalation in domestic violence, rape, prostitution and sex trafficking that have accompanied the explosive growth in North Dakota’s fracking industry.

The state’s western fracking towns have seen a massive influx of men working 12-16 hour shifts and earning six figure salaries. Tens of thousands of them, living in “man camps,” find they outnumber local women by 100 to 1. With nowhere to spend their money, narcotics abuse and alcoholism have become enormous issues – as has violence against women. Police call-outs in one town skyrocketed from 41 a year in 2006 to 7.414 in 2014.

The video’s main protagonist is Windie Lazenko, founder of the non-profit group 4Her North Dakota. This is an advocacy group providing outreach services for women and girls who are victims of local sex trafficking. Wendie herself was held captive by local sex traffickers and pimps from age 13-16.

There was  a significant decline in North Dakota’s fracking industry when the price of oil fell in 2014. With the oil price recovery that occurred in 2018, the boom is on again.

Capitalism: The Role of Violence Against Women

Sylvia Federici

Jan 9, 2019 talk

In this talk, Sylvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch (see Witch Burning and Women’s Oppression) discusses her two latest books Witches, Witch Hunting and Women and Re-Enchanting the World.

Witches, Witch Hunting and Women elaborates on two key premises: 1) that the extensive free labor women perform is fundamental to the success of capitalism and 2) that violence against women is never accidental. According to Federici, it’s “structural”, ie fundamental to the human exploitation necessary for capitalist accumulation.

Federici divides violence against women into three main categories: domestic, public and institutional. Domestic violence occurs in the context of a domestic relationship, public violence includes non-domestic rape, paramilitary violence and narco-trafficking, and institutional violence consists of police violence, female incarceration (which is increasing) and criminalization of pregnancy.

Federici is also concerned about the growing frequency of actual witchcraft accusations in Latin America, India and Africa. She blames this on what she refers to as “re-colonization,” aka globalization, whereby millions of poor peasants are being driven off their land and turned into refugees. The original witchcraft trials occurred during the 16th and 17th century enclosures, when people were being violently thrown off of communal land.

Re-Enchanting the World, the second book she describes, depicts how this violent dispossession also destroys the community ties and solidarity working people rely on to resist capitalist violence. It strikes a positive note in describing how Latin American women who are forced to urbanize (after losing their land) are starting to collectivize to meet their survival needs. Examples include organizing to fight for access to water and power and to build schools and clinics.

That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa

That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa*

By Lizzie Marvelly

Book Review

The goal of That F Word is to dispel common confusion about the meaning of the word “feminist.” To singer journalist Lizzie Marvelly, the word simply refers to someone who advocates for full women’s equality. She illustrates by demonstrating all the ways in which women aren’t fully equal to men in New Zealand (or the rest of the industrial world).

If women were fully equal, they would enjoy equal pay for equal work, decriminalization of abortion* and equal representation in government, the boardroom and the media and entertainment industry. Domestic violence and rape culture would end because sexual abuse, sexual harassment and domestic violence would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as would the routine exposure of 14-year-old boys to misogynist Internet pornography; the widespread use of soft porn to sell commercial products; the continual media pressure on women to hate their appearance; and the constant verbal abuse and rape and death threats against women who openly express opinions in the public arena.

Marvelly views the advent of social media as a two-edged sword for women. Despite the ubiquitous use of social media by insecure men to verbally abuse, degrade and threaten women, it also offers women a unique opportunity to openly share personal experiences of abusive treatment by men. Even more importantly, social media has brought into the open the extreme level of misogyny women experience in contemporary society.

Presented as an expanded memoir, That F Word is a remarkable achievement for a 29-year-old author. In my view, it should be required reading for all men with a genuine desire to understand the condition of women in the 21st century.


*Aotearoa is the original Maori name for New Zealand

**In New Zealand, abortion is still a crime under the Crimes Act – unless a woman obtains independent certification from two health professionals that proceeding with the pregnancy will seriously endanger her mental health.