July 5, 2005

Why Men Have Nipples. Seriously.

After an exhaustive assessment of fathers' childrearing involvement in cultures around the world, the British charity Fathers Direct recently made a startling discovery: men's nipples are there, not only for twisting in pool fights, but for sucking by a crying child when mom's aren't available. They are nature's spare pacifiers.

They found this out based on two decades of anthropological research by one Professor Barry Hewlett, who studies pygmies of the Aka tribe in northern Congo.

Based on, among other things, their lack of gender-defined work/parenting roles, their willingness and readiness to attend to their children from birth, and their emphasis on holding infants almost constantly during the first months of life, Fathers Direct named the Aka "the best dads in the world."

[They're also good singers. One of my all-time favorite movie soundtracks, from Wim Wenders' Until The End of The World, features Aka Pygmy choruses, and I went on a pygmy singing binge for months afterward, scouring obscure archives for field recordings. I have this one and this one, but these two here and here are new to me.]

The Guardian report is chock-full of heartening, useful, and insightful parenting lessons to be learned from the Aka, who apparently have everything but a good literary agent. Meanwhile the message to the fathers of second place Sweden--and any other country's dads who are in the running--is clear: if you want to be "best dad in the world," you're gonna have to show me your tits.

Are the men of the African Aka tribe the best fathers in the world? [guardian]
Breast is still best, even if it is Dad's [timesonline.co.uk, via DT reader Carolyn]
Worldwide study heralds global increase in father involvement and reveals why men have nipples [fathersdirect.com]
Intro to the Aka Foragers, by Barry Hewlett, PhD [vancouver.wsu.edu]

1 Comment

This is the best news I've heard all year. I have a 5 week old and I'm totally going to try my husband out as a pacifier. Though he does seem really freaked out by the idea!

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