Baboon High School
December 5, 2019 8:50 AM   Subscribe

How Living With Baboons Prepared Me for Living Through High School. "The world of mean girls and cliques was a startling change from working alongside my primatologist parents. Fortunately, I’d learned a bit about navigating vicious social structures."

Here's the author's website: Keena Roberts

And here's a recent interview with Roberts: Keena Roberts on What African Baboon Camps and U.S. Prep Schools Share
posted by homunculus (7 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I'm... honestly pretty impressed that there wasn't a single Mean Girls reference in the whole short. Nice.

(I think the Westword link might be borked, though.)

Baboon society is really interesting and structured in ways that make it easier to study than human social networks, but it also varies dramatically from species to species. It's not surprising that someone who grew up in baboon research would be able to transfer these notions of social networks to human adolescents, but I also have to wonder how much actually does transfer. Certainly my experience of human adolescent girlhood was nowhere near as hierarchical as a baboon troop's interactions, although perhaps I simply wasn't paying enough attention.

(It's also important to note that the species of baboon you're studying with respect to hierarchy really matters, because sexual relations between male and female hierarchies and the level of male control exerted over females are incredibly species-dependent in baboons. I'm not sure someone studying, say, hamadryas baboons would have made the same leap.)
posted by sciatrix at 8:59 AM on December 5, 2019 [10 favorites]

I can't seem to read this because I am cry laughing that it's actually a thing.
posted by lextex at 9:08 AM on December 5, 2019

This.... seems like an IRL rehash of the plot of Mean Girls, like even the timing of appearance of "my quirky backpack has monkey poop on it, not like the other girls" and "crush on cute boy, omg no you can't like that cute boy, there are cute boy rules!!" I can't tell if it's purposeful or if this girl has unfortunately lived the exact plot of Mean Girls or both.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:31 AM on December 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

I am having trouble with this because at my high school, long ago and far away, anyone who did research in Africa, had San weapons on her wall and baboon poop on her book strap (pre-backpack days) would have been automatically top ranked. Although there were problems at my gigantic city school I am grateful that the large student body made room for groups that welcomed all sorts of eccentrics.
posted by Botanizer at 9:54 AM on December 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

(I think the Westword link might be borked, though.)

Shit, it is. Here's the right link: Keena Roberts on What African Baboon Camps and U.S. Prep Schools Share
posted by homunculus at 9:56 AM on December 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed this article, thanks for posting. I'd love to read her book now.
posted by yoga at 11:07 AM on December 5, 2019

If Eliza Thornberry can go to boarding school and also have trouble adjusting to the hierarchy of her peers 2 years before Mean Girls came out, I'd take a guess that this scenario is less "living out the plot of Mean Girls", and more "this is a realistic scenario of kids growing up around animals in the wilderness due to their parents' work and then adjusting to an actual school for the first time."

I looked past Crushy to the “cool” part of the cafeteria, where a bunch of senior girls from the varsity lacrosse team were eating. Truth is, I did have a crush on one of them, a paralyzing crush that made me almost pass out when she gave me a high five after practice one day.

#relatable, and I'd be interesting in reading more of her book.
posted by lesser weasel at 7:46 PM on December 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

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