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Cat Bohannon

Researcher and New York Times bestselling author of Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution

  • About Cat Bohannon

    As a Ph.D. student at Columbia University, Cat Bohannon was shocked to learn that female bodies were largely left out of science and research. As recently as 2000, one in five NIH clinical trials still did not use any female subjects, and of the studies that did, nearly two-thirds didn’t analyze their data through the lens of sex differences. For centuries, science, research, and modern medicine have adopted a one-size-fits-all approach, ignoring the biological differences between male and female bodies when it comes to testing prescription medications, administering anesthesia in surgery, and even designing public school curricula.

    Bohannon set out to correct this blind spot—an intellectual problem that has become a societal one. The result of her quest and research is one of the most acclaimed science books in recent memory—Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution. Ten years in the making, this bestselling book explores the sex differences that inform our experiences today and which drove the development and success of Homo sapiens as a species over time.

    Speaking with humor and compassion, Bohannon addresses audiences outside of the medical community as much as those within it. Whether an organization is looking to unpack the unconscious gender biases influencing their teams, a company is looking at how to develop products for underserved markets, or a medical conference is looking for a “big think” speaker to inspire change and activism, Bohannon delivers powerful arguments and insights.

    In her lectures and book, Bohannon addresses questions too often disregarded in accounts of our shared history: Why do women live longer than men? Is sexism useful for evolution? What role did the invention of gynecology play in human advancement? With urgency, accessibility, and wit, Bohannon rewrites everything we think we know about how our species evolved and why, and how sex differences continue to inform our lives today.

    Cat Bohannon also has an MFA in poetry and nonfiction. Her essays and poetry have appeared in numerous scientific and literary journals, including Scientific American, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and The Georgia Review. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her family.

  • Speaking Topics

    KEYNOTE: Peeking Past the Paradigm: How Studying the Female Body Drives Scientific Innovation

    We all live inside paradigms that profoundly shape human thought and work like cognitive blinders, and there are few more limiting than the deeply held cultural assumptions we’ve made about how bodies should be and work. In this urgent and engaging lecture, Bohannon walks through some of the key recent discoveries in the biology of sex differences, which are the direct result of finally peeking past the male norm in science and medicine. Challenging the idea of a “weaker sex,” Bohannon points to research showing that women are not weaker when it comes to infections, cancer, or even severe traumatic brain injuries–and to how researchers might look to these differences to save lives and discover better treatments.

    INTERACTIVE SESSION: Dinner for Primates

    The differences between male and female bodies are about more than reproduction, or superficial differences in how we look—they also inform areas as subtle and as crucial as how we see, hear, taste, and experience the world. In this interactive, multimedia event, Cat Bohannon leads a tour through sex differences in the primate sensory array and how they still shape our perception of the world today. This event can include an informal “experiment” to have guests compare data on how they smell, listen, and taste, leaving participants with eye-opening insights into their unconscious sex and gender biases.

    TOPICAL TALKS: Overcoming the Insider Model of Healthcare

    It’s an open secret in the medical sciences that many prescriptions on the market today have not been studied on female bodies at all. We’re just starting to remedy that fact, and as a result, women are often given ineffective doses of medication, have their pain dismissed, or feel like they need to “know a guy who knows a guy” to unlock a standard of care which should be the norm. In this talk Bohannan talks about the double-edged sword of mistrust and mistreatment in medical care for female patients: Women need to trust the science more and scientists and doctors need to trust women more–about their pain, their symptoms, and their experience. Bohannon shows how centuries of male-focused science led us to this point, and asks how can we build better medicine for women.

    TOPICAL TALKS: Why Gynecology was the Biggest Innovation for our Species

    The most important human invention was not fire, not stone tools, not the wheel, not penicillin, but gynecology. The only way we were able to populate the planet was by getting a handle on our inherently wonky reproductive system. In this lecture, Cat Bohannon shares the surprising facts that Lucy had a midwife, Homo Habilis had birth control, and Homo Erectus had some early ape version of abortion, most likely, because other mammals did too. This talk also examines how sexism and gynecology are two sides of the same coin, which co-evolved as a way for us to innovate around our species’ terrible reproductive system. But Bohannon argues that gynecology has vastly outpaced sexism in this regard, and that an innovation like sexism–which once had a specific and beneficial evolutionary purpose–is actually starting to kill us.

  • Video

  • Praise for Cat Bohannon

    Praise for Eve

    This book is almost fantastically interesting. Every few pages there would be some fact I didn’t know or an idea that was new to me, and I would ask my wife if she knew, and she’d say, “What? You’re kidding! No!” and we’d end up talking for half an hour, and it would be midnight, and I’d only read 8 pages. So this book took a LONG time to read, but for the best possible reasons. Frankly, I’m writing this while I’m still on page 387, where Cat Bohannon talks about why sex feels good. I definitely plan to finish.

    Charles Mann, best-selling author of 1491

    Eve was immeasurably useful to me in my life-long quest to understand my own body. I highly recommend it to anyone who is on the same journey.

    Hope Jahren, best-selling author of Lab Girl and Story of More

    For over a century and a half since Darwin, we have talked about the origin of man. But what about women? Marshaling considerable  wit, scholarship, and cutting edge science Cat Bohannon traces the history and importance of female biology and, in the process, gives us a refreshing new view on the origin of humanity.

    Neil Shubin, University of Chicago biologist and author of Your Inner Fish
  • Books by Cat Bohannon

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  • 212 572-2013

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