An observation about gender from Dusky Langurs

by Dusky Jieh Long

How would you describe the relationship between a father and son dusky langur?

Ah Pah is an alpha male who takes care of his family. He is especially fond of Xiao Pah, one of his many children who got his look from his father. They do almost everything together.

Father and son, Ah Pah (left) and Xiao Pah (right).

For instance, Ah Pah and Xiao Pah take turns grooming each other every day as social grooming is the best way they express their love for one another. As a result, their family bonds stay strong. Additionally, grooming also prevents tangle forming and parasite overgrowth in their hair, while regulating body temperature.

Ah Pah grooming his son, Xiao Pah.

You can also tell how close Ah Pah and Xiao Pah are by observing how frequently they hug each other. They hug so much I started rolling my eyes after a few days of observing the pair. I never knew what hugging meant for them, but it looked as if they were saying – 

“you good?”

“yea”

“good”

“…”

They would sit side by side afterward and rest. 

Ah Pah constantly focusing on his son, Xiao Pah.

I’m so jealous of their relationship. (This author has a daddy issue)

One day, I saw Ah Pah groom Xiao Pah again, but something was unusual. Ah Pah was licking Xiao Pah’s face. It turned out that Xiao Pah was injured with big wounds on his face and shoulder, and Ah Pah was trying to treat his wounds. By licking the wounds, Ah Pah removed debris and applied saliva. The saliva helps to prevent infection and stop the bleeding. I don’t know how did Xiao Pah get injured, I can only imagine how painful it must have been for Xiao Pah, physically; as well as for AhPah, emotionally. 

Wound licking social grooming behaviour.

I can think of many other things that exemplified what a good father and leader Ah Pah is, but that’s a story for another time. After all, this is a short story about the relationship between Ah Pah and Xiao Pah … and maybe offer a different perspective towards patriarchy. Being an alpha male doesn’t make Ah Pah a destructive and dominating father figure. A loving and kind leader tends to gain more supports from allies, that will consolidate his position for a longer term. Sadly, in the community that I grew up in, men are expected to act in a certain way – a “real man” has to be cold, doesn’t express feelings and emotions, doesn’t cry, sneezes as loud as possible, always sits with his legs spread out, macho macho! … otherwise, he is perceived as weak and unworthy to be a man.

On the contrary, Ah Pah is not afraid to show his love to his son. That, to me, makes him, a dusky langur, a “better man”, and Xiao Pah a successful alpha male who treats women with respect.

Signing off,

Jieh Long

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