A man, let’s call him John, readies his spear as the exhausted and bleeding mammoth lets out a final sound of pain and begins to run toward the source of his current suffering. But before he can reach it, seven spears hit the dying animal square in the chest. With a loud, dull thud the mammoth slams into the dirt, unable to get back up again. The hunters roar and begin the process of slaughter and the gathering of meat, bone and hide. With heavy loads on their backs and in packs, dragging behind them, the hunters head back home. After days of tracking through the wilderness with his heavy load, John thinks longingly of his warm cave, his warm wife and the results of his virility. A hero’s welcome awaits him…
Were it not for that pesky saber tooth tiger at the entrance of his domain. Can that damn tiger not smell the urine, John so generously scattered over his territory? Angrily he drops his load and rushes toward the cave. He flings his arms about the neck of the tiger and with one smooth twist snaps it’s neck. The terrified faces of his wife and his little ones appear from the cave. They run over to John, hug him and cry. Then there is time to admire the abundance of meat that the children and wife will process and that will ensure their survival for the coming weeks. Humans are true carnivores, after all.
Oh, those good old days! That Utopian time of “Man the Hunter”! If only we could go back there. Modern man is not doing so well, various articles from several media sources inform us. He is “confused” as to what his role should be. He is “emasculated” by those evil women who demand respect, equal opportunities and a place in public sphere. Don’t they know that a man is lost without his role of “protector” and “provider” and sexual predator?
The above scenario is considered indisputable and eternal, by many people who subscribe to evolutionary-psychology and biological determinism. They claim that it has always been that way and therefore we ought not to attempt to change it. We should “leave things as they are and adhere to the status-quo, because that is much easier for everyone”.
To acknowledge the truth, I have mixed several species’ behavior in this little story, because of how often have I heard men being compared to cavemen, wild-dogs/wolves and apes. People carelessly throw around the seventies term “alpha-male” for instance, even though at the time it was based on an extremely crude understanding of the social structures of wolves, as it is explained here:
Evolutionary-psychology also has a tendency to not only project human behavior onto animals, but onto human societies of the past as well. For every piece of archaeological evidence found, there are at least several explanations possible as to what the precise status and function of that object was within that society. The truth is that we just don’t know and will in all likelihood never know exactly how people had organized their social structures or why. One thing is for sure though, how things are today are certainly not what they were in the past. If we only look back fifty to a hundred years ago, you can see how much has changed already. This “trend” will only continue. In another fifty to a hundred year people will consider us “ignorant” and “primitive” and will have wondered how could have lived “that way”.
Humans, both women and men, have adapted to the technological age quite quickly. Children grow up using all sorts of machines with will later help them in their professional lives. It is only after puberty that some end up feeling restless and disconnected. I have never heard a child say anything to the likes of:
“Gee, I wish we could live like cavemen. That would be so swell.”
I have also never seen children play “cavemen” So where does this “nostalgia” come from?
People romanticize the role they hope men played before the first civilizations emerged. They portrait him as a musclebound, heterosexual, “heroic”, white men with a big beard and a spear in his hand, attacking large furry mammals. They argue that the role men played in the acquisition of food was vital to the survival of the human-species. Most anthropologists, nowadays, agree that at least sixty percent of the food sources came from gathering, fishing and hunting small game, which they speculate was done for the most part by women and children. They also mostly agree that these activities would take women far from home, where men would not be around protect them from those vicious saber tooth tigers.
So while it is true that evolutionary-psychology/biology and biological determinism can be regarded as utter bullshit, I argue that, however people lived in the past, it just doesn’t matter for the discussion of equal rights for both sexes. Societies change. Nobody can deny that. In order to survive, you have to change, to adapt and to make the most of it. You have to utilize the resources that you have in the best possible way. Denying 51% percent of the human race the opportunity to equally participate in and contribute to society is not adapting.
Furthermore, I don’t doubt that there are people who would indeed feel more comfortable “living off the land”. Well if you are such a person who gets all “nostalgic” over “how cavemen lived” and are of the opinion that you should “go back there”, then by all means do so. Go live in the wilderness and hunt and fish and gather. Stop using machinery and medical resources, because there are also people who do want those things around and would happily take your place on waiting lists and would love to have your job as well. And for fuck sake, stop expecting everyone else to think like you. Stop expecting other people to adjust their lives to your wishes. Stop feeling entitled to more opportunities and more resources just because you have a penis. Stop trying to tell other people how to live based on your archaic speculations. It doesn’t make any fucking sense, especially considering the evidence, or lack thereof, you use to disprove your own damn theories. People’s brains are in their heads and not their genitals.
* Credit goes to Gerda Lerner for writing the awesome book The Creation of Patriarchy. She is the inspiration for this post and the source of some of the knowledge it contains.