Jacky Vallée gave an amazing presentation about some misconceptions on evolution. There was debunking of certain arguments that we use to justify some power roles enforced with gender. These claims are sometimes used to justify a certain “human nature” such as men being the dominant ones in a couple or women are just here to procreate. These claims are usually enforced by a cultural narrative, one we twist to our liking.
The first argument people pitch into arguments about human nature is that “all societies have been dominated by men since the beginning of time”. So men would just be more competent at leadership. There’s this ideology behind that its adaptive for men to be more aggressive and dominant while women should be passive and dependent. Why do we need to question this kind of thinking? Because we don’t feel the need to question whether it’s true or not; we seem to just accept it since it’s usually at the back of our heads. Truthfully, these misconceptions about these prehistoric people might have stemmed from the images we portray of human evolution. It’s always the man growing into a human. In a way, these images then reflect common social attitudes like men are stronger or innovators and women are supposed to be sexy and for the male gaze. I found this especially important to mention because it’s a metanarrative we just naturally and widely accept about why things are the way they are.
Another misconception is that the man is the mighty hunter, and the female just gatherers the smaller game and plants. The problem with this thinking is that it doesn’t take in consideration the much more complex issue there was back in those prehistoric days. This glorification of the man for facing the bigger danger of getting meat has false origins. Meanwhile, the women did the “safe” work near the homes and just waited for the meat to come back. These ideas are based on 20th century middle class standards; the anthropological data shows much more complex scavenging. Humans rarely hunted and rather obtained their meat through shaving. Although men did contribute with some meat, we can’t just undermine the women contributing with a higher %of caloric intake from plant foods, small animals and fish.
On another note, the idea that man is the innovator and the smart ones, and the women are just left waiting for them is not based on anything either. Through anthropological data, it was found that the first tools we made of perishable materials like wood or bones. The first containers were most likely containers as well. And if you think about it, there’s no way of knowing who made those tools in the first place. Interestingly enough, one of our closest relatives, chimps, mostly have the females teach. The mothers would use rocks to open nuts and then teach it to the younglings. So really, there is no proof that men were the first tool makers.
So why is all of this important? To demonstrate that cooperation has always been the key element to the survival of offsprings and it’s not about who is the strongest or most dominant. Everyone played a role. Western societies just portray women as sexually and socially passive and men as aggressive leaders who are smarter and better. So maybe we should recheck what we value in our society and what images we have of the genders.