Along with many of the other social issues, sexism and female inequality has been visible in our society for years. The phrase “man the hunter, women the gatherer” is just one example of segregation between the genders. The significance of this phrase relates to the method of separation of labor between sexes. Why do men hunt? A reevaluation of “man the hunter” and the sexual division of labor, is a study by Gurven, M., & Hill, K. in 2009 that gave some very interesting insights into the reasons men are known to have hunted and women to have gathered.
This view is still so prevalent in society because there are still people who believe that “men are givers and women are takers,” ( Rebecca Solnit, 2015) and that men do all the working while women sit around and feel no need to do anything but be “idle,” as Solnit describes in her article for Harper’s Magazine. Solnit claims that the percent of women earning wages in America is 47%, and 74% of those women are full-time workers. Despite this, women are still analyzed and criticized for their lack of participation and development in the working field. Solnit mentioned a men’s rights activist in her article that believed that “because women never worked…And now we have ended up with this cancerous cesspool of female desegregation we all suffer from, day in day out” and continued to state “We need to put women into the world all alone and without help and let them die or survive without any sort of help or interference, so they can catch up on evolution and reach the state of being human too”. This type of attitude toward the way women have “never worked” is one of the main reasons that as a society we have this social issue with inequality. Women, despite uneducated opinions, are very hardworking in different ways in today’s society and have been in history.
This traditional perspective, along with the research and analyzing from Gurven and hill, exemplifies that there was more behind the story of men just hunting and women gathering. Several explanations like strength demands or physical constraints were some of the reasons that women were not able to engage in the majority of hunting in ancient populations (Gurven, M., & Hill. K, 2009). Along with those factors, women had and still have the large, demanding responsibility of raising children. According to Gurven and Hill’s study, keeping offspring alive is a top priority of forager women, which precludes hunting in most environments. Hunting is also very dangerous for young children and infants. The study explains that there were different models for explaining this like for example the “signaling model” which indicates that men took their activities of hunting as a type of benefit to themselves. This means men would hunt initially to get social attention and mating benefits along with providing for their offspring and families.
Another explanation to this phrase has to do with the specialization of these activities. Gurven states that “even if a group of members are equally capable of performing all tasks” that specialization in these societies likely occurred. This though, does not mean that men should solely hunt, and women only gather, but at that time period, it is what occurred for the sake of the fitness of the populations. Without comparing the sexes, and putting them in specific boxes of “correct labor” options, each needs to coordinate on their specific set of activities (what feels necessary for them) (Gurven, M., & Hill. K, 2009).
As Solnit stated in her article, women everywhere are doing things to work, and to stay busy. Women are growing crops, carrying water, collecting firewood, herding livestock, looking after young children, grinding corn by hand. They are studying, giving speeches, they are determined, they are capable. Gender roles should not be roles at all, but specific activities pursued by those in a community, family, or society feel the necessity or ability to do.
Solnit, R., Enzinna, W., Marzano-Lesnevich, A., Elkin, L., Cromwell, R. M., Kupfer, P., . . . Means, D. (2015, May 13). [Easy Chair]: Shooting Down Man the Hunter, by Rebecca Solnit: Harper’s Magazine – Part 4. Retrieved from https://harpers.org/archive/2015/06/shooting-down-man-the-hunter/4/
Gurven, M., & Hill, K. (2009, February). Why do men hunt? A reevaluation of “man the hunter” and the sexual division of labor. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubme