That story you linked says nothing about “gender roles.” It speaks to the contributions of women and helps to further debunk the idea of “man” as the central character in our Paleolithic past. But that isn’t the same thing as saying that women had certain rigid roles and men had other ones.

💪 I have pricky ellebeaus because it's hard to get heard even when you are talking clearly to those who insist on being belligerent (and then accusing the woman defending herself of being the belligerent one). In most current hunter-gatherer bands there are gender roles, which are largely disregarded in favor of everyone doing the job that they feel like doing to support the community. This is true even as relates to hunting, unless the tribe tends to get their meat from big game.

In many, many of these tribes 60-80% of the sustenance comes from gathering.

"The idea of a provider for a family is a pretty recent one, beginning with plowed agriculture and intensifying with the Industrial Revolution. Prior to agriculture, both men and women contributed to the food supplies and the wellbeing of the family because until that time humans lived in small egalitarian hunter-gatherer bands where the survival strategy was for the entire group of 20–50 to feed and look out for each other. In some current hunter-gatherer bands, it is actually the women who provide most of what the tribe eats.

Sociologist Rae Blumberg has pointed out that it is only for less than 3% of human history and with one particular type of agrarian society, that women have become fundamentally dependent on men. Plowed agriculture turned on its head the prior dynamic of women as competent, self-sufficient primary producers who made their own decisions relatively autonomously.

For hunter-gatherers and in other types of agricultural economies, what women did was a huge contribution to the wellbeing of the family and the society, and this brought them both a lot of both status and a lot of freedom. In places where women historically worked outdoors in both paddy and hoe fields, female labor was vital, and a woman’s social status mirrored her indispensable contributions. Without her, there would be a lot less food.

Among the Juǀʼhoansi ǃKung of Namibia and Botswana, women generally collect plant foods and water, providing 60%–80% of the group’s sustenance, while men hunt. Depending on the climate, meat may be a relatively small part of the diet for any hunter-gatherer band. In some cultures, both men and women work together to obtain meat, such as the Agta tribes of the Philippines who hunt wild boar using dogs. It is primarily with those cultures who get their meat from large game, that men have a higher status than women, and women are more dependent on men.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution (around 1760), men left home to work each day for the first time, leaving women to completely care for the household and the children. Even when men did much of the outdoor work when the plow came into agricultural use, women still did many jobs that contributed to the overall success of the farm/homestead. This only truly altered to roles of provider/provided for with factory and other outside jobs becoming a common way to feed the family."

Written by

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store