Well done, but I’d like to point out one thing. Women have only been treated like property by men for the past 10,000 years (when the social system of patriarchy began). Prior to that time, women had a very equal social position, and sometimes a superior one. It’s a false cultural narrative that it’s always been this way. I’m not blaming you for believing it. It’s overwhelmingly what people believe because it’s what they’ve been led to believe by a patriarchal system that wants to keep justifying itself. But, I also want to spread the word that for most of human history we’ve lived quite differently because I think it opens up the possibilities for change even further when we understand that.

Below are a few excerpts from some of my writing to that end:

There is a growing consensus among anthropologists that we evolved not as monogamous dyads but as cooperative breeders. The culturally strong image of the brave pre-historic hunter bringing home the bacon to his mate who is waiting to be provided for is really just a cultural myth. For most of human history, small bands of men and women raised young collectively, and almost certainly mated with multiple partners.

Meat was a very small portion of the diet of Paleolithic peoples. As such, female gatherers were central to the survival and well-being of the tribe. They weren’t sitting at home, tending the fire and the children, waiting for their one mate to provide for them. That’s a very recent and geographically specific dynamic.

Simply put, a shift toward growing crops intensively for subsistence and later for profit changed everything between the sexes. Three linked beliefs — that a woman is a man’s property; that a woman’s place is in the home; and that women especially ought to be more “naturally” monogamous — are seeds that were planted in our early harvests. Stranger still, a woman’s most personal decisions were transformed into a matter of public concern and her sexual autonomy subjected to social control and legislation, owing to the ox and the horse.

Martin, Wednesday. Untrue (pp. 89–90). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Far from being a universal and timeless societal dynamic, man as provider and head of a two-parent family is simply an extension of one recent and distinct type of culture made possible by certain conditions. How that incorrectly became codified as universal and scientifically enshrined is the topic of another story. I hope to have it available soon.

As someone who has spent the past 20 years or so studying our current social system and the ones that came before it, it disturbs me to no end when I read things that indicate the belief that all cultures have always been this way, with men as the head of the family and that patriarchy is ubiquitous. Quite often these comments are being made by progressive people who are advocating for a more egalitarian world. What they don’t seem to realize is that for most of human history, that is exactly what we had.

For 97% of human history, paternity was not that important, and consequently, women had a lot of sexual freedom. Descent was marked through mothers and not fathers. Even though pair bonding and marriage were part of the social structure, strict sexual exclusivity was not expected for women. That only came into being relatively recently when our social system became patrilineal. That’s not what we were taught, but what we were taught was wrong.

An alternative evolutionary model has now been proposed by scientists like Nancy Tanner, Jane Lancaster, Lila Leibowitz, and Adrienne Zihlman. This alternative view is that the erect posture required for the freeing of hands was not linked to hunting but rather to the shift from foraging (or eating as one goes) to gathering and carrying food so it could be both shared and stored. Moreover, the impetus for the development of our much larger and more efficient brain and its use to both make tools and more effectively process and share information was not the bonding between men required to kill. Rather, it was the bonding between mothers and children that is obviously required if human offspring are to survive. According to this theory, the first human-made artifacts were not weapons. Rather, they were containers to carry food (and infants) as well as tools used by mothers to soften plant food for their children, who needed both mother’s milk and solids to survive. This theory is more congruent with the fact that primates, as well as the most primitive existing tribes, rely primarily on gathering rather than hunting. It also is congruent with the evidence that meat eating formed only a miniscule part of the diet of ancestral primates, hominids, and early humans. It is further supported by the fact that primates differ from birds and other species in that typically only mothers share food with their young. Among primates we also see the development of the first tools, not for killing, but for gathering and processing food.

So, as Tanner writes of the still much earlier time that provided the foundation for the Old Society we have examined, “woman the gatherer,” rather than “man the hunter,” seems to have played a most critical role in the evolution of our species.

Eisler, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade . HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

The Standard Model of Human Evolution has myriad data points that do not support it. From the shape of the human penis to the fact that women are not naturally monogamous; from our history as primarily matrilineal cultures, as well as the thousands of years when female sexual non-exclusivity was actually a part of religious worship — the world has only been arranged as it is now for the past 3% of human history. It is neither biologically nor evolutionarily necessary.

All the more reason for strong women to own that in the workplace!

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