The Buckwheat Cake Was In Her Mouth, The Tear Was In Her Eye – March 23rd

I hope James Taylor won’t mind that I’m dragging him so far out of context.

I’ve been having a little trouble with the last couple chapters we’ve read.  They’re bothering me.  Here’s my predicament:  I think that human evolution is… was… a good thing.  Don’t quote me on it when I’m a cliché starving philosophy student, but I’m kind of pro-people being alive and pro-whatever got us to this point.  I’m (mostly) very glad that we’ve come this far, in terms of evolution and of social progress.  I’m scared of where we’re going in the latter category of development, for sure, but I think it’s wonderful that we got over that whole Australopithecine stage.

But, if we’re to accept Mr. Wrangham’s claims in these chapters (which I’m liable to consider doing at this point – writing style aside, he’s making a good case), part of the reason our social structure and, consequently, the methods by which we survived as a species, works, is this sexual division of labour business.  Brilliant!  We’ve worked out a way to take advantage of males’ and females’ differing physiology to make sure that the babies live to pass on their genes.  Of course, this system did favour males and give them a considerably better deal when dinner time rolled around.  Us humans and our clever ideas.

Except this appears to be the root of the sexism and female subservience so embedded in almost every human culture on this planet.

I kind of have a problem with that.

Should I just let it go and be grateful to the increasingly human-esque females who ate less than they worked for throughout prehistory so that I could be born in 1994 with a high brain-to-digestive system ratio and raised an aggressive feminist?

It seems that we got ourselves to this mark rather unfairly.  It’s a hard thing to condemn… While it’s possible that, if women had demanded caloric (and finally, all kinds of) equality back when people were just beginning to live and eat in organized groups, we wouldn’t exist as we know ourselves, but I feel like this very effective and successful model of coexistence has come at a kind of awful price throughout time for females.  Obviously, every female throughout time and space has not starved.  That would have been rather unconducive to our persistence on Earth, and whatever can be said about the egalitarianism of the hunting-gathering-cooking-sharing system described by Wrangham, it was successful.  But it’s not just the food now.  It’s 2011, and the sexism that’s still laced through the brains and habits of the almost-7 billion-strong global population is now mostly expressed in ways other than unequal food distribution between the sexes.  All the same, that’s where patriarchal society seems to have, must have started.  And I can’t say I’m as comfortable with this view of where I come from as I was with that plain old sixth-grade survival of the fittest explanation.

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2 Responses to The Buckwheat Cake Was In Her Mouth, The Tear Was In Her Eye – March 23rd

  1. William Popov says:

    You make some very good points Imogen. Especially the last one. What was once highly helpful or even required for survival (women gathering and cooking, men hunting, or something along those lines) seems to have slowly evolved to be simply the unjust treatment of many women around the world. This would be an interesting topic to explore to a greater depth. Maybe you will write a book one day that a class like ours will read and criticise and hate and love and all that stuff.

    And why did an image of Mr. Knight pop into my head when you said “Don’t quote me on it when I’m a cliché starving philosophy student”


  2. kaseyjosander says:

    I have many of the same qualms about the subject as you do, Imogen. There is something about the whole concept (that the roots of patriarchy lead to our evolution) that is unsettling. What particularly bothered me about Wrangham’s final chapters was that he never once mentioned that if women were the ones cooking, then they were the ones who lead to human evolution. I might have been able to respect his argument more if he had. After going on for seven chapters about the benefits of cooking, he referred to cooking as a menial task. Something only the lesser half of society did for the benefit of the greater half of society.

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