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Man as the Hunter; Woman as the Gatherer

Man as the Hunter; Woman as the Gatherer

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Published by Emily Gatlin
This paper focuses on the bias within archaeological perspectives in regards to the sexual division of labor
This paper focuses on the bias within archaeological perspectives in regards to the sexual division of labor

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Published by: Emily Gatlin on Feb 26, 2009
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01/29/2013

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ONE NATION UNDER GOD:DIVIDED & JUSTICE FOR ALL?
EMILY A. GATLIN ANTHROPOLOGY 459DR. GRACIELA CABANA FALL 200825 OCTOBER 2008
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REMEMBER THE LADIES, AND BE MORE GENEROUS AND FAVORABLE TOTHEM THAN YOUR ANCESTORS. DO NOT PUT SUCH UNLIMITED POWER INTO THE HANDS OF THE HUSBANDS.REMEMBER ALL MEN WOULD BE TYRANTS IF THEY COULD.IF PARTICULAR CARE AND ATTENTION IS NOT PAID TO, THE LADIES WE AREDETERMINED TO FOMENT A REBELLION, AND WILL NOT HOLD OURSELVESBOUND BY ANY LAWS IN WHICH WE HAVE NO VOICE, OR REPRESENTATION.
-Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams and the Continental Congress,March, 1776 
 
Modern American culture remains centered around Judeo-Christian principles of femininityand masculinity. Within this construct, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood(2008) outlines the central ideals of gender roles for both contemporary men and women as:
1.
 
Both Adam and Eve were created in God's image, equal before God as persons and distinct in theirmanhood and womanhood2.
 
Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and shouldfind an echo in every human heart3.
 
Adam's headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin4.
 
In the home, the husband's loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; thewife's intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility5.
 
Both Old and New Testaments also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenantcommunity6.
 
In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and care for their wives;wives should forsake resistance to their husbands' authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to theirhusbands' leadership7.
 
In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation;nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men
Clearly, the dominant theological beliefs driving the American gender roles automatically placewomen in the subservient position to men. This lasting legacy of the dominant male and thesubmissive female remains a central element to the gender constraining constructs of today.Males are the aggressive protectors, the caretaker of the childlike woman. Additionally, thesubmissive gender role always implies that feminine qualities are inferior to the masculine qualities.As a result, reinforcement of these cultural biases originating in theology dominates academicstudies and interpretations. Ironically, archaeological explanations utilizing evolution restatereligious ideology by demonstrating this cultural notion of the inferiority of femininity. Sciencerarely exists as an objective fact, but culturally explored topics that exude partiality of our culturalstandards. In America, dominant popular belief espouses how femininity is inferior to masculinity.However, neither femininity nor masculinity is superior
 — 
they are complimentary equals. Living in
 
Emily Gatlin A Divided Nation 25 October 2008
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the spirit of democracy, we must retain equality among all persons. Therefore, as Americancitizens living in 2008, we must actively remember to analyze the discourse and understand thegendered constructs presented as objective research.Contemporary depictions still adhere to classic depiction of the male-provider andprotector. As a result, it is clear to see how these mainstream ideas continue to dominate thepopular mindset. In the past, scientific and academic explanations often subjected partiality fromthe culturally defined gender role norms for behavior. Therefore, many past and dominantarchaeological interpretations regarding the lifestyles from our prehistoric ancestors reinforce thein situ cultural notion of the traditional male-dominance. Archaeologists often impose thesecultural biases into how they construe prehistoric life ways by emphasizing the sexual division of 
labor and the placement of the males in the ―more prestigious‖ subsistence activities.
In thesedepictions, Frances Dahlberg (1981:1) summarizes the typical imagery for hominids two million
years ago, ―five thin, wiry men who carry spears for throwing at game or enemies walk rapidlyaway from the group…the women walk more slowly; they are pregnant, carrying toddlers, and
besi
des they are not going anywhere that day.‖ Clearly, the men exist
as the active defenders forthe sedentary females with their children. This clear tendency to place men as the aggressive sexclearly exists within the accepted archaeological interpretations. For example, i
n ―The Evolution
of Hunting
 ,” 
Sherwood L. Washburn and C.S. Lancaster (1968:293) state, ―human hunting…is a
way of life, and the success of this adaptation (in its social, technical, and psychological dimensions)has dominated the cours
e of human evolution for hundreds of thousands of years.‖
Thus, theevolution of man stems from this activity alone as it gave way to the evolution of the distinctlyhuman behaviors. Washburn and Lancaster (1968:297) describe also
how ―the whole human
pattern of gathering and hunting to share
 — 
indeed, the whole complex of economic reciprocitythat dominates much of human life
 — 
is unique to man.
Thus, the view as ―man the hunters‖reinforces the ―naturalness‖ of male aggression and prestige from violent ac
tions while pushingwomen to the side, out of the public eye to tend the children.
Popular belief still maintains the ―man as a hunter‖ ideology as support for the ―status quo‖
of gender roles. Washburn and Lancaster (1968:299) propagate the justification of man as the
hunter by explaining how ―part of the motivation for hunting is the immediate pleasure it gives thehunter…evolution builds a relationship between biology, psychology, and behavior, and, therefore,
the evolutionary success of hunting exerted
a profound effect on human psychology.‖ Hence, the
dominant stereotype also tends to place intellectual capacities in males rather than females andreflects the traditional power structures allotting the majority of political power to men.Additionally, i
n ―The Origin of Man,‖ C. Owen Lovejoy (1981) explains how the portrayal of ―manas the hunter‖ reinforces that the distinctively human behaviors like
bipedalism, social interaction,and complex language arise from male hunting as the primary subsistence strategy. Alternatively,i
n ―The Selective Advantage of Complex Language,‖ Robbins Burling (1986
:2) points out how
―excellent coordination in hunting could be achieved with a far less intricate language than ours.‖
Instead, he (1986) assigns the prestige of power to the ability of communication. He (Burling
1986:14) asserts, ―Language, selected as a means for conducting increasing refined social
relationships, came finally to permit the vastly more complex organization of modern human
 
Emily Gatlin A Divided Nation 25 October 2008
3 |
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society.‖
In order to be a leader, the traditionally
male
citizen demands a higher command of language to retain public power and respect (Burling 1986). Therefore, the emphasis on the male-dominated language as the authoritative figure demonstrates the prejudice that women naturallyexhibit intellectually inferior language abilities.
As effectively stated by Adrienne Zihlman (1997) in ―The Paleolithic Glass Ceiling: Womenin human evolution,‖ this viewpoint of prehistoric man as a hunter ―gave an evolutionary basis for
aggressive male behavior and justified gun use, political aggression and a circumscribed relationship
between women and men as a ―natural‖ outcome of human evolutionary history‖ (96).
Dahlberg
(1981:11) points out how the sexually divided explanation ―ove
rlooks the widespread practice of 
collective hunting…collective hunting involves both men and women and sometimes children andis unrelated to differences in physical size or geographic range.‖ Plainly, the ―required‖ sexual
division of labor as outlined by the
man as the hunter
proponents excludes consideration forequalitarian cultural practices. Additionally, t
he emphasis on how ―man as a hunter‖ dominated
human evolution automatically excludes the important contribution of 50% of humans
 — 
thewomen.
―I
n the earliest stages of human evolution, gathering plant foods entailed technologicalinnovations for collecting, carrying, and sharing food
that hunting emerged in human evolutionrelatively late, half a million years ago
 – 
as compared to human origins at over 3 million years
 — 
andemerged from the technological and social foundations established by the gathering of plant foods
 (Zihlman 1997:98). Dahlberg (1981:16)
explains Eleanor Leacock’s emphasis on the ―egalitarian
society among hunters and gatherers where issues of status are irrelevant because both womenand men produce goods and services for their own use, make decisions about their activities, and
hence, control their own lives directly.‖
Clearly, the problem of completely downplaying the roleof women as being an equally significant human demonstrates the inherent cultural bias withinarchaeological interpretations. Another problem exists with the imposition of our culturalstandards upon past peoples or current peoples as Dahlberg (1981:17) points out how theAustralian Aboriginal culture where age establishes authority, not gender. Additionally, how
Turnbull’s
(Dahlberg 1981:17)
study of the Mbuti tribe ―female elders have both power andauthority that male elders cannot match…female elders ma
ke explicit criticisms from the center
of the group, while male elders confine themselves to grumbles.‖ Therefore
, the automaticassumption that male authority supersedes any female power remains invalid within cultures otherthan our own. Additionally, the Australian Aborigines attempt to exhibit the balance of powersbetween genders. Therefore, in allotting more understanding to the role of women in prehistoric
societies helps generate the widespread acceptance of these ―checks and balances‖ of power
across gender lines.The United States of America Constitution written by the revolutionary ancestors
exhilarated this same notion of the ―balance of powers‖ between governmental branches.
Similarly, gender relations need to follow this same concept. Feminist critiques fail to exemplifythe distinctively feminine characteristics and often dismiss them as male-created constructs.However, I feel the ideals of womanhood as empowering and the dominant feminist reaction toreject the
public’s notions of femin
inity yields
the negative connotation associated with ―feminism.‖
To me, femininity is
the added ―check‖
to masculinity and has the potential to contain an equally

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