Going the distance

There’s a fascinating piece in Scientific American that brings together many years of debunking: The Theory That Men Evolved to Hunt and Women Evolved to Gather Is Wrong.

Man the Hunter has dominated the study of human evolution for nearly half a century and pervaded popular culture. It is represented in museum dioramas and textbook figures, Saturday morning cartoons and feature films. The thing is, it’s wrong.

This appears to be one of those things that “everybody knows” but which turns out to be based on a bunch of guys making shit up, in this case in a collection called Man The Hunter published in the mid-1960s. The authors of the collection arrived at their conclusion – essentially, Men Are The Best Because Science – by ignoring all the evidence that disproved it.

The religious and social conservatives on the internet, inevitably, are losing their shit over this because the article makes it very clear yet again that many of the tenets of gender essentialism – that male and female roles are hard-wired in biology, so women should be kept barefoot and pregnant while men go out and do man stuff – are absolute bollocks. Man is not a hunter and woman is not a gatherer; that view is based on an interpretation of history that is increasingly proven to be false. Biologically speaking, women are much more suited to hunting – of the prehistoric kind – than men and there is no evidence that they were left to look after the kids while the men went chasing prey. And that’s an inconvenient truth for the faith over facts crowd.

Where the article gets really interesting is in its focus on a key hormone: not testosterone, but estrogen.

Given the fitness world’s persistent touting of the hormone testosterone for athletic success, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that estrogen, which females typically produce more of than males, plays an incredibly important role in athletic performance.

It’s well worth a read.