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Was there ever a gender equal pre-agricultural age?

(51 Posts)
garybuseysdentist Tue 28-Nov-17 08:40:50

I've heard this theory a few times but I'm not so sure. From the docs and articles I've read men were always the dominant ones.

The 3 docs (one involving a french doc maker, the other a few aussie men looking for gold and a very old D. Attenborough film) I've watched about PNG tribes who have either very limited or no contact with the outside world showed nothing in terms of equality. The men were always the ones meeting the strangers and trying to communicate with them, the women were barely involved if ever. In the aussie doc the natives were ''trading'' very young girls with the white men for sea shells.

Then there's the articles about the uncontacted Amazon tribes, a few photos from a few years ago showed men pointing their bows at the plane circling them... no women in site. Or the tribe on a small island south on India where no contact is believed to have been made : the men shout and throw spears at any approaching boats, no women in sight once more.

I mean, it seems to me like these men were as aggressive and dominant as ever. I read somewhere that Marx was one of the people who came up with the idea of this gender equal pre-agricultural paradise. I don't know if that's true or not but then again he was a fucking moron so I wouldn't be surprised. hmm

frenchfancy Tue 28-Nov-17 08:45:25

Pre contraception women would always have been either pregnant or feeding babies so I can't see how equality would have been possible.

BarbarianMum Tue 28-Nov-17 08:49:35

No comment on Marx but i think your reasoning is pretty flawed. I net if you thought teally hard you could tjink of a few reasons why people might throw spears at approaching boats. hmm

There are hunter gatherer societies where gender roles are less marked and aggression isn't a mark of masculinity but even in those gender roles exist - women give birth and men hunt. But they only really occur where populations are sparse and competition for resources low. There are good biological reason for men being stronger and more aggressive and women more nurturing in pre-rule of law societies, its all about whose genes get into the next generation in what numbers.

KangaPoo Tue 28-Nov-17 08:53:22

Fairly sure there is evidence (but I don't know where or what) of matriarchal societies - so men were not always dominant in every case.

Could you link to the documentaries you are referring to please?

DJBaggySmalls Tue 28-Nov-17 08:54:11

This study says contemporary hunter gatherers tend to be equal, but farming communities are male dominated.

www.theguardian.com/science/2015/may/14/early-men-women-equal-scientists

There was also a study that showed that men tended to stay close to the home site and women travelled. They offered this as proof that the women hunted, but I just saw it as evidence they were traded as a commodity.

BarbarianMum Tue 28-Nov-17 08:57:38

Even in matriarchal societies men were generally charged with defence of the family/home/ village. Bit like the Queen and her armies. And even in societies where decision making is equal, men tend to hunt more and women care for kids more because, you know, biology.

Thesqueezermustghost Tue 28-Nov-17 09:01:05

Marx was a fucking moron? Sounds like you really have read deeply!

Thesqueezermustghost Tue 28-Nov-17 09:01:51

And actually it was Engels who wrote Origin of the Family.

IrenetheQuaint Tue 28-Nov-17 09:05:01

I thought this was an Engels theory rather than one of Marx's; will have a look when I get home.

I do wonder if the preponderance of fertility goddesses in prehistoric times has been interpreted as meaning that actual women had greater power/status than may have actually been the case. But would like to be wrong!

makeourfuture Tue 28-Nov-17 09:06:05

Female Viking Warlord

Does new DNA evidence prove that there were female viking warlords?

www.theguardian.com/science/shortcuts/2017/sep/12/does-new-dna-evidence-prove-that-there-were-female-viking-warlords?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

Ekphrasis Tue 28-Nov-17 09:10:30

Do you know, I wondered the exact same thing this morning! I guess we need to look at chimp, gorilla and bonobo societies to get an inkling. And imagine the next stage up.

JoWithABow Tue 28-Nov-17 09:11:12

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16592633

You might find this interesting Op, about South Indian matriarchal society

garybuseysdentist Tue 28-Nov-17 09:11:54

The tribes I mentioned are very isolated, even from other local tribes. There is very little resource competition going on, their areas are a paradise for a hunter gatherer. The one thing some did complain about was their inability to cure illness.

As for Marx, pardon my french, but fuck him. I lived a good part of my life during communism and my country is still a nasty place because of it almost 30 years later. His theory is almost as fucked up as its application (I know, nobody's ever done communism right..). We're human, not some overgrown borg like insect.

Ekphrasis Tue 28-Nov-17 09:12:37

Oh yes the Vikings seem to have been pretty variable.

micropig Tue 28-Nov-17 09:12:45

I read a book recently called The Jove Talker by Samson Kambalu and he mentioned that his country had a matriarchal society until the British Empire came alone. Not equality either but just shows that it has been the other way around in some places too.

Ekphrasis Tue 28-Nov-17 09:15:32

I remember reading a little about gender in Native American tribes. I believe they had trans occasionally, esp as they believed in a central spirit, so someone’s spirit could be of a certain ilk including female despite being male. But that’s based on my hazy memory.

BarbarianMum Tue 28-Nov-17 09:17:13

They eould have to be spectacularly isolated never to have encountered pirates, slavers or the far reaches of Empire gary? Where was this exactly

Ekphrasis Tue 28-Nov-17 09:18:31

I think without a doubt there will have been cultures where the was less inequality due to the way women were revered - eg the many ‘goddesses’ carved from stone etc.

I would imagine when societies started trading and dominating one another, fighting etc, equality or sex differences became more pronounced. Especially as women would have been one of the ‘goods’ to steal.

Ttbb Tue 28-Nov-17 09:32:31

How can anyone not think that Marx was really, really daft? I mean come on. The man was one of the creators of communism which is one of the most idiotic political ideas of all time. Not only is it the political idea responsible for the most deaths (which is sonething when you consider how violent humanity has been) it is also based on the fundamental principle that humankind has no right to self determination and that a utilitarian hive mentality is feasible in our species. V v stupid. Anything that Marx or Engels said cannot be taken as evidence for anything. OP clearly knows what she is talking about here, if you don't believe her you go live in a communist country and maybe you'll understand what it's like to be a slave to your government.

As for gender equal early societies. I have heard of matriarchal societies but never a gender equal one. Undoubtably physical differences would necessitate a distinction between the roles and functions of men and women but whether this would always result in power imbalance between the genders is not clear. I am watching this point with interest.

makeourfuture Tue 28-Nov-17 09:37:01

I think motherhood would have been more revered. Children are a burden now, but then your survival depended on reproduction.

How that relates to a power dynamic i don't know.

Thesqueezermustghost Tue 28-Nov-17 09:54:09

god, you people are ignorant, but really not worth arguing with.

Ttbb Tue 28-Nov-17 10:43:42

@makerofthefuture but survival still does depend on reproduction. If everyone stopped having children our society would collapse.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 28-Nov-17 10:49:51

What does equality actually mean though?

On a society where women were raising children all the time, but that role was respected and women were not seen as lesser would that be equality?

Or is equality when women have contraception and go out hunting and gathering with the men?

Ekphrasis Tue 28-Nov-17 10:51:12

The problem is that some of these some societies would have existed pre written record within their own culture or the writing of others to record it, so it’s difficult to say.

Societies that developed a level of written / recorded history tended to be quite technologically advanced which is when complex systems of caste, hierarchy, and sex roles would have existed.

Ekphrasis Tue 28-Nov-17 10:53:32

That is a good point its.

Also, when literacy evolved it became a tool for control. So that’s a good indicator of ‘equality’ as obviously women were either treated equally in this respect or not. As serfs, peasants and slaves were or not.

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