If you believe that the feminists of the 1900’s introduced sexual equality you are not alone. You would also – according to several scientists – be mistaken. Anthropologists claim that women and men were treated equally in hunter-gatherer societies, and it wasn’t until the neo-lithic period and the dawn of agriculture, that society became sexist. If this is true, then men and women were considered equal for most of the history of mankind.
Much of the research into sexual equality was done by observing modern-day hunter-gatherers. Anthropologists Mark Dyble and Andrea Migliano added some computer modeling and genealogical data to prove a very clever hypothesis. The inspiration for their research seems to have sprung from the main-stay of stand-up comedians – in-law jokes.
Did the anthropologists imagine the following conversations?
Him – “I think we should live with my family.”
Her – “Are you kidding? Your mother always criticizes the way I cook. We should live with my family.”
Him – “Hah! Your brother has a really annoying laugh. He even laughs when he eats and his food sprays out of his mouth. It’s disgusting.”
Her – “Better than your stone-faced sister. She has no sense of humor t all.”
Him – “Well, your sister….” And on and on, until finally one of them says,
Her – “Okay, fine. We won’t live with either of our families. We’ll live with people who aren’t related to us.”
Perhaps, perhaps not. But they did work on the assumption based on the research, that individuals want to live with their own families and not with their in-laws. In male-dominated societies, people tend to live with their male relatives and vice versa in matriarchal ones. They found that when both partners had the same influence in making decisions, the groups consisted of more unrelated people than when only one partner was responsible for making decisions. Based on this finding, the anthropologists extrapolated that since hunter-gatherer groups live with mostly un-related individuals their societies were egalitarian in regard to gender and both men and woman had input when deciding with whom they would live.
According to Dylbe and Migliano this ‘no-win’ result led to cooperating with others, less inbreeding, and fostered wide-ranging social networks. Then, when agriculture came along, men starting saving resources, and eventually the egalitarian hunter-gatherer society broke-down, along with sexual equality.