The origins of sexism: How men came to rule 12,000 years ago

Human societies weren’t always male-dominated. The switch came when we became farmers – and that suggests ways to roll back towards a more equal system.

For most of our history, we have been hunter-gatherers, and patrilocal residence is not the norm among modern hunter-gatherer societies. Instead, either partner may move to live with the “in-laws”, or a couple may relocate away from both their families. According to Hrdy, a degree of egalitarianism is built into these systems. If they reflect what prehistoric hunter-gatherers did, women in those early societies would have had the choice of support from the group they grew up with, or the option to move away from oppression.

“The #MeToo movement is about female cooperation,” says Hrdy, “but getting cooperation among non-kin is difficult.” Competitive instincts can prevail, or events can cause cooperation to fall apart – for instance in times of war, Hrdy says. “Women start to look out for the safety of their own children and their husbands.”

Restoring and strengthening equality will require effort on multiple fronts, she says. If patriarchy originated in sedentary social structures that formalised male ownership and inheritance, then laws that give women the right to own property in their own name, for instance, can help.

Source: The origins of sexism: How men came to rule 12,000 years ago | New Scientist

One thought on “The origins of sexism: How men came to rule 12,000 years ago”

  1. I think trying to put a time on patriarchy is not always helpful because there are a number of matrifocal/matrilineal/matrilocal societies in the world now and there are many that hover at the edge. But what is interesting is how methods of sustenance make a difference and especially whether women leave their homes at marriage or men come into the women’s homes. Judy Foster’s Invisible Women of Prehistory looks at the ways in which women are depicted in art and in artefacts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.