Origins of Gendered Inequality Among Humans

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


(of explanatory theories)

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale:

"There are basically three schools of thought about the evolution of gendered relations. First there are the evolutionary psychologists whose arguments are deeply conservative. Jared Diamond, Napoleon Chagnon and Steven Pinker argue that inequality, violence and competition are fundamental to human nature. They say this is because men are programmed by evolution to compete with other men so the strongest can dominate women and father more children. This is regrettable, Pinker says, and luckily Western Civilization has partly tamed such primitive feelings.

The great biologist, and trans activist, Joan Roughgarden, has rightly described these ideas as ‘thinly disguised rape narratives’. These arguments are indeed repellant, and surely were rejected by Graeber and Wengrow for this reason alone.

For a very long time, a second school of thought held sway among feminist anthropologists. This too essentialized differences between women and men, and accepted some form of inequality between women and men as a given in every society.

The third option is the one to which we subscribe. There is a striking feature of the historical, anthropological and archaeological record. In almost every case, where people lived in economically and politically equal societies, women and men too were equal. And wherever there have been class societies with economic inequality, there too men have dominated women."


More information


Recommended by :

Very good examples of this work include

  • Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Old Way, 2001;
  • two articles by Steven Kuhn and Mary Stiner:
  1. ‘What’s a Mother To Do’, 2006 and
  2. ‘How Hearth and Home Made us Human’, 2019;
  • Loretta Cormier and Sharon Jones, The Domesticated Penis: How Womanhood has Shaped Manhood, 2015;
  • a key paper by Joanna Overing, ‘Men Control Women? The “Catch-22” in the Analysis of Gender’, 1987;
  • two books by Christopher Boehm:
  1. Hierarchy in the Forest and the Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior, 1999, and
  2. Moral Origins, 2012;
  • every book by the primatologist Frans de Waal;
  • the two chapters by Brian Ferguson in Douglas Fry, ed., War, Peace and Human Nature, 2013; Richard Wrangham, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, 2010;
  • and two books by the trans biologist Joan Roughgarden:
  1. Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People, 2004, and
  2. The Genial Gene: Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness, 2009.