a bird and a bottle


Feminism Didn’t Kill the Neanderthals After All
December 18, 2006, 9:35 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, news

The other week, the New York Times ran an article in the Science section (which I normally love) about a recent study showing that Neanderthals died out not because they were poorly developed or because of a lack of prey but because women – damn those early feminist neanderthals! – participated in the hunt too ($). But it turns out that the science is not so clear according to this women’s eNews article by Journalism prof Caryl Rivers (via AlterNet).

Even if we were to assume that it was in fact a problem for neanderthal survival that women helped hunt, we are now told by Barbara and Alan Pease in their book Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps (link omitted out of principle) that women are bad navigators precisely because we did not join the hunt in our more primitive days, and so never developed that sense of direction.

Now, I think this is all a bunch of BS. If both the Times and the Peases are right, it seems women are damned because we did and damned because we didn’t. Personally I think neither of them are right — as Rivers notes in the column, itwas likely climate change that did in the neanderthals, not feminism (which means we better start listening to Al Gore). And as SF can attest, I (a woman) have a much better sense of direction than he does. And I can’t trace it to my hunting roots since I am very much a city mouse.

I guess is the real question is why do we care about this at all? Does it matter that the Peases are enshrining gender roles in their bestselling book or that some scientists think that women are to blame – again? It’s not these theories that I find grating but rather, as Rivers points out, the media’s thirst for them. Why is it that feminist-bashing stories are so popualar? Was the Times‘s cover story in Sunday’s business section, “How Suite It Isn’t: A Dearth of Female Bosses” a mea culpa? Or is this pendulum swing simply a sign of our culture’s bipolarity in how it addresses women and power.

I think it’s probably the latter. Though feminists have made great GREAT strides over the last 50 years (or the last 150 years), public opinion still swings, and women are still more often subjects of villification than their male counterparts (has anyone else heard that Ms. USA may be fired for – gasp! – having premarital sex or experimenting with drugs? Maybe I just read too much gossip while procrastinating). What I am saying is this: on this website, I talk about issues and share viewpoints that aren’t often represented in the mainstream media (prisoners’ rights and the problems of the war on drugs, primarily). But I don’t think that feminism has made progress means the work is done. And in today’s media savvy and information obsessed culture, how women are perceived in the public imagination has a lot to do with how we the media frames us.

Unless we speak up, the choice will be between being a neanderthal hunter or so stuck in 1950s-era gender roles that I can’t read a map, I’m not sure which one is worse.

(image source)

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