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misogyny patriarchy we hunted the mammoth

Rebecca Solnit Tracks, Kills the Myth of Man the (Mammoth) Hunter

So I missed this when it first came out, but an alert reader by the name of Rebecca Solnit recently alerted me to an eloquent Harper’s Magazine takedown of the “myth of man the hunter,” by, well, Rebecca Solnit.

Solnit, you may recall, is the writer who came up with the idea of “mansplaining” after a dude mansplained one of her own books to her.

In her “Man the Hunter” piece, which you should all go and immediately read, she lays out the assorted sexist assumptions underlying the notion that our cave dude ancestors basically did all the real work while their prehistoric wives sat on their asses back at the cave eating prehistoric bon bons.

Yep, it’s the old “we hunted the mammoth” thing. Solnit describes it, quite aptly, as “the story of the 5-million-year-old suburb.” Every day, the story goes, cave men put on their grey flannel suits mammoth-hide shorts and trudged off

carrying their spears and atlatls to work and punching the primordial time clock. Females hang around the hearth with the kids, waiting for the men to bring home the bacon. Man feeds woman. Woman propagates man’s genes.

The reference to prehistoric suburbs is especially apt, because, as Solnit points out, the myth of man the hunter is actually a pretty new myth, as myths go, gaining widespread currency only in the 20th century, the century of the suburb.

In what we might call The Flintstones Era, anthropologists as well as TV producers set forth a vision of prehistoric life that

trace[d] the dominant socioeconomic arrangements of the late Fifties and early Sixties back to the origins of our species.

But it turns out that The Flintstones wasn’t a documentary.

I’m tempted to keep quoting until I quote virtually the entire article, but you should just go read it.

Oh, and while I’m talking Solnit, she’s also got a great new article up titled “Men Explain Lolita to Me,” discussing the reaction she got from the dudes of the internet after taking on an exquisitely dudebro Esquire list of “80 Books Every Man Should Read” — all but one of them written by, you guessed it, dudes.

Our old friend Scott Adams makes a cameo in the Lolita piece, BTW.

PS: If you’re doing any last minute Christmas shopping, or just looking for an interesting read, might I suggest Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me

 

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LindsayIrene
5 years ago

If you read the comments under the ‘Men Explain Lolita to Me’ article, you will see men explaining Lolita to her. Splainception.

Caroline Thompson
Caroline Thompson
5 years ago

It’s worth pointing out that Solnit got people talking about mansplaining but she not only didn’t coin the word, but isn’t even a huge fan of it (she thinks it makes it sound like an inherently male thing to do, which she doesn’t agree with).

Mike
Mike
5 years ago

Big fan of Solnit. She’s known as a sort of internet-famous feminist polemicist – which is great, of course, but it’s good to note the breadth and erudition of her work overall. I’m currently reading her essay collection “Storming the Gates of Paradise,” where she writes about anthropology, religion, contemporary art, literary history, nationalism, public policy, etc. etc. – it’s really something.

Moocow
Moocow
5 years ago

So criticism = censorship applies to all feminist critics, not just video game feminist critics? Consider me more shocked than Capt. Renault.

Funny how when a dudebro game reviewer says a specific video game sucks, it’s not treated as an act of censorship, I wonder why!

weirwoodtreehugger
weirwoodtreehugger
5 years ago

Moocow,
When any person of any marginalized identity criticizes something, it’s censorship and it’s bad.

When any person of any marginalized identity gets threatened with rape or death or swatted because they said something a bunch of cishet white dudebros dislike, it isn’t harassment. It’s criticism. Which is suddenly good and not very, very bad censorship.

ManLogick at its finest!

Antisocialite
Antisocialite
5 years ago

I downloaded this book earlier in the year with a few other feminist books and loved it. In fact I gave it to my daughters to read. Looking forward to reading the Lolita article. That should be interesting!

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
5 years ago

The hour or so that I just used reading those articles was an hour very well spent, and I thank you very much for linking to them.

Walter
Walter
5 years ago

Interesting article. I’m not particularly interested in archeology or pre-historic people in general, but when I learned about it in school I was always taught that men and women did a lot of hunting and gathering together. I was never taught that men hunted while women just sat at home. I understand how that fits into the limited world view of MRAs, but I’m curious as to how it gets any kind of cultural traction outside of that sphere.

ephemerides
ephemerides
5 years ago

LindsayIrene: did they think the article title was an imperative?

Josh
Josh
5 years ago

I honestly thought the idea of the male Hunter was something only straw men said, since I understood it was bullshit in middle school. I didn’t realize it was a serious argument until I first found this site a year or two ago.

Also, I might be wrong, but I read that Lolita was supposed to be about the fact that it’s just an asshole trying to make himself look better? Am I wrong and Lolita is even more creepy than I thought?

I haven’t actually read it myself, I’m just curious.

LindsayIrene
5 years ago

Well, Lolita is told from the POV of a pedophile, so, yeah, creepy.

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
5 years ago

Lolita is creepy, but that’s the whole point: Humbert lets things slip through that you might not notice till the second reading, but that really get across how awful he is. Nabokov himself consigned Humbert to hell.

Well, hell with a tiny bit of parole: comparing him to the protagonist of one of his other novels, Despair, he mentioned that Humbert was allowed out of hell once a year for one hour of walking in a nice garden, while Hermann will just never be let out. I think the difference is that towards the end, Humbert starts to get a vague sense of what he’s done, while Hermann remains an unrepentant and delusional asshat to his death. Bit of an MRA, actually, now that I think of it; at least, he shares their incredible self-regard and belief in his own intelligence, as well as being a gaslighting shit. It’s another first-person novel, but a lot funnier than Lolita because the gap between how Hermann sees the world and how the world actually is is so broad and very, very obvious. I’m fairly certain manospherians wouldn’t notice the gap, though, if only because Hermann’s wife’s cousin is such a total beta white knight.

weirwoodtreehugger
weirwoodtreehugger
5 years ago

Lindsayirene,
I’ve looked through some of the comments and who did I find? Our sometime friend Divided Line! Some of you may remember him as a sad boner troll who most egregiously chose a post about a feminist activist who was murdered to whine about how bad men have it. Every once in awhile he comes around to piss and moan about how men are oppressed because they aren’t entitled to women’s bodies and affections on demand.

I’m not at all surprised he’d be drawn to trolling a feminist article about Lolita. Humbert’s probably his hero.

Lkeke35
Lkeke35
5 years ago

LindsayIrene:
Ultimate Splainception would be if a bunch of women got in the comments section and splained things to the mansplainers, kind of the way I’m splaining ultimate splainception to you, for the complete mirror within a mirror effect.

Josh
Josh
5 years ago

@Rabid Rabbit

Ok, good, that’s what I thought. The article’s tone kinda gave me the impression that might not be the case. Glad to see I was wrong.

DepressedCNS
DepressedCNS
5 years ago

@ Josh, @ Walter

I took a psychology course as an undergraduate that had a brief section on evolutionary psychology; the first thing that happened was the professor showed a video of several women backing into cones while trying to park with a voice-over explaining that women never had to hunt so that’s why they might be worse at driving. I repeat, this was in an institution of higher learning, in a rather conservative state mind you, but still.

I just looked for the video but couldn’t find it; if anyone else has ever seen it let me know

Josh
Josh
5 years ago

@DepressedCNS

Seriously? Wow. Just… Wow.

I mean, I’m from West Virgina, which isn’t exactly the most liberal state (except for economic issues, especially unions) but even I never heard anything REMOTELY close to that level of sexism in my education.

giddypony
giddypony
5 years ago

Adrienne Zihlman and Nancy Tanner blew the man as hunter out of the water in like 1978. http://deanfalk.com/human-brain-evolution-what-fossils-tell-as/

Amazing how persistent this myth is!

Hippodameia
Hippodameia
5 years ago

In the liberal side of the State of Washington, I had one (public) school teacher tell the entire class that “boys were simply better at math,” and another tell me, in response to a question before class started, that we weren’t going to study any women’s works in College Prep English because “women don’t write at the college level.”

DepressedCNS
DepressedCNS
5 years ago

Right? A literal they hunted the mammoth. It took me years to warm up to anything even remotely evo-psych after that. This same professor used Gender Studies classes as an example of “transference”, like what can sometime happen when a psychologist and client begin to relate in a way that is unhealthy, akin to what happens between female professors and female students in a Gender Studies class. He gave me the most condescending and skeptical “Really?” when I raised my hand and told him my Gender Studies professor was a man.

@ Hippodameia

That’s… egregious, really.

Hippodameia
Hippodameia
5 years ago

Yeah – this was 1985-1988, so I hope things have gotten better . . .

Argenti Aertheri
Argenti Aertheri
5 years ago

DepressedCNS — it’s not that hard to add a soundtrack to a video, so I’m thinking/hoping the video was just one of those boring old drivers ed ones that some ass made (more?) sexist.

As for Lolita, it seems I will never finish it unless I decide to actually sit down and read it. My plan of reading it while waiting for me ride after aerials fell through when the studio moved and ride plans changed (love the new place though!). Even the very beginning though, starts very “yes, that is an acceptable way for a teenage boy to talk about his teenage girlfriend” and then transitions straight into “but not about a young girl who reminds him of her some decades later!!!”… I suspect the “wtf did you just say” must fade fairly fast, since I’m like 30 pgs in and already to the point where if you don’t consciously remind yourself of her age, it seems like one of my mother’s love stories (aka “another trashy romance novel mom?”)

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
5 years ago

I had a couple misognistic teachers and came across some misognistic students as well.

I’m so ashamed that I didn’t say anything to them. I was just so shocked to say anything.

And about Lolita I love the outfits but the meaning I don’t like it at all.

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

I read Lolita when I was a teenager, maybe 15. I felt like I was sinking into a swamp of evil. I hated that book.

Falconer
Falconer
5 years ago

Thag go see family just moved into cave three over, one down.

Us get one more hunter, us use carpool lane.

Hippodameia
Hippodameia
5 years ago

I caught part of the movie once and felt the same way.

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

@hippodameia

I caught part of the movie once and felt the same way.

With regard to the novel, I kept hoping that it would get better so that I could feel better. No such luck with Lolita! At least for this reader.

DepressedCNS
DepressedCNS
5 years ago

@ Falconer

Thag go see family just moved into cave three over, one down.

Us get one more hunter, us use carpool lane

🙂

Moggie
Moggie
5 years ago

How hard is it for the splainers to understand that your reactions to Lolita will be affected by your lived experiences? Are you supposed to maintain a lofty detachment while reading? That doesn’t sound like a very rewarding approach to literature.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

I was about to declare that ephemerides had won the thread and then Falconer goes and says that, making me guffaw out loud.

Ah well. Falconers gonna Falcon.

newbie
newbie
5 years ago

The Lolita essay is fantastic. I’m so glad I clicked on it, even though it is so late and I should be sleeping — or trying to, at least.

Solnit says:

When I wrote the essay that provoked such splenetic responses, I was trying to articulate that there is a canonical body of literature in which women’s stories are taken away from them, in which all we get are men’s stories. And that these are sometimes not only books that don’t describe the world from a woman’s point of view, but inculcate denigration and degradation of women as cool things to do.

Yes.

And when women protest that, or strive to have their stories heard and receive a modicum of attention naturally accorded to those of men, they are still accused of “rebelliousness,” “penis envy,” or other such nonsense, further deepening the denigration and censoring their voices. Still, and perhaps even more so today than, say, some 30 years ago, as I see it. Today’s misogyny is the same as it ever was, but it is greatly amplified and “legitimized” — or it appears so — by the Internet.

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

@newbie
That “Lolita” essay does sound fantastic. Maybe I’ll read it next month for my “one free article” at Harpers.

rick
rick
5 years ago

So many myths about prehistory out there that act to essentially justify current social organization. Even the “cave man” trope is mostly fictitious as many hunter/gatherer groups were nomadic traveling according to the cycle of seasons. Also the “might makes right” and “men protecting their women/resources” myths are mostly false as low populations spread out across vast territory would’ve meant little conflict among groups. Evidence regarding organized war and mass violence doesn’t really start popping up in the archaeological record until around the agricultural revolution when settlement and surplus population becomes common. But of course, this is just cultural marxist brainwashing right?

Frank Torpedo
5 years ago

@Rick

Quite right, quite right. SJW Redacting of history, spurred by cultural marxisms!111111111!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

Frank Torpedo
5 years ago

Today’s misogyny is the same as it ever was, but it is greatly amplified and “legitimized” — or it appears so — by the Internet.

Hey, do you remember the early 1990’s, when all the great thinkers and media moguls of the day were saying that The Internets would enable understanding, acceptance, and equality among the genders and the races.

Ha! ha!

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

HAAAAAAAAAAA!

One might say that they were right, inasmuch as websites like this one – WHTM – exist.

But compare WHTM to something like fuckin’ STORMFRONT.

That website has hundreds of thousands of members and is a fucking money-mill.

Can you imagine if WHTM had a hundred thousand members, and if David was able to raise half a million dollars from them? It would be glorious.

Basically, what I’m saying is that the forces of good on the Internet appear to be much smaller than the forces of Evil, but that doesn’t make me lose hope.

Those are my kinda odds!

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
5 years ago

Is there an article who focus more on the lifestyle of the prehistoric men ?

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
5 years ago

Hey, do you remember the early 1990’s, when all the great thinkers and media moguls of the day were saying that The Internets would enable understanding, acceptance, and equality among the genders and the races.

One might say that they were right, inasmuch as websites like this one – WHTM – exist.

But compare WHTM to something like fuckin’ STORMFRONT.

The story was that, because you can’t see gender or race through the Internet, people would interact with other people of other genders and races without even realizing it, and therefore racism and sexism wouldn’t happen, nor would any other -isms.

Only someone who never experienced racism or sexism (or other -ism) except second-hand would think that racists would stop being racist on the Internet just because they can’t see that the other person is black. It’s an idea that would only be true if racists are caused by blackness, and therefore removing blackness from the other person would stop racism from being a thing. IOW it’s a kind of victim-blaming (if you weren’t so black, I wouldn’t be so racist) and only someone who doesn’t comprehend racism or sexism would come to this conclusion.

Frank Torpedo
5 years ago

The story was that, because you can’t see gender or race through the Internet, people would interact with other people of other genders and races without even realizing it, and therefore racism and sexism wouldn’t happen, nor would any other -isms.

Back in the 1990’s it was exceedingly difficult to put a picture of yourself on the internet for most people. Obviously, if you were computer-literate, it was easier, but you still required extra equipment – a digital camera or a scanner, and so on.

Nowadays any chucklehead can take a picture of themselves and upload it, with one single device – their phone. Most websites practically require it. So now all doubt is removed as to what race the other person is.

Also, in the 1990’s, it was kind of frowned upon to declare your race on the Internet. Thank God that shit is over. That is one aspect of Ye Olde 56kbps Internet we can do without.

I’ve been using the Internet for nearly as long as I’ve been alive – practically grew up with it – and I must say that things have violently changed, and not necessarily for the better.

I recall when being anonymous was a good thing – now, on FaceTwitterInstaBook, if you’re not loudly broadcasting every single detail about your life, and taking one million ‘selfies’, you’re ‘creepy’ and ‘hiding something’.

People use their real names as their handles, which is very far removed from the good old days of making something up or using mythological or from fiction.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

Only someone who never experienced racism or sexism (or other -ism) except second-hand would think that racists would stop being racist on the Internet just because they can’t see that the other person is black. It’s an idea that would only be true if racists are caused by blackness, and therefore removing blackness from the other person would stop racism from being a thing. IOW it’s a kind of victim-blaming (if you weren’t so black, I wouldn’t be so racist) and only someone who doesn’t comprehend racism or sexism would come to this conclusion.

PolicyOfMadness, you have this knack for writing amazingly true things. I can’t do anything but point at this and shout “This! THIS!” Be honest: are you a sorcerer?

Evil Inky
Evil Inky
5 years ago

@DepressedCNS

It wasn’t this video, was it? 🙂

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2z6unh

msexceptiontotherule
msexceptiontotherule
5 years ago

@Ohlmann

…You mean the same portion of the human population that has traditionally ALWAYS been the focus for the most part? Try googling.

WeirwoodTreeHugger
WeirwoodTreeHugger
5 years ago

It’s not like you need to share pictures or excessive details about your personal life to be treated online the same way or worse as you are IRL. In the 90s all it took was an AOL profile identifying me as 15f to receive a steady stream of creepers. No picture required. I once had a guy in OK who was certain I was his ex girlfriend. Why? I don’t know. When I said I was certain I wasn’t her, he called me a bitch.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
5 years ago

@ WWTH

Didn’t that study that showed poor performers on video games were more likely to be mysogynists also find that people with feminine sounding nicknames got more abuse regardless of actual gender?

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
5 years ago

“@Ohlmann

…You mean the same portion of the human population that has traditionally ALWAYS been the focus for the most part? Try googling.”

No, I mean the emphase on prehistoric. As in, something more or less up to date on how mankind lived before writing was invented, which tend to be hard to find because Google return 99% of old, outdated ideas on how they lived, like the very concept Solnit expose as lies. It’s like using google to find up-to-date vulgarisation articles on quantuum physics.

Your post do look like someone who try to purposefully understand what I say in the worst way possible.

I don’t really think there is anything to add to Solnit’s article on the topic of how the classic representation is a myth inspired by the archetypal lifestyle of the time, but I would very much want to know more about thoses old societies. Like if scientists have refined their hypothesis on the religion back then, if they have informations on the role of the elderly and handicaped people, and certainly a lot of other topics.

WeirwoodTreeHugger
WeirwoodTreeHugger
5 years ago

Alan,
Yeah, I remember that. It was no surprise!

I also wonder if there’s a study showing that men who are insecure about their appearance are the ones who are more likely to denigrate a woman for not looking perfect at all times. Anecdotally, it seems that way.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

@Ohlmann:
If you want up-to-date content on fast-moving fields I think you might have to look in the scholarly press, which means going behind paywalls and reading papers in learned journals. Free content on the web and popularly available texts are always going to be behind the times and tantalisingly light on details.

I don’t know anything about the culture of archaeology, but if you wade through papers in astrophysics then you’re going to find a lot of feuding, a lot of disagreement, a lot of refutations, and very few clear explanations. It takes time for the consensus to settle down and for science-communicators to take over from scientists. Scholarship is hard: Anyone who approaches it hoping for simple truth will be disappointed.

If you’re up to a little reading, the following books are all recent and look to be good popular science on the matter:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari

The Great Paleolithic War: How Science Forged an Understanding of America’s Ice Age Past, by David J. Meltzer

Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans, by Brian Fagan

Either way, please don’t be an entitled asshole about it. msexceptiontotherule was pretty much spot on in what she said.

magnesium
magnesium
5 years ago

Ohh, I just started reading Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s Mothers and Others, which relates to this. It’s good so far (although she talks about mirror neurons, which were later found to not do the thing people thought they did) as is The Woman That Never Evolved, but that one’s rather old. Both good books if you are interested in reading about actual early humans and not some dude’s made up explanation for why the 1950’s was perfect.

Oh, also Marriage a History by Stephanie Coontz. All good books to wash the taste of just-so-stories out of your mouth.

Falconer
Falconer
5 years ago

@DepressedCNS, @EJ: Thank you! Wouldja believe I got back out of bed to post that?

guest
guest
5 years ago

Ohlmann, we would have understood you better if you’d asked about prehistoric people or prehistoric humans, rather than prehistoric men.

I recently heard a talk by this woman, who studies disability (particularly autism) in prehistory, and has a lot to say about how any image of prehistoric people basically shows a group of young healthy fit men.

https://www.york.ac.uk/archaeology/news-and-events/news/external/2015/spikins-empathy/

I was lucky enough to see this exhibit in person, but if you missed it the book is well worth a look:

http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Age-Art-Arrival-Modern/dp/0714123331

I’m going to caution people about Sapiens–there is a surprising amount of subtle poison in it. In it I learned, for example, that the taxes from nuclear power plants pay for basic physics research, that non-Western societies did not develop technology (because they didn’t have a ‘drive to know’), that liberty and equality are incompatible, that capitalism reduces violence and promotes the rule of law, and that poor people ‘stuff themselves’ and are incapable of money management, unlike rich people.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

I’m going to caution people about Sapiens–there is a surprising amount of subtle poison in it. In it I learned, for example, that the taxes from nuclear power plants pay for basic physics research, that non-Western societies did not develop technology (because they didn’t have a ‘drive to know’), that liberty and equality are incompatible, that capitalism reduces violence and promotes the rule of law, and that poor people ‘stuff themselves’ and are incapable of money management, unlike rich people.

Thanks guest, that’s worth being mentioned.