Gender Equality in Modern Hunter-Gatherer Tribes

Are We Built for War?

It is only in the last ten thousand years that humans (read: men) have steered our collective feet in the direction of war.

The preponderance of archeological evidence shows that in the previous one hundred thousand years Homo sapiens didn’t do warfare – defined as “organized intentionally lethal violence perpetrated by one group on another”.

At the same time as our ancestors were living in this war free world, women were sharing power equally with men due to their sizable contribution to the nutritional economy of the group.

So what happened to change a condition as old as the human race itself? The answer is technology, specifically agricultural technology.

When Women Lost Power, Warfare Got a Foothold

Up until the agricultural revolution, the balance of power between the sexes kept a lid on warfare: the male tendency towards aggression and violence was damped by the female tendency towards social stability.

Over the two thousand years that it took for agriculture to catch on, women lost their power and warfare got a foothold.

By the time the agricultural revolution had taken a firm hold, women no longer made a significant contribution to the nutritional economy. Women thus lost power and with it their ability to balance men’s violent tendencies.

At the same time warrior men were “invented” to guard the surplus food and steal other people’s food….and…viola! humanity had warfare.

The Agricultural Revolution and The Evolution of War

While it was the agricultural revolution that provided the substrate for war, it was the diminution of women’s power that allowed war to become a way of life.

The silencing of women’s voices also led to the establishment of the male-normative culture that persists today. This culture holds men as the benchmark for all things, save motherhood and other kinds of nurturing (and, therefore, inferior) activities.

The persistence of this male-normative culture guarantees that the female voice will not emerge again to put the damper on aggression.

With all of this being said, men are not to blame for war today. Rather, the gender imbalance in leadership and decision-making is.

The 33% Rule or How to Get War to Drop to Zero

United Nations research into the peacemaking process shows that when women are involved, the resultant peace is much better poised to succeed. When women make up 33% or more of the national legislative body, the probability of internal and external mass violence or war for that country approaches zero.

Is it possible that the single most important thing we can do to nurture peace today is to re-establish gender balance in leadership and decision making?

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*Image Attribution: “Glyptodon old drawing” by Heinrich Harder (1858-1935) – The Wonderful Paleo Art of Heinrich Harder. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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