Hunters and gatherers?

File:Lascaux, Megaloceros.jpg

“That’s women’s’ work…” I threw the wet sponge in his direction. Had he not been laughing as he said it, I might have been tempted to throw something more substantial. There was a time, not so very long ago, when the roles of men and women were thus rigidly defined, and women continue to suffer the fallout from centuries of patriarchy, even today. But, I wondered, as I scrubbed the bathroom, where did the whole idea of gender roles come from, and what, in reality, might that mean?

Define your terms, I reminded myself. What was I looking at here? Okay, ‘gender role’ was a bit of a generalisation. There have always been those who crossed the divide, adopting and excelling in areas usually considered the preserve of either male or female.  For anyone with an interest in the Mysteries, that divide is not a physical thing anyway, but speaks more of the energetic nature of the individual, so already the lines become blurred.

We tend to think in terms of male and female in general terms. In the Mysteries we see these as two poles of a single force, rather like a battery, with both poles and an alternating current being required in order for either to function to its full potential. That applies just as much within the individual as within a society. ‘Masculine’ and ‘feminine’ then equate to positive and negative… or dynamic and receptive… with the physical vehicle expressing itself in terms of whichever trait is dominant, and that shifts depending upon both the circumstances in which it finds itself and the level upon which it is functioning.

Then there is the nature of reality itself… which level is real? Is it the level that we experience through the physical senses, the realm of the mind which makes sense of what we experience, or a subtler realm that makes use of both the experience and the understanding we gain from it? Is it possible to say for certain?  Or is it, as esoteric thought teaches, that all manifestations of reality are equally real on their own plane?

File:Lascaux 01.jpg

On the physical level, it is probably logical and fair to say that, in the earliest times, roles were defined by function. If the male of the species is generally larger, stronger and fuelled by testosterone, it makes more sense for him to be the warrior and hunter, while the female gives birth, nurtures the young and protects the ‘nest’, tending the hearthfire and such tasks as must be done beside it.

Fair enough. Take it one step up and, on the surface at least, men do seem, on the whole, to be the more dynamic and potentially aggressive side of the equation… though it is also true that the lion is peaceable compared to the lioness when the cubs are threatened.

According to the archaeologists, we were originally a hunter/gatherer species. The temptation might be to think that the men did the hunting while the women gathered the berries and tended the fire, though I am not sure we can generalise here either…and even berries must be hunted first. Maybe we are just a hunting species? Or maybe gathering is a type of hunting that just requires a different approach?

I realised that it was toward this that my thoughts had been meandering. There had been a scintilla of realisation, logged but uncaptured… one of those ‘aha!’ moments that are gone before they arrive, leaving behind them some vague comprehension of we know not what. Such light-bulb moments, however fleeting, are always worth pursuing. Although most of them are lost to the conscious mind, what surfaced momentarily is still in there somewhere. The trick is to let the associations lead you to it…and this type of contemplative meditation that can be exceedingly useful.

All the waffling in my mind led back to a single, simple thought. We are hunters… and while the dynamic hunt on the outer, the receptivity of the tender of the flame hunts on the inner. It need have nothing to do with whether we are men or women, that really is a generalisation although our bodies may reflect aspects of how we work, but only to do with how we function in the world.

The dynamic hunter seeks, finds, acquires… and provides. In physical terms, these are the spear-wielders who bring home the proverbial bacon, actively climb the ladder of success, and wear the mantle of authority and protection.

The receptive hunter looks within, growing and nurturing, as one would a child, teasing out understanding like carding wool and revealing the kernel of wisdom as one would the flour within the grain.

Many societies still frown upon any deviation from the accepted ideal where gender is concerned. ‘Real’ men don’t cry… a woman’s place is in the home… many of our customs, definitions and socially acceptable behaviours still insidiously mirror and encourage this outmoded way of thinking.

Neither society nor individuals can function fully without a balance between the two modes of being, any more than a battery with a single pole will work. By allowing ourselves, and each other, to embrace both sides of who we are… dynamic and receptive, we embrace a richer experience.

30 thoughts on “Hunters and gatherers?

  1. I like this idea of women being hunters too. Over here in Australia there is an aboriginal TV channel that I sometimes watch. Recently I watched a documentary about older women in the outback taking children out to find a particularly kind of grub that they really like to eat. They hunted for it in a swamp where they waded through mud to likely spot then pierced the mud with digging sticks till they found one.

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  2. I read a book many years ago (have been trying to find it again since) where it used the basis that Women, not Men, drove the advancement of the Human Race from prehistoric through historical times, including the improvement of hunting tools, crop growing, etc.

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    1. I think there is a lot in that idea and it is a widely held belief that society was matriarchal originally too. Much of the archaeology points to a veneration of the eminine principle. As to the practical side of innovation, need gives rise to invention and women have always been fairly practical 😉

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  3. Good post Sue.
    We don’t have his and hers jobs, though it’s more practical for Hubby to do the maintenance etc. Household chores are done by either of us as he doesn’t mind hoovering or cooking. We do most things together anyway. In the other house, we had his and hers hoovers……a standing joke for years as I like an upright and he prefers a cylinder. We now have a Henry.
    Our neighbours have blue and pink jobs, most of the blue being outside though the pink ones lately have had bluish tinges he said..

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  4. This is interesting, Sue. I believe that women who work in high power jobs become much more aggressive. I have read that their testosterone levels are also much higher. I have also noticed that when faced with total equality, women often made surprising choices.

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  5. For many years, I have faced the gender issue. I remember when women were involved with women’s lib, and at that time, other women used to ask me if my then husband and I were going to have children as if it were a foregoing conclusion. I thought, “What a strange thing to ask?” First of all, it assumes that you are able to have children, and secondly, it assumes that it IS the proper thing to do with one’s life. I have nothing against having children, and I worked with them for many years of my life and had three of my own once upon a very long time ago. And I loved them all very much and was a good and traditional mother at one point in life.

    I used to think that women tended to be more near-sighted and men far-sighted, which led me to conclude this separation of the sexes too. I theorized that most of the women did close-up work, while men needed to see long distances for hunting and protecting the tribes. But then I knew that some women are far-sighted and man near-sighted, so I theorized that women were far-sighted because they would watch in the distance for any dangers and also be looking for the men to return. And also that some men were near-sighted because they were the best makers of tools and weapons, and did repair work, etc. It is strange how the mind tries to categorize and make sense of everything we see, hear and every other way we perceive things.

    I don’t think the ways I used to. Things in the world have changed majorly and people are not playing the roles they once played, even me. But anymore, there are so many ways that people have changed that defining gender issues or other ways of being in this world don’t even make sense now. And I think it is a good thing that the world is turning upside-down and we are being tasked with viewing everything in new ways. Thank you for this excellent article.

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    1. Gender is not all that important compared to ‘how’ we function… which ‘pole’ of the current we primarily use in our lives, for we each have both at our disposal, though will tend toward one or the other, depending upon what level of beng we may be functioning in at the time.

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  6. I read a book recently in which the author alleged this gender divide is relatively recent. Certainly ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ is a Victorian maxim, mainly to make sure the men were employed. I can’t remember when it changed, but probably the Tudors were most to blame 🙂 We’re still living with Victorian mores most of the time.

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    1. We are, Jemima, very Victorian sometimes! There is undoubtedly a a case for suggesting that certain roles are more practically performed by men or women, in the majority of cases, but women have been shackled by convention for a very long time.

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  7. This is a wonderful post Sue! I don’t believe either gender holds a monopoly on specific tasks or roles. Just look around us today, and one sees the strength and ingenuity of the female gender, and the nurturing of the male gender in the younger generations. And I suspect as far back as recorded history goes, Women and men shared responsibilities based upon the exigencies of the moment.

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    1. Thanks, Steve. I do not believe there is any need for specific gender-based roles either, though historically, society has sought to impose them. Function and the ability to embrace one’s true nature matters more to me than any imposed form.
      Lovely to hear from you 🙂

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