1. In primitive cultures, yes the women did most of the cooking and child-rearing, with the men venturing farther afield to hunt. But the wives were not child-like with men as a benevolent dictators. In most cultures, women had the essential roles of gathering wild food and tending crops. Whole villages—men, women, and children—would participate in netting fish during a salmon run, or flushing and rounding up small game. Bison were stampeded over a cliff, and everyone would work together to carve up the animals.
I think perhaps the ‘traditional family’ (usually associated with conservatism) and experiments with communal living (usually associated with liberalism,) represent extreme ends of a spectrum regarding what we are most evolved for. In some ways I actually think creating families that are supposed to be totally self-sufficient units with women who are completely tied to the home is as extreme as creating communes where everybody raises all the kids.
My family is quite conservative, and for years my mother told me that you just don’t feel attached to other children the way you do to your own children and grandchildren - that when her grandchildren were born, she could feel a strong instinctive bond that you just don’t feel in other scenarios, because you can just tell they’re your offspring’s offspring, you recognize your own family. (Given the context, this was kind of a weird thing for her to be saying to me in particular, but we won’t go into that.) Finally it occurred to me to Google how much DNA an aunt shares with nieces and nephews compared to a grandparent, and I was like - “Wait… it’s exactly the same.” I love my niece and nephews a lot, but I can’t say I ever had any “Oh my gosh this is my relative, I love them more than all other children!”. I feel kind of guilty that I like the kids I work with just as much as I like my niece and nephews, but if I’m being honest, I do. I don’t rule out the idea that a familial relationship impacts one subconsciously - I do certainly invest a lot of time, money and energy in my little relatives (although this is also true of the kids I work with,) and perhaps I don’t realize how much family bonds push me in that direction, I dunno. But my guess is that this idea of familial bonds being sort of supremely important (to the point where, in some countries, adoption really isn’t done,) is actually a cultural one. I suspect that we are more evolved to live in communities where caring for children in the immediate environment is more the norm, regardless of familial ties.
In that sense I don’t know if the idea that women are sort of ‘made for’ traditional conservative gender roles has any more factual basis than the idea that kids should be raised in communes. I don’t think that women were meant to be largely segregated into individual houses with limited, and far more formal, interactions with the larger community, I suspect that historically, most of our concerns and interactions would have been based on those in the immediate environment and community, not a formalized family structure. Again, I also don’t think that no family structure, as in the case of communes, is particularly natural either, but I think the idea that the nuclear family is supposed to be uniquely prioritized above all other relationships is fairly modern.
Yes, history shows us all sorts of social structures. Certainly the idealized American version described by Quad has not been around long enough to be imprinted in our genes, except for the broadest outlines. That is, woman bear children and can nurse them, and men are generally larger and stronger. The sociological details are largely software, not hardware.
Back in the 1930’s my mother’s family struggled to make ends meet. Her dad was a laborer and could only find work through the WPA. Her mom took on boarders in their house, and raised vegetables and chickens to feed the family. Her mom was by far the more successful in the family and went on to sell real estate, making some very lucrative deals, which gave them some security in their later years. People do what they need to do to get by, given the talents they are born with.
People do what they need to do to get by, given the talents they are born with.
Yep, and the talents they develop. We all have latent abilities that could blossom into something spectacular under the right circumstances. That’s why many suicides are so tragic - the lost potential. A turn here or a turn there and everything could have been different.
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I’m arguing that gender roles, while not as important for concrete purposes as they once were, are as important as they ever were for psychological purposes. So much of men’s competitiveness is around the ability to provide for and attract the most fertile female mate/s he can. If women in society aren’t in need of a provider, you don’t see how that creates cognitive dissonance in males between his instinctual drives and the reality which exists? If women are not primarily concerned with using their fertility to provide men with children, you don’t see how that creates cognitive dissonance in both sexes? You don’t see how that could lead to nihilism, if it is left undiscussed, or worse, if these natural biological urges are discouraged by society at large?
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I don’t get the connection between what you’re claiming with regard to psychological needs and gender roles, Quad. Yes, it’s true that men and women used to more or less stick to gender roles. But those roles had been designed around circumstances rather than bio’ differences between males and females. As you’ve noted, today we have many things in place that allow us to split from those formerly perhaps necessary roles. The nature of work itself has changed radically just in the past 100 to 200 years. As a small example, typesetting was once a trade that involved muscular labor and was well suited to men. Now, anyone in an office can be a typesetter. Nothing at all masculine about it. I used to work with big machinery but for the past 20 years or so have been running a home for autistic and other IDD children and adults. I had no problem adjusting, and no one really has a problem with such an adjustment as long as they earnestly pursue work that fits their personality. Stereotypical gender roles are for suckers.