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It’s amazing how the story changes, isn’t it?

Zoe Williams:

The ancient Anatolian settlement of Catalhöyük was utterly egalitarian, drawing apparently no distinction between genders


The most recent investigations also reveal little social distinction based on gender, with men and women receiving equivalent nutrition and seeming to have equal social status, as typically found in Paleolithic cultures

A human culture that makes no distinction between genders isn’t going to last very long. Certainly no Paleolithic nor Neolithic society is going to.

A society that makes no particular gender distinctions in nutrition will do just fine.

For example, the modern UK doesn’t make any particular gender distinctions on nutrition. But I think we’d be able to get Zoe to agree that it still makes rather too many distinctions based upon gender, no?

10 thoughts on “It’s amazing how the story changes, isn’t it?”

  1. I’m not so sure. There is a whole literature out there about eating disorders, particularly covering the intense social pressure put on young women to be thin. Very few men suffer from bulimia or anorexia, and there is some justification in those conditions being being identified as gender-specific issues. It is generally accepted that women need less food than men, assuming same body mass. So yes, there is a case for arguing that gender distinctions are made in nutrition.

  2. I bet there was gender distinction based on labour, particularly the gathering of food.
    There are some wonderful clay statuettes from this part of the world of very fat women giving birth: one in the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations in Ankara has her flanked by leopards. Given the vagaries of nature from year to year and the problems of food storage over winter, I doubt that obesity was anything other than rare and a marker of better access to food than the average person. Fertility was desirable both for providing labour for food gathering and male protection of a community as well as raiding other settlements for food and slaves. Does Zoe admire obese baby machines?

  3. It’s the old feminist Golden Age myth again, a variant of the socialist Golden Age myth, which says:

    * Hunter-gatherer societies = egalitarian/matriarchal/communist utopias (delete according to whichever flavour of wibble is currently eating through your prefrontal cortex)

    * Invention of agriculture = property rights, oppression, muh sojiny and Mrs Thatcher.

    I liked it better when it was called the Garden of Eden.

    Now, there probably was a certain amount of rough and ready equality in the days when our lusty forebears brutally murdered wooly mammoths. In a world without plumbing or toilet paper, everybody’s more or less equally dirty and poor and scrofulous.

    We don’t really know what social relations were like in the days before written records, and much of paleoanthropology is fanciful bullshit concocted out of broken pottery shards and ancient stick figure paintings.

    So it’s possible that paleolithic man was a big soppy male feminist mangina – less Cro-Magnon and more Cro-Monbiot. And it’s possible that he was a sensitive flower who deeply respected womyn and practiced affirmative consent – “Does Grah want Ug put his meat-spear in her baby cave now?”

    But is it likely?

    We know from studying primitive societies that survived into modern times that rape, incest, murder and cannibalism are wildly popular among people who don’t have running water, property rights and iPhones yet.

    And we know from genetic studies that a shockingly high percentage – perhaps 60% -of ancient men didn’t pass on their genes. While 80% of ancient women did.

    Does that sound like the olden days was a liberal flower-power free love feminist fuckfest?

    Or does it sound more like, in the days when muscle power and aggression meant the difference between survival and death, Conan and his buddies hoarded the women and used them as baby factories, while weaker men were left crying and wanking into their My Little Sabretooth body pillows?

    And maybe the reason men and women embraced Patriarchy and property rights and monotheism and monogamy and all that other evil stuff that eventually led to lightbulbs and Listerine and LOLcats was that it was better than how they lived before?

    They always say “be careful what you wish for”, but I say this to feminists and progressive dweebs who fantasise about how awesome life would be if we returned to pre-industrial folkways: wish away.

  4. “it still makes rather too many distinctions based upon gender”: I rather approve of the distinction that constrains me to call Zoe a dim bint but allows me to call Murphy a dim twat, even though anatomically ……

  5. Chinese whispers is the basis of modern communication. Look at how quickly “Starbucks made no profits” becomes “Starbucks is dodging tax”; frankly I’m surprised they don’t just come out with “Starbucks is killing your mother by failing to fund the NHS”.

    Or consider how we leapt from “trains are a bit greener than cars” to “HS2 is worth building even if it costs £50bn”.

    The leap from “equivalent nutrition” to “equivalent in society” is a minor transgression. Anyone who yearns for the good old days of the Neolithic era can safely be ignored.

  6. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Steve: bravissimo. For further demolition of the Noble Savage myth, see Lawrence Keeley, Steven Pinker et al. Actually I’m sure a bunch of people commenting here are already familiar with these works, not being as mentally crippled as Zoe Williams—an admittedly low bar.

  7. Thank you, Steve! Much appreciated. Sadly, the culture that makes your satire possible is probably doomed.

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