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