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  • Writer's pictureSofia Ng

Challenging Gender Stereotypes

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Expanding the material we read is like adding a dash of adventure and flavor to our intellectual diet. Personally I have a soft spot for magazines like New Scientist, to offer a break away from the tech articles and novels which otherwise form the base of my reading materials. These magazines serve up a delightful blend of captivating science stories, mind-bending discoveries, and quirky facts that make us go, "Whoa, I never knew that!" I am introduced to cutting-edge technologies, unravel the mysteries of the universe, and challenge ideas.

The article called "The societies proving that inequality and patriarchy aren’t inevitable" struck a cord. The more we learn about history and cultures around the world the better we can understand what we can do and how we can improve society to allow all of us to succeed in our own way.


Below is a summary of the article, I hope others will find this as thought provoking as I did, in particular the misconception around female hunters and just how large the percentage of female hunters from cultures around the world. Maybe one day we can change the narrative of women as diminutive and subservient gatherers and see women and men as equal contributors to the well being of the group.


Introduction

A common misconception that men are the hunters while women stay at home has been debunked by a comprehensive review of foraging societies worldwide. The analysis reveals that women actively participate in hunting in a significant majority of these societies, with a remarkable number even engaging in hunting large game. These findings challenge traditional gender divisions in providing food and shed light on the significant role of women as skilled hunters.


Research Findings

The study examined over 1,400 human societies from diverse regions and time periods. It found that women hunt in approximately 80% of the societies investigated, with around one-third of these societies including women who hunt big game weighing over 30 kilograms. These results are likely representative of both past and present foraging societies and provide a comprehensive understanding of the hunting practices within these cultures.


Disrupting Gender Stereotypes

The prevalent belief that only men engage in hunting has influenced the interpretation of data in the past. However, the research team behind this study used a wide range of ethnographic data, including burial records and information from the D-PLACE database, to challenge this assumption. The analysis demonstrates that women's hunting is intentional in 87% of cases, indicating their active involvement in planned hunting activities rather than opportunistic encounters during other activities like gathering.


Flexibility and Diversity in Hunting Strategies

The study further reveals that women's hunting strategies exhibit greater flexibility compared to men. Female hunters employ a wider range of tools, including bows and arrows, knives, nets, spears, machetes, and crossbows. They also demonstrate versatility in hunting companions, such as hunting alone, with a male partner, other women, children, or even dogs. The research suggests that this adaptability is likely influenced by factors such as pregnancy or breastfeeding, with instances of women hunting while carrying babies on their backs.


Implications and Future Perspectives

The findings of this study challenge the notion that men are the sole hunters and emphasize the importance of recognizing the significant contributions of women in foraging societies. By dismantling gender stereotypes surrounding hunting, these findings have broader implications for understanding gender roles and divisions of labor in different cultures throughout history. The research also highlights the need for further archaeological investigations to complement these ethnographic studies and provide a more comprehensive understanding of past societies.


Conclusion

This study dispels the myth of gender division in providing food and emphasizes the active role of women as hunters in foraging societies. The findings underscore the importance of acknowledging women's contributions and challenging gender stereotypes. By expanding our understanding of the diverse roles individuals play in societies, we can foster more inclusive and equitable perspectives on gender, contributing to a more equal and fair society for all.


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