4 Subsistence and Sex/Gender Roles
Here I will take the research program on sex differences initiated by SBSEP proponents Buss and Schmitt commonly referred to as Sexual Strategies Theory (SST) as a case study. (see Buss 1989 for cross-cultural survey, Buss and Schmitt 1993 for an overview of SST, see the previously posted Buss and Schmitt article, 2011, for current status). It is a great example as it is more easily investigated than other hypotheses and is often touted as one of the centerpieces of SBSEP. SST relies heavily on subsistence methods, which are well-documented in evolutionary and archaeological terms. Buss' 1989 is taken as the starting point and confirmation of SST. Buss begins with the evolutionary framework of sexual selection theory, which posits that females will be choosier in terms of mating due to their larger physiological investment in offspring than males. However, based on current research, this is based on an over-extension of fruit fly experiments, so I will not comment on that point any further (see Brown et al for an overview).
One of the main hypotheses derived from Trivers' conception of sexual selection theory is that women will seek high-status and resource acquisition in men. We're already in trouble here. Buss even notes the limitations of this theory:
Trivers's prediction should apply only in contexts where resources can be accrued, monopolized, and defended, where males tend to control such resources, and where male variance in resource acquisition is sufficiently high (Emlen & Oring 1977; Trivers 1972)
Male control of resources is already presupposed to be universal when it is not. This is trivially false from the ethnographic and archaeological records. Calories contributed by men and women can vary wildly, from women contributing very little to contributing the majority of calories (Hunn). Big game tends to be a high-risk and high-return affair while gathering, small-game hunting, and fishing tends to be lower return but more reliable, so this is not unexpected. Even this does not cover the whole problem, though. The emphasis on big game assumes an optimal foraging model. Social organization and practices may limit big game hunting even where this food source should be highly ranked in terms of foraging priorities (see Bird et al for an example). Even if men procure resources, they may not hold control of them. This is especially true in the case of hunting large game. Simply hunting such game is not enough for it to be consumed – it needs to be butchered, cooked, and prepared. Women may have control over any of these processes, which can give them control over the calories procured by men. Additionally, men may be reliant on women for tool production. The organic material often used in women's work does not preserve, so tools such as wooden spears that may have been made by women easily decompose. However, stone tool technology does preserve well. It was thought that male upper body strength was necessary for stone knapping, but this is not the case. Knapping is not a matter of smashing rocks together, but one of precise control. More successful knappers actually exert less energy than unskilled ones. So men in some cases may have been reliant on women for the production of tools (Bril et al, Gero).
Although SBSEP seems to adhere to this view, the Man the Hunter concept is severely outdated (this was already the case in the 1970s and 80s, see Conkey and Spector). The primary difference is that men generally hunt big game while women don't. There are a few exceptions (e.g., the Agta, see Headland), but the rule holds in general. However, men and women both gather. Women may hunt small game, often expedient hunting while gathering. Men and women both engage in fishing. Women may also engage in certain elements of big game hunting that do not involve the actual kill. This typically involves setting traps and guiding the prey into them to be killed, such as the bison hunting of ancient North America or the springbok of South Africa (Dewar et al). The availability of game and vegetation, of course, is dependent on geography and seasonality. It doesn't take a degree in ecology to see this, not even a home garden. Considering the extremely broad range of environments humans currently live in and lived in during deep evolutionary time, there is no way to pick a typical case or model that covers all societies universally (see Kelly for an overview).
Bird et al, Megafauna in a continent of small game: Archaeological implications of Martu Camel hunting in Australia’s Western Desert https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55eef123e4b087ad372e72cf/t/5630f1b3e4b0303d4aeab941/1446048179583/megafauna.pdf
Bril et al, The Role of Expertise in Tool Use: Skill Differences in Functional Action Adaptations to Task Constraintshttps://www.researchgate.net/profile/Blandine_Bril2/publication/45582161_The_role_of_expertise_in_tool_use_skill_differences_in_functional_action_adaptations_to_task_constraints/links/09e4150879619d576d000000.pdf
Buss 1989, Sex Differences in Human Mate Preferences: Evolutionary Hypotheses Tested in 37 Cultures.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/231858845_Buss_David_M_1989_Sex_Differences_in_Human_Mate_Preferences_Evolutionary_Hypotheses_Tested_in_37_Cultures_Behavioral_and_Brain_Sciences
Buss and Schmitt 1993, Sexual Strategies Theory: An Evolutionary Perspective on Human Matinghttp://www.bradley.edu/dotAsset/165805.pdf
Buss and Schmitt 2011, Feminism and Evolutionary Psychologyhttp://www.bradley.edu/dotAsset/165805.pdf
Brown et al, Bateman's Principles and Human Sex Roleshttp://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/abstract/S0169-5347(09)00112-8
Conkey and Spector, Archaeology and the Study of Gender https://www.jstor.org/stable/20170176?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Dewar et al, Implications of a mass kill site of springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) in South Africa: hunting practices, gender relations, and sharing in the Later Stone Agehttps://www.researchgate.net/profile/Genevieve_Dewar/publication/223359473_Implications_of_a_mass_kill_site_of_springbok_(Antidorcas_marsupialis)_in_South_Africa_Hunting_practices_gender_relations_and_sharing_in_the_Later_Stone_Age/links/0f31753ac3a0ac2703000000.pdf
Gero, Genderlithics: Women's Role in Stone Tool Productionhttps://www.academia.edu/1247901/Genderlithics_womens_roles_in_stone_tool_production
Headland and Headland, Four Decades Among the Agta: Trials and Advantages of Long-Term Fieldwork With Philippine Hunter-Gatherershttp://www-01.sil.org/~headlandt/fourdecd.htm
Hunn, On the Relative Contribution of Men and Women to Subsistence Among Hunter-Gatherers of the Columbian Plateau: A Comparison with Ethnographic Atlas Summarieshttp://faculty.washington.edu/hunn/vitae/subsistence_contribution_JEB.pdf
Kelly, The Lifeways of Hunter-Gatherers: The Foraging Spectrumhttps://books.google.com/books?id=rKoZBAAAQBAJ&dq=editions:QahG_EYw_VQC&source=gbs_navlinks_s