Are women the weaker sex and are men the natural hunter-gatherers? No, says Angela Saini, author of a new book that debunks a few sexist myths using scientific proof
Sexist stereotypes have long existed throughout history, but a new book is now questioning: are women the weaker sex or is it a load of old waffle? In Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That’s Rewriting The Story (£12.99, Harper Collins), Angela Saini argues that science begs to differ with sexism. The results make for interesting reading…
Are women the weaker sex?
Women live longer than men because they are biologically better survivors from the day they’re born. Statistically, baby girls are more robust than boys, which makes mortality rates among babies a little skewed in favour of girls. And for reasons that scientists don’t fully understand, throughout their lives women tend to survive the same diseases that kill men. This is true across all countries and as far back as records have been kept. Today, of the 45 people in the world living beyond the age of 110 all but one are women. So in short, are women the weaker sex? Not at all.
Are men biologically better hunters?
We think of hunting animals as something men usually do, originating from caveman times, but there are a number of tribes worldwide in which women primarily hunt. Among the Martu aborigines in Western Australia, women are particularly skilled at outrunning prey. Some researchers now think that in our distant past, women would have hunted even more than they do today. This means that for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, life was nothing like The Flintstones – it wasn’t solely the men who brought home the bacon.
Is gender equality a new concept?
When women today fight for equal rights, they’re not overturning any laws of nature. Anthropologists widely agree that early humans were egalitarian, with women and men sharing responsibilities and decision-making power. They would have had no other choice, because subsistence living is so harsh that everyone would have needed to pitch in with labour, including getting food and raising babies. For new mums who might be struggling, it’s important to remember that childcare was never a mother’s responsibility alone – it’s something that’s been shared between grandparents, siblings, aunts and parents.
All girls love pink
Wrong. Pink is for everyone! Studies show that infant girls have no more a love of the colour pink than infant boys do. Differences in preference start to appear as they get older, probably because girls tend to be given pink clothes, nurseries and toys. Social reinforcement in early childhood can have a huge effect on the kinds of things we like as adults. This applies to gender stereotypes, too. By the age of five, most children hold lots of assumptions about what women can and can’t do. In one experiment, when kids were shown a picture of a girl sawing wood, they incorrectly remembered that they had seen a picture of a boy sawing wood.