What are gender relations like in the remaining hunter-gatherer tribes?

There are many kinds of hunter/gatherers. Woodburn in “Egalitarian Societies” (in Limited Wants, Unlimited Means: A Reader On Hunter-Gatherer Economics And The Environment)  divides them into immediate return and delayed return hunter/gatherers.  In immediate return H/G societies gender relations are egalitarian.

Now  that doesn’t mean that all people do the same things. But women do  hunt, men to take care of babies and most importantly all people have  autonomy.

Leacock in “Women’s Status in Egalitarian Society: Implications for Social Evolution” (also in Limited Wants, Unlimited Means: A Reader On Hunter-Gatherer Economics And The Environment)  has pointed out that the measure of egalitarianism is actually  autonomy, not similarity. Even in our culture, we don’t want to be the  same as our neighbor; we want to have the same opportunity to make our  own decisions for our own lives – we want autonomy. She writes:

“Hunter/gatherer  women and men make their decisions about their lives with great  autonomy and even children have far more autonomy than we would think is  proper.”

This is illustrated by Nissa, a !Kung women who went to  live with her grandmother when she was about 5 years old. This is far  more autonomy that we would allow.

For more please see:  Chapter I – The Original Information Culture – Hunter/Gatherers (full text) from my upcoming book, “Hunter/Gatherers to Digital Natives: Six Information Revolutions.

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