Female foragers sometimes hunt, yet gendered divisions of labor are real: a comment on Anderson et al. (2023) The Myth of Man the Hunter

Vivek V. Venkataraman, Jordie Hoffman, Kyle Farquharson, Helen Elizabeth Davis, Edward H. Hagen, Raymond B. Hames, Barry S. Hewlett, Luke Glowacki, Haneul Jang, Robert Kelly, Karen Kramer, Sheina Lew-Levy, Katie Starkweather, Kristen Syme, Duncan N.E. Stibbard-Hawkes

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

Abstract

Gendered divisions of labor are a feature of every known contemporary hunter-gatherer (forager) society. While gender roles are certainly flexible, and prominent and well-studied cases of female hunting do exist, it is more often men who hunt. A new study (Anderson et al., 2023) surveyed ethnographically known foragers and found that women hunt in 79% of foraging societies, with big-game hunting occurring in 33%. Based on this single type of labor, which is one among dozens performed in foraging societies, the authors question the existence of gendered division of labor altogether. As a diverse group of hunter-gatherer experts, we find that claims that foraging societies lack or have weak gendered divisions of labor are contradicted by empirical evidence. We conducted an in-depth examination of the data and methods of Anderson et al. (2023), finding evidence of sample selection bias and numerous coding errors undermining the paper's conclusions. Anderson et al. (2023) have started a useful dialogue to ameliorate the potential misconception that women never hunt. However, their analysis does not contradict the wide body of empirical evidence for gendered divisions of labor in foraging societies. Furthermore, a myopic focus on hunting diminishes the value of contributions that take different forms and downplays the trade-offs foragers of both sexes routinely face. We caution against ethnographic revisionism that projects Westernized conceptions of labor and its value onto foraging societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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