Twilight asked in Social ScienceGender Studies · 1 decade ago

Did Sexism Exist in Early Human History?

Warren Farrell makes the following claim in his book "The Myth of Male Power":

"Sexism? or Bisexism?

Am I suggesting that sexism was a two-way street? Yes. We think of sexism as having kept women less powerful than men for centuries. In fact, for centuries neither sex had power. Each had roles. Her role: create a family. His role: protect a family. Her role: gather the food. His role: hunt the food. If *both* sexes were restricted to roles, it is not accurate to call it sexism, but sex roles. We have lived not in a sexist world, but in a bisexist world."

excerpted p37, 2nd edition.

What do you think?

Did Sexism Exist in Early Human History?

15 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Who really holds the power?

    Your question is too much of a generalization to answer accurately without going into massive detail.

    'Who really held the power' is really the most relevant question across cultures and throughout history.

    'We think of sexism as having kept women less powerful than men for centuries' You do as a Feminist living in this period of history, in the Western World. A brief look at your history books, a brief look at different countries and cultures you will find the answer to who always holds the power.

    Did your working class man have as much political influence as the middle class female early Feminist in the UK?

    Does a black inner city youth have the same life chances as a white middle class woman today in the UK?

    Does a white disabled man, or a white middle class child with learning disabilities have the same power as an able bodied black female?

    Look back to industrialization, the Poor Laws, the 1833 Factory Acts etc etc.

    The facts are easily found throughout history and governmental statistics are readily available.

    Discriminations and oppressions intersect. Your social class is a much better indicator of whether or not you will be discriminated against than your gender. Your social class is a much better indicator of your lifechances than gender throughout time, throughout the world. The early Feminist laws ignored middle class call girls and criminalized street prostitutes. The 1842 Mining Acts were driven by ideas of middle class morality (girls and women stripped to the waist, as men did, when the women trucked coal to the pit head).

    There is a heirachy of oppressions and discriminations throughout history, throughout cultures. Gender is certainly not the best indicator, it is one of many.

  • 3 years ago

    Sexism Throughout History

  • 1 decade ago

    Each time period and culture have each had their sex roles, did you know that a small Polynesian Island has been lead and ruled by Women for over 500 years, the men hunt, build and when needed go to war.


    The women including the Queen are the political leaders.

    I watched this wonderful special about this small island and wished I could have been raised with such a supportive group.

    For instance when a women gives birth there they put her in a steam tent and many women assist her birthing process, as soon as the baby is born he/she is taken and cleaned while at the same time the mother is bathed, oiled and perfumed, put into new cloths even fixing up her hair so when she presents her husband with his new born he will remember how beautiful she is as well.


    Some King lines go through Father to Son and others From the Mothers blood line.

    I do see where many times we have gone into "bisexist" movements - farmers are very good at this any where in the world, and personally I find that if you have a "bisexist" marriage it works better each person needs the other and works as a team - Together.

    However to say that only one existed at any one time would be very limiting, I have never seen that the world has ever done the same thing at the same time in all places with all people. To say something so generic is like watching future movies where everyone speaks the same language and wears the same cloths - Not realistic

  • 1 decade ago

    I believe that in the Paleolithic (Stone Age) some 50,000 years or so before the advent of agriculture, it was about roles, I can't imagine that at that time there could be sexism, as both roles (of men and women) were essential for their survival. We were then hunters and nomads.

    When the agriculture communities appeared with the domestication of plants and animals, there was a drop in the status of women, where females began to be breeders and servants. I think like Engels, who said that when men made the connection between sex and offspring, that women began to be considered as property, as no man wanted to feed a son/daughter that was not his. So the shift was when society became an agricultural community, amazing that some traditions and religions still think like back then.

    Edit: I actually find this theme very interesting, therefore I searched a little bit, and I found a book which explores this from an anthropological view. I think I will get it, it seems a good read:

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Most laws that discriminated against women were not created in the 1st century but the late 19th century to keep women out of employment and therefore raise the status and wages for men. Many trade unionists campaigned for these laws leading to the breakaway formation of feminist groups. Therefore sexism and discrimination are not a natural feature of human society, but a specific set of restrictions which applied to women at a specific time in history. I have a book called 1000AD which lists documents and facts from common people of the era, and women are doing just fine in it. Sexism happens not when people are left to arrange their affairs by themselves, but when they are prevented from doing so purely on the basis of their gender. So no, I don't believe sexism existed in early human history :-)

  • April
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    I would say because they were stronger, smarter, and more practical. Ofcourse, society would never admit to it, even when observation suggests it is a rational conclusion. Men have always been dominant in society because it is their society/civilization. They built it, they maintain it, they progress it, and so, given that they do the majority of building, maintaining, and progressing it, they deserve dominance over it, for they are responsible for it. Males have always contributed in most areas, if not all, the most. Even today when women have their rights to do what men do, it is still men inventing and improving science and technology, very few women do. Ofcourse, in the eyes of feminism, it is just a coincidence that men are still doing all the progression for humanity. No, not all species have males as dominant. I am not entirely sure about this, but I believe mares (female horses) are dominant in their area. Some spiders also kill their male mater.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Farrell, like the president of Iran, is a denier.

    A good book on the history of sexism is The Chalice and The Blade. It's been debated, but it makes good points nonetheless.

    In the past, there was a semblance of equality. When men started fighting over land, the soldier gained power and prestige. People started "worshipping" soldiers, war, the conquest of land. Valuing this "strength" left women inferior since they were not warriors. The value of childbirth receded as death rose.

    The one poster said 'like in war, we just do what needs to be done." really? does rape need to be "done?" do you know about the serbian rape camps, the rape of nanking, the atrocity rapes in the congo? are soldiers just "doing what needs to be done?"

    seems to me, the best opportunties for equality came when women and men worked together on farms. i think culture has to play a role too though, because women are now the main food producers in the world - and in many places where women are in agriculture they do not have equality. they work like dogs but rarely do they own the land or have power over the decisions regarding property rights.

    farrelll is a quack in my book. he tries to minimize and deny away sexism.

    i'm sorry but not owning land, being owned in harems & sexual slavery, not being able to vote, not being able to inherit property, not being able to own land, being beaten at home, being raped, being harassed, being stalked, being called names on the street, being paid less, being promoted less, not having representation, not having power, and so so many other things represent social injustice - call it sexism, misogyny, discrimination, etc. - but these "deniers" do nothing to progress. in social injustice, forgiveness of the offender (god forbid we ask that!), accountability and a willingness to go forward are necessary. Farrell does none of that. He denies and waters things down and turns to false equivalences. I'd suggest you turn to a more intelllectual book.

  • I think it's called rationalising. It is also false. We can look at facts from both anthropology and history of power relations between the sexes.

    I also think that Farrell seems like he is an intellectual fraud if he makes these kinds of arguments to deny sexism and historical oppression.

  • 1 decade ago

    I think there has to be clearer distinctions made between sexism and misogyny. Misogyny is what fuels sexist attitudes and actions, and I do believe it is misogyny that is the oldest of oppressions. What you are describing is gender divide based on divisions in labour; different but equal, however, women's contribution is often subordinated/subjugated historically/culturally.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Yes each sex had a role, but men had physical power over their women and they would have used it. A woman would most likely have been beaten for not cooking a meal, or for disappearing for half a day by herself. Yet a woman would never have beaten her man for coming home empty-handed from an unsuccessful hunt, or for having sexual intercourse with another female.

    Men have always used their power to beat women down. As soon as they realized that women do indeed hold the power over life and death, they created civilizations, societies, traditions, social roles and expectations that were designed to oppress and control women.

    I'm not saying it was done on purpose, but sub-consciously men have always made an effort to keep women on a lower level than them.

    Women now are only just starting to realize how important and powerful we are, and men hate that.

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