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Sep 18 2013

Why is it always the berries?

I presume this essay about how women make better programmers was intended as satire…but it fell flat for me. I am so tired of this cartoon version of human evolutionary history that emphasizes the dichotomized roles of men and women, built entirely on grossly oversimplified views about our ancestor’s lives and contrived to reinforce stereotypes. It doesn’t matter whether it’s done to bestow Science’s favor on male or female — it’s bad.

The roots of this division are sadly rooted in humanity’s pre-history. On the plains of our ancestors, male hunters roamed the savannah, chasing down prey, while women remained home to nurture families and gather berries. The males adapted for big movements and fast action, while the women adapted for slow, methodical searching. The traits that made women expert bug-huntresses in the dust have carried forward and given them an advantage at hunting bugs in code. Men simply aren’t adapted to that kind of patient searching. They live for the thrill of the chase.

We’re wandering in Ray Comfort territory here, with this conception of the two sexes evolving and adapting independently. I don’t know about you, but I had both a mother and a father, and they contributed equally to my genetics, and I have fathered both boy and girl children myself. There are differences between the sexes, of course, but to assume that the differential responses to a couple of steroid hormones is so finely tuned that it completely segregates social roles, no crossover capabilities possible, is absurd.

No one has evolved to program. Maybe that’s the point of the joke, but it never ceases to annoy to see biology mangled.

61 comments

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  1. 1
    Alex

    but to assume that the differential responses to a couple of steroid hormones is so finely tuned that it completely segregates social roles, no crossover capabilities possible, is absurd.

    Or in short, My son, thou better contemplatest why thou hast nipples, and then shuttest up about women in science :)

  2. 2
    tuibguy

    I kind of like gathering berries and fruits. Checkmate Evo-Psych!

  3. 3
    hyperdeath

    Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    It’s been proven that women like the colour pink due to the same phenomenon. This is evidenced by the vast abundance of candy-pink coloured edible berries on the African savannah.

    Ask any evolutionary scientologist.

  4. 4
    Dunc

    It’s a total mangling of anthropology as well. The hunting / gathering activities aren’t usually that well segregated in “hunter-gatherer” societies, AFAIK… Hunting involves gathering, and gathering involves hunting. And both involve “slow, methodical searching”… Tracking is not a high speed activity and requires incredible attention to tiny details.

  5. 5
    Andrés Diplotti

    Alex @2:

    My son, thou better contemplatest why thou hast nipples

    Why, males have nipples because they increase their fitness as hunters. Potential prey would think they were female and, therefore, utterly harmless, so they wouldn’t run away. It’s mimicry, people!

  6. 6
    Delft

    Being obviously spurious and at the same time indistinguishable from the arguments we commonly read in the papers makes it good satire. Maybe it will even make one or two people who don’t understand why this kind of argument is rubbish, see that it is rubbish.

  7. 7
    hyperdeath

    Andrés Diplotti:

    Why, males have nipples because they increase their fitness as hunters. Potential prey would think they were female and, therefore, utterly harmless, so they wouldn’t run away. It’s mimicry, people!

    Who are you, who are so wise in the ways of science?

  8. 8
    mnb0

    “to assume that the differential responses to a couple of steroid hormones is so finely tuned that it completely segregates social roles”
    This is simply a non-sequitur. Let’s assume (for the sake of clarity: I don’t) that the differential responses to those steroid hormones are that finely tuned indeed, resulting in different skills. To get the best of two worlds any activity (with the sole exception of brute force) should be done by both sexes. A team of programmers consisting of both males and females will perform better than a team consisting of one gender.
    If anything the berry picking argument only supports equal rights.

  9. 9
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    It’s the good old argument about why men can’t find the butter in the fridge. This “women were gatherers and needed to be able to look closely for things while men were hunters and mamoths are obvious” crap. That’s also why women chat and men don’t.
    It’s arguments that don’t only show a deep ignorance about evolution (mamoths? really?), but about things like hunting as well.
    Because I’m pretty sure hunting involves things like looking for trails and waiting patiently and, oh, talking to each other.

  10. 10
    crocodoc

    Ah, the good old “Collecting Berries evolved into shopping” vs. “There is no difference” BS. Another opportunity to collect a great number of fuck off/eat shit/shut up MRA asshole/mangina comments from both sides just by noticing that there are differences and it’s simply not clear what’s cultural and what’s innate.

  11. 11
    Bicarbonate is back

    I can’t say it made me laugh or even smile but I agree with Delft at #6 that it’s indistinguishable from Pinker et al. and that it might open someone’s eyes.

  12. 12
    consciousness razor

    “to assume that the differential responses to a couple of steroid hormones is so finely tuned that it completely segregates social roles”

    This is simply a non-sequitur. Let’s assume (for the sake of clarity: I don’t) that the differential responses to those steroid hormones are that finely tuned indeed, resulting in different skills.

    Uh… this isn’t clear at all. What isn’t supposed to follow from what? You’re just restating the assumption PZ mentioned. He made no conclusion there, except the part you omitted where he called it absurd. And it is.

    To get the best of two worlds any activity (with the sole exception of brute force) should be done by both sexes.

    What both worlds? Best how? Explain exactly what the hell you think this means. How you do know about this “sole exception,” for example? More assumptions?

    A team of programmers consisting of both males and females will perform better than a team consisting of one gender.

    That may be, but what does it have to do with the assumption? (You know: the one you don’t make, except when you do, for some mysterious reason.)

    If anything the berry picking argument only supports equal rights.

    Huh? You could make absurd arguments for equal rights, no? For example: I like coffee, so people should have equal rights.

    And since it isn’t, in fact, only used to support equal rights (and since I’ve never, in fact, seen someone like you take this bizarre route with it), if anything, you are factually wrong about this particular absurdity.

    And how is this itself not a whole bunch of non sequiturs? Do you know what that means? You were vaguely alluding to assumptions about different skills and what sorts of teams of programmers are better. Not one blip of actual information in it, but that did seem to be what your argument was driving at….

  13. 13
    David Marjanović

    That’s also why women chat and men don’t.

    Yeah. When men do it, it’s not called “chatting”.

  14. 14
    george gonzalez

    I’ve known two female programmers, so from a sample size of two I get this:

    (1) A woman who was coerced by her husband to be a programmer made a very, very, very poor programmer. Eventually she switched careers and became an acclaimed director of children’s theater productions.

    (2) One very good programmer who passed as a woman but now I realize from a few clues, was actually a 6 foot 3 inch man.

    You will have to draw your own conclusions.

  15. 15
    antialiasis

    I don’t know, I quite enjoyed this. It beautifully demonstrates why reasoning about the sexes based on evolutionary psychology isn’t trustworthy: if we were in an alternate universe where the gender stereotypes were reversed, people would be writing articles based on the same evolutionary history to “prove” that those gender roles are inescapable and biological. Nothing demonstrates the post-hoc rationalization nature of a line of reasoning more than showing it can also be used to prove the opposite result.

  16. 16
    Gregory in Seattle

    The current thinking is that the sexual division of labor in humans is a fairly recent innovation, appearing as the last major glaciation was retreating (50,000 to 10,000 years ago.) During the glacial period, survival would have been too tenuous to divide the labor: both men and women would have hunted and fished, and both men and women would have gathered what grains, fruit, roots and shellfish they could find while hunting. That close to the present, it is unlikely that a sexual division of labor had any appreciable effect on human evolution.

    As for sex itself, survival probably encouraged promiscuity among both men and women: a man is more likely to support a child that might be his offspring. This kind of system works quite well for our closest relatives, the bonobos.

  17. 17
    borax

    So, about 20 some years ago when I was devouring black berries from a bramble at my parents house I should have been a woman. That way I would have noticed the noxious stink bug underneath a berry I tossed in my mouth. In case you all are wondering, those things taste worse than they smell. Now to be on track with the thread; what is up with this obsession with the color of berries. I don’t get it.

  18. 18
    consciousness razor

    During the glacial period, survival would have been too tenuous to divide the labor: both men and women would have hunted and fished, and both men and women would have gathered what grains, fruit, roots and shellfish they could find while hunting. That close to the present, it is unlikely that a sexual division of labor had any appreciable effect on human evolution.

    You wouldn’t have to go back nearly that far. For example, in numerous “barbarian” and nomadic societies in the ancient world, Romans and Greeks were shocked (shocked, I say!) to see women fighting alongside men, just as aggressively.* It was unfathomable to “civilized” people like them that women could do any such thing, look the way they did, etc. Other times, women were there at the fight (not just when a village was being besieged, but out in a regular field of battle), as a last defense to guard the children and supplies — the point being that the whole group made a point to stay together, even when they knew they were up against Roman fucking legions, not just facing the dangers of hunting some fucking antelopes.

    *Or defensively, to put it another way, since they were the ones being invaded, enslaved, raped and pillaged, starved, tortured, etc. But I mean while they were fighting, many were considered courageous, deadly, and utterly terrifying warriors, just as much as the men.

  19. 19
    vaiyt

    @crocodoc:

    Put that golden mean back in your pants, nobody wants to see it.

  20. 20
    Lynna, OM

    Throughout my youth, my family was poor. Both my mother and father hunted wild game to put meat on the table (always had large gardens for the rest of our food). My mother was a better hunter, and my father said she was also faster than he was when it came to covering steep ground. So mom was a better shot and she was flying up and down mountain slopes in New Mexico, Idaho, and Alaska to track game.

  21. 21
    boskerbonzer

    This finally explains why so many bankers, lawyers, accountants, and college professors are men! They get to do those fast-action big moves all day long: leaping over desks and filing cabinets to beat an unruly printer or student into submission, or tracking the spoor of a wounded client for miles through hilly thickets. I love when science is explained in layman’s terms.

  22. 22
    Rumtopf

    @17 Borax

    So, about 20 some years ago when I was devouring black berries from a bramble at my parents house I should have been a woman. That way I would have noticed the noxious stink bug underneath a berry I tossed in my mouth. In case you all are wondering, those things taste worse than they smell. Now to be on track with the thread; what is up with this obsession with the color of berries. I don’t get it.

    Hehehe. I’m amused because I picked blackberries with my boyfriend this morning(making sorbet, yay!) and a surprise shield/stink bug came attached to one of the berries :D. I noticed it before it went into the tub, admired its pretty orange markings and put it on a leaf. Thankfully, I have woman-eyes, or the sorbet would have tasted a bit off. I must say that the boyfriend is a fine berry picker, and with much greater reach, him being 6’4″. Not great at catching animals, though, that’s really more my thing.

  23. 23
    moarscienceplz

    No one has evolved to program.

    As a programmer myself, I think that many programmers need to do some extra evolving just to catch up with the rest of humanity.

  24. 24
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    You will have to draw your own conclusions.

    The tendency of small, unmethodically selected samples to appear to support the selectors’ biases is well-known and unremarkable.

  25. 25
    Lurkeressa, Always Late to Juicy Threads

    15.

    if we were in an alternate universe where the gender stereotypes were reversed, people would be writing articles based on the same evolutionary history to “prove” that those gender roles are inescapable and biological. Nothing demonstrates the post-hoc rationalization nature of a line of reasoning more than showing it can also be used to prove the opposite result

    In that vein, I also enjoyed If Men Could Menstuate(sic) by Gloria Steinem, which the site linked to. If men were the ones to menstruate, it would very likely not be about “sshh eww woman impurities” but the ultimate mark of masculine superiority.

  26. 26
    MissMarnie

    The traits that made women expert bug-huntresses in the dust have carried forward and given them an advantage at hunting bugs in code.

    What annoys me most is the suggestion that women are best suited to cleaning up the crap coding work that men have done. I can’t think of any job I would enjoy less. Coding (problem solving) is interesting. Cleaning up someone else’s work is not.

  27. 27
    MissMarnie

    Um, just to stave off any possible misunderstanding, I’m not suggesting that men can only write bad code. I don’t think code writing skills have anything to do with gender/sex.

  28. 28
    theoreticalgrrrl

    Is there any proof that only males hunt? I look at nature and I see plenty of female hunters. The female lion hunts for the pride, doesn’t she? She doesn’t sit around watching the cubs her entire life while the male “provides.” Many female mammals are providers and hunters.

    Is there any actual proof that pre-historic man knocked women on the head and dragged them to their caves, or is that the presumption people make because there were no laws back then, and without laws or fear of God, ‘where do you get your morality?’

  29. 29
    Rey Fox

    This finally explains why so many bankers, lawyers, accountants, and college professors are men!

    Yes, it’s funny how the things that men are good at are the things that get the most pay. Funny indeed.

  30. 30
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    @14, George Gonzalez:

    (2) One very good programmer who passed as a woman but now I realize from a few clues, was actually a 6 foot 3 inch man.

    Kinda disappointed no one has yet called out this bilious transphobic bullshit, so I guess I will.

    George Gonzalez, this is bilious transphobic bullshit, and isn’t supposed to be welcome here. First, “passing” implies deception; trans* people are not deceiving, we’re just living who we are, and we are the ones who decide whether you get to know or not. Assuming that someone 6’3″ must be “really a man” is the kind of transphobia that gets people like me killed.

    To the OP, I thought it was pretty good satire, honestly. I don’t for a moment think the author believes the foolishness being put forward, but is rather using them to show the silliness of using just-so stories as an argument for discrimination.

  31. 31
    Graculus

    As for sex itself, survival probably encouraged promiscuity among both men and women:

    just a note… among the higher primates “promiscuity” is correlated with increased sexual dimorphism & relatively smaller penis size. On that metric, humans have less sexual dimorphism & bigger dicks than our closest relatives, indicating a probable trend *away* from promiscuity. Monogamy *may* have been more advantageous for early humans as they adopted a different lifestyle.

    I hate the term “hunter-gatherer”. A lot of anthropology texts use the term “forager”, which is a lot more accurate. If it doesn’t run away fast enough, it’s dinner. High specialization doesn’t help with survival.

  32. 32
    Walton

    What CaitieCat said. Transphobia is never okay.

  33. 33
    Arete

    I am so confused* about why EPs insist that every single thing we observe about gender differences today MUST be explained by natural selection, but never explain why all these superior male traits are sufficiently detrimental to female members of the species that they need to not be passed from those manly male hunters to their daughters. Why wouldn’t the expected outcome be that most traits are passed to both sexes of offspring, unless selective pressure is against it, since they are starting from the assumption that selective pressure must explain everything? They never get around to explaining why the “hunter” traits are so disadvantageous. How strange.

    *Note: this is a lie. I am not confused.

  34. 34
    busterggi

    Scientific Stooge fans know that evolution, like life, is just a bowl of Larrys.

  35. 35
    keithm

    #4:

    The hunting / gathering activities aren’t usually that well segregated in “hunter-gatherer” societies, AFAIK… Hunting involves gathering, and gathering involves hunting. And both involve “slow, methodical searching”

    Enh, really depends. Among Inuit, hunting for large whales typically involved a full-bore chase and then Moby Dick style fight to wear it down until they could finally get it. Seal hunting, on the other hand, involves standing stationary over a breathing hole for possibly hours holding a harpoon waiting for a seal to pop up. Fox hunting was traditionally done with traps, while caribou hunting typically involved funneling them (or taking advantage of a natural choke point on the migration) to get them while they were coming through.

  36. 36
    keithm

    Because I’m pretty sure hunting involves things like looking for trails and waiting patiently

    Depends on the hunting.

    Persistence hunting (taking advantage of a human’s rather significant endurance compared to most mammals) would have involved running down an animal over an extended time. Seal hunting, as I mentioned above, requires standing there patiently (and silently) for hours at a time.

    There is a legitimate, and not totally insane, suggestion that differences in hunting practices could have resulted in different gender roles in a given situation. If you’re in a situation where hunting is a twice-a-year event as large herds of animals wander by where you live, resulting in a short, intense, hunting period followed by a long period of “gathering”, then it’s more likely there won’t be a division of labour: it will be all hands on deck (including children) during the hunting period. If, on the other hand, hunting is a regular activity that involves the hunters spending a great deal of time focusing on it for most of the year, there will tend to be a division of labour because there are other things that need to get done while someone is out standing over the seal hole for hours on end or spending a day or two running down an antelope.

  37. 37
    unclefrogy

    I would suspect that the big division of labor that’s is so easily observed in modern societies /cultures is mostly learned and has been reinforced by the adaptation of agriculture and the cultural changes that fostered.
    As a what if, the increase in birthrate facilitated by the more stable food supply and the ability or the need to stay in one place. It is pretty hard to carry a bunch of babies spaced a year apart when you are wondering from camp site to camp site but much easier when you live in a farming village with lots of help available and the men could be out doing other work and did not have to nurse children.
    I am sure that the work would have been less rigidly divided at first but in some has be come so. The point is that it is mostly learned and I see nothing that would indicate any genetic pre-adoptation to any particular kind of “work” accept child birth and nursing.
    uncle frogy

  38. 38
    vaiyt

    There is a legitimate, and not totally insane, suggestion that differences in hunting practices could have resulted in different gender roles in a given situation.

    It does NOT follow that those gender roles have led to the current distribution of job opportunities in modern society, or whatever shit the Evolumacated Psychologians want to rationalize today.

  39. 39
    John Horstman

    No one has evolved to program. Maybe that’s the point of the joke, but it never ceases to annoy to see biology mangled.

    Biology and anthropology and archaeology, given the wildly inaccurate universalizing statements about division of labor in ancient forager or pastoral societies (as though all had the same divisions; the labor wasn’t even all the same tasks, given the wide distribution of hominids across the planet). The Dunning-Kruger Effect is the bane of my existence. These people are shit at both essentialism and constructivism, by way of essentializing socially-constructed (or at least -mediated) roles and failing to understand the biology.

  40. 40
    John Horstman

    @Graculus #31: I actually LOVE the term “hunter-gatherer”, as it’s a great big clue that the person using it lacks even basic (or recent: I’m not sure how long ago “forager” became standardized nomenclature – also, research in the past several decades has demonstrated that WAY more ancient societies were pastoral – limited agriculture, especially herding – as opposed to foragers than was previously thought, even before sedentary/permanent settlements became the norm) formal training in anthropology or archaeology. Obviously that doesn’t automatically make someone wrong, but it does increase the likelihood ze has no idea what ze’s talking about – it’s a signal to apply skepticism extra carefully to hir statements.

    @unclefrogy #37: Bingo. Fertility rates among females have SKYROCKETED as food supplies have become more stable. Females enter puberty much earlier and ovulate much more regularly in most contemporary societies than they did tens of thousands of years ago. Malnutrition can also precipitate miscarriage, so it’s also likely far more conceptions resulted in auto-abortion than is presently the case (at least here in USA). In addition to measured impacts of dietary insecurity on contemporary humans, we have social evidence as well – the prevalence of fertility idols and rites in many ancient societies means a lot of time and effort was put into them. In a society that’s (potentially) struggling to maintain subsistence standards of living, that’s wasted effort unless it’s seen as absolutely necessary i.e. fertility was far more rare than it is for us. If females were getting pregnant (and carrying those pregnancies to term) at the drop of a… (wait, when were hats invented?) sun-blocking head wrap, we wouldn’t expect the prevalence of fertility idols we find. Even with high infant mortality, the focus would then be expected to be on infant survival and not fertility.

    More generally, these kinds of evo psych screeds often seem to presuppose nuclear families, at least implicitly, when in fact communal parenting was very common. Whenever it’s suggested that “the women” had to stay home to care for infants, it’s taken as a given that this means ALL FEMALES. Nope. Even in groups that follow that kind of gendered division of labor, it’s only necessary to have some females around to nurse everyone’s infants, while the rest are free to hunt etc. And again, menstruation isn’t much of a concern because females aren’t doing it as frequently with unstable food supplies.

  41. 41
    keithm

    It does NOT follow that those gender roles have led to the current distribution of job opportunities in modern society, or whatever shit the Evolumacated Psychologians want to rationalize today.

    Never said it did, and that’s why I was specific in stating “in a given situation” .

    The fact that we can see differences in hunting practices and gender roles in various cultures in fact argues strongly against those roles being evolutionarily determined instead of cultural adaptation which developed to suit a given set of circumstances.

    A good example is butchering the animal that’s been hunted or caught. In some situations I’ve seen, that’s considered woman’s work. In others it’s the role of the men. And sometimes it depends on the specific animal. The fact that such a basic part of hunting varies so widely in who is considered the one who prepares the actual meat would indicate there’s no innate difference between men and women when it comes to that sort of thing.

  42. 42
    keithm

    Obviously that doesn’t automatically make someone wrong, but it does increase the likelihood ze has no idea what ze’s talking about – it’s a signal to apply skepticism extra carefully to hir statements.

    Just as an aside, that bugs the hell out of me.

    There is already a long-established (it’s been around at least as long as modern English has, with examples coming from the 1300s) pronoun to use in situations where the subject of the pronoun is indefinite in gender/sex/whatever.

    “Obviously that doesn’t automatically make someone wrong, but it does increase the likelihood they has no idea what they’re talking about – it’s a signal to apply skepticism extra carefully to their statements.”

    Insisting that the third-person plural can’t do double duty as third-person singular falls into the same absurdity as the people complaining that you can’t split infinitives: you totally can, they just want an arbitrary rule that says otherwise.

    And to bring it back in to evolutionary biology, Steven Pinker argues that English actually has two different words that just happened to be spelled and pronounced the same: plural-they and singular-they. And before anyone says that’s silly, consider the following sentence “After I set the table for supper, I went to the living room where my parents were watching the US Open on the television set where Bjorn Borg has just won his set against McEnroe” and explain why different words all spelled and pronounced “set” are okay but different words pronounced “they” (or variations thereof) are not.

  43. 43
    ledasmom

    Indeed, why is it always the berries?
    Just by walking ten minutes from my door I can see four, at least, examples of red berries, of which exactly one is edible and tasty by humans. I can find at least three examples of purple to black berries, of which exactly one is edible. At least one of the inedible berries is poisonous.
    Little differences in color perception can’t ever have been as important in safe berry-collection as knowing how to tell the autumn olive from the baneberry, the chokecherry and juneberry from the maple-leaf viburnum, the huckleberry from the buckthorn.
    Incidentally, slow, patient searching is not generally a big part of efficient berry collection. Those who do such things pretty quickly devise ways of making berry collection faster, because picking, say, lowbush blueberries one by one sucks bigtime. One finds a good patch that’s fruiting heavily and picks by the handful, or one invents something like a berry rake. One does NOT spend hours searching through the damn berry-bushes for one dead-ripe berry at a time.
    Has nobody who repeats this nonsense ever picked berries?

  44. 44
    Ichthyic

    “Why is it always the berries?”

    …Low hanging fruit?

  45. 45
    Jacob Schmidt

    And before anyone says that’s silly, consider the following sentence “After I set the table for supper, I went to the living room where my parents were watching the US Open on the television set where Bjorn Borg has just won his set against McEnroe” and explain why different words all spelled and pronounced “set” are okay but different words pronounced “they” (or variations thereof) are not.

    Context. Consider the following sentences.

    “They ran to the pond.”

    “They went to the mall.”

    Tell me which one is plural (just kidding, neither of them are (or are they?)).

    True, we could muddle through with just “they”. I find “xe” useful though, so I will keep using it. I really don’t care that it bugs you.

  46. 46
    ledasmom

    “Why is it always the berries?”

    …Low hanging fruit?

    Cue my rant on how hard it is to find any actual low-hanging fruit.

  47. 47
    Ichthyic

    Context. Consider the following sentences.

    but… that’s just it. those sentences are taken OUT of context.

    during a normal conversation, whether the subject of that conversation is singular or plural would tend to be obvious.

    if you want to make your point, you’re doing it backwards.

  48. 48
    Ichthyic

    Cue my rant on how hard it is to find any actual low-hanging fruit.

    irony.

  49. 49
    ck

    CaitieCat wrote:

    Kinda disappointed no one has yet called out this bilious transphobic bullshit, so I guess I will.

    Is that what he was trying to say? I thought he was making fun of the ingrained and stupid idea that women are incapable of doing technical jobs like programming, so the lousy programmer woman was fine, but the amazing programmer woman must’ve been a man in disguise.

  50. 50
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    @49: from my end as a trans person, whether GG stumbled onto an old transphobic standard “joke” about “women” (geddit? amirite bro?) who are 6’3″ turning out to be ‘really men’, or is an intentionally disingenuous transphobe, I don’t much care whether he did so by accident or on purpose; it still hits the same sore spot, and I’ve long since run out of good faith to invest in people who drop transphobic bullshit all around.

  51. 51
    ck

    Well, I guess you’d recognize those transphobic “jokes” better than I would. To be honest, the 6’3″ thing didn’t even register with me since I have a sister that tall.

  52. 52
    keithm

    True, we could muddle through with just “they”. I find “xe” useful though, so I will keep using it.

    And how do you pronounce that word in daily conversation? Zee? Chee? Ksee? And notice that you use a different word than the person I originally quoted, so, so much for clarity. Also, you depend on someone making the assumption you’re deliberately making up words to be gender-neutral.

    If they don’t make that assumption, you aren’t communicating.

  53. 53
    chigau (違う)

    Back in the Olde Dayes we had “Miss”, pronounced “mis”
    and “Mrs.”, pronounced “misus” or “mizus” or “mizuz”
    then we got “Ms”, pronounced “miz”.
    We all adjusted.

    I still run across forms that insist on a “title” and don’t provide “Ms” as an option.
    I always pick “Dr.”.

  54. 54
    keithm

    Back in the Olde Dayes we had “Miss”, pronounced “mis” and “Mrs.”, pronounced “misus” or “mizus” or “mizuz” then we got “Ms”, pronounced “miz”. We all adjusted.

    Well, *you* didn’t unless you’re remarkably ancient. Ms or Ms. (pronounced “mizz”) began being used at the same time the word “Miss” did (in the 1600s). It’s always been there as part of the unofficial language until secretarial writing guides finally took notice of it in the 1950s as a convenient way of dealing with not knowing whether a woman was married or not. They simply used a word that already existed and was in use. They didn’t make up a new one.

  55. 55
    WellYesYouMay

    My mother thought like that. I got constant lectures on how women had evolved to multi-task and therefor we were better at ALL THE THINGS. This is despite the very women-repressive religion she raised me in. The contradictory nature of these messages was no more clear to her than their absurdity.
    It took me a while to come back around to feminism after all of that (and I never returned to her religion).

  56. 56
    chigau (違う)

    keithm
    Wikipedia rules!

  57. 57
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Steven Pinker argues that English …

    4
    Steven Pinker is, AFAIK, not a bloody linguist. Which means that his wanking on the matter of pronouns is about as meaningful as mine on the matter of thermodynamics.
    There are probably also two “yous” that are just coincidentially spelled and pronounced the same way. *rolleyes*

  58. 58
    matttheapostate

    Just as a point of interest: the first time I heard the hunter vs. gatherer trope, it was from an anthropology professor who was a committed feminist. Make of that what you will.

  59. 59
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    John Horstman 40

    also, research in the past several decades has demonstrated that WAY more ancient societies were pastoral – limited agriculture, especially herding – as opposed to foragers than was previously thought, even before sedentary/permanent settlements became the norm) formal training in anthropology or archaeology

    This is especially true when one considers how many foraging practices amount to forms of agriculture in their own right; things like burning forests periodically to ensure they stayed game-rich, careful timing of the gathering of Camas bulbs to ensure that smaller bulbs are spread while larger ones are collected, and there’ll be more next year than there were this year (when whites first hit California, they wrote that the rolling hills looked like an ocean, being covered so thickly with blue camas; that was the result of human action, and damn well counts as agriculture by my lights.)

  60. 60
    David Marjanović

    And to bring it back in to evolutionary biology, Steven Pinker argues that English actually has two different words that just happened to be spelled and pronounced the same: plural-they and singular-they.

    …Has nothing to do with evolutionary biology. ~:-|

  61. 61
    Daniel Martin

    I find it odd that so many people have failed to point out that while some of the cited historical events are real, more of them have had the gender swapped. (It opens with a quote from a gender-swapped AU Dave Winer) That is, this essay is clearly satire of the “news story from an alternate universe” variety. Perhaps people less familiar with the history of technology and recent controversial statements by tech figures of note might miss one or two of the gender-swapped references, but to call the entire piece “presumed satire” requires such a complete misreading that I have to ask: PZ, were you half-asleep when you read this? Did you in fact read the whole piece?

    Incidentally, the original Winer piece is linked near the start of the essay for comparison of you want to an example of the sort of contemporary non-satirical evo psych wanking this essay is a response to.

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