The Missing Historical Female Accomplishments

Edited October 30, 2014

In the time of the original entry I had just finished reading an anthropological account of the creation of inequality. My mind then wandered to gender inequality. I wondered, why are there few historical accounts of female warriors, scientists and world-changers? And why aren’t female accomplishments and competition viewed in the same light as male ones?

Is the lack of historical female accomplishment or recognition sexism from the past? 

Physical Factors

One argument is that size and social presence are correlated and because women are smaller, they are simply less noticed. Males have ten times the testosterone as women and are able to undergo greater feats of strength. Somewhere in our evolutionary past, this sexual dimorphism developed.

Another factor to this argument is that pregnancies are bound to leave a women unable to acquire her own resources and therefore, reliant on men.

Since writing this post I have come across information, albeit speculative, on why female phenotypic traits evolved to include a smaller body-size and more child-like features than masculine ones. Humans are but another species with DNA that demands propagation- inherent physical differences cannot be sexism but indeed make the sexes unequal.

Soft Power

Another argument is that women use soft power to influence the group. Though men are taking the big risks to bring home the mammoth and appear as the dominant heads of clans and households, women are in the background, indirectly shaping society. Though they do not take the testosterone-fueled risks that may or may not provide the family or group with resources, they are much more consistent in supporting the whole.

The support of females and offspring is an absolute for the survival of our species. As discussed later in this blog, uteri and fertile eggs are in greater demand and shorter supply than semen. This has lead to greater protection and support of females.

The Number Game

The next question may be why aren’t women taking credit for their consistent foraging, intellectual property and domestic innovations in history?

Groups need female accomplishments but do not favor accomplished females in terms of offspring quantity. This perspective is framed by achievement-based societies (Sex and Society: Part III).

Let me explain. A woman gets pregnant and is out of the reproduction-game for nine months and is then occupied by breast-feeding and childcare. A man can get multiple women pregnant without expending a detrimental amount of energy; he’s always in the game. A group of all females and one man can successfully create the next generation. A group of all males and one female could not produce enough children to replace themselves.

A fertile woman is already deemed accomplished—anything that takes away from the energy her body can be putting into reproduction, is negative for the whole.

While a man’s achievements lead to more resources and sexual partners and ultimately more offspring, a woman’s would not to the same degree. She is limited in her reproductive capacity– one man is enough to bring her offspring. Her reproductive ability is more valuable than her achievements in terms of group reproductive success and although she may attract more mates, only one is going to get her pregnant at a time.

Final Thoughts

Today, women are empowered to chose when to have a child and with whom, if at all. Whether this is from feminism or more a factor of a less hostile environment, it is clear that women can do a lot of the jobs historically filled by men in today’s world.

Competition and the pursuit of accomplishments is often encouraged in both genders of developed societies. This can be correlated to decreasing population growth with less and less people choosing to start families. I believe this focus on individuality is leading to isolation and greater inequality through elitism.

Most of the claims of sexism made by modern feminism are merely matters of biology. Male agency has been selected over female agency and written on our bodies in the language of sexual dimorphism. There aren’t many accounts of female warriors and world-changers because they simply didn’t need to risk their calories or lives. So a lot of them didn’t. In fact, it was more helpful for the group as a whole, for them to stay out of harms way. Women were definitely shaping society, but not in the same ways as men, who were at the front-line of adversity, protecting and innovating to make life easier.

Adversity isn’t a privilege. In fact, anyone at any time can challenge themselves with feats of skill, strength and courage. Like Nike says, just do it.

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