on the shelf
Am I being too reductive? Too stubborn? Too determinedly feminist? Too sour? Isn’t the simple truth that we are all of us after love, beyond everything else? Perhaps. But still, it seems woeful to me, and wrong, that in 2013 so many writers remain convinced that their female characters must partner up or, metaphorically speaking, die. “Gaah!” as Bridget would have it.
I suspect that so so long ago at all, speaking on an evolutionary scale, in a time before anything resembling civilisation as we know it existed, a woman who was not partnered did, in fact, die. Humans are vulnerable creatures on our own. We don’t have big teeth or claws. Imagine how life was in vastly earlier times. Unless she was able to fit into a tribe and could garner the support of a man to protect her, a woman probably ran a huge risk of attack from even the other males of her own species.
These days there might be complaints about not being able to afford a mortgage unless in marriage where both partners are working. Go back far enough in time and it was more likely a woman on her own wouldn’t get enough food to survive if she wasn’t the recipient of her partner’s share of what the hunters brought back.
We are biologically still the same animal we were were 100,000 plus years ago. It makes perfect sense to me that the equating of aloneness with death for a woman still exists buried deeply in our DNA, because that is essentially exactly what aloneness for a woman did mean. It would take more than a few decades, centuries or even millennia for that to change.
Interesting idea, but my guess is that pre-civilization any human alone would die, so everyone– male and female– would have fear about becoming cast out from the tribe. Not sure everyone was “coupled up” though; more like they lived in groups (again, I’m guessing). I think it was probably post-civilization that a woman alone had to worry about financial support.
None of us truly knows how things were set up pre-civilisation. I tend to consider those elements that are intrinsic human nature, and therefore not likely to have changed much, and those things we do know of both primitive cultures from the past, and those few tribes that are still in existence today.
As such, if in the past people were not “coupled up” it may only have been because the men would have taken more than one “wife”. What title was actually used is irrelevant, as long as the woman (or women) would be recognised not being sexually available to other men. It would have been important to keep a woman from having sexual relations with other men in order reduce the chance that the man might spend precious resources raising someone else’s offspring, which is never the ideal option. This is of such fundamental importance that some manner of addressing it is likely to have been in place for a very, very long time.
Whether or not the women got to have any say in it is another matter.
The only exception to this is in matriarchal societies where the women do get a say, and the males look after their sisters and their sisters’ children, regarding those as their closest biological relatives. Matriarchal societies however, are rather rare.
Regardless, if you were of childbearing age and were not attached to someone, that would also automatically mean you were not in a tribe or group of some sort, and as such you were as good as dead. So the deep down biological fear associated with being alone, still makes perfect sense to me.
You may want to read the book “Sex At Dawn”– he has some interesting premises in there (not that I know enough to agree or disagree with him either).
I’m afraid I side squarely in the camp of people who think Ryan and Jethá “ignore and/or misrepresent reams of anthropology and biology in their eagerness to make a brief for some sort of Rousseau-ian sexual idyll that exists—and/or existed—only in their overheated libidinous imaginations. At least Rousseau’s armchair speculations can be justified given that neither anthropology nor evolutionary biology existed in his day. Ryan and Jethá have no such excuse. But they persist in such howlers as claiming that all men in primordial human social groups would have cheerfully and equally shared parenting duties for the good of the group or the species, or maybe just because they’d like it to be so.”