Re: Evolution of Sexism

Bryant (
15 Aug 1996 14:22:15 -0600

In article <4utck6$>,
Gerold Firl <> wrote:

Nice post, Gerold. Thanks.

>infanticide. By skewing their sex ratio in favor of males, they can put
>a larger fighting force in the field for a given food supply. This
>might make the difference between survival and extinction, but at the
>cost of disrupting sexual balance.

OK. But male reproductive success is inherently more variable than
female reproductive success (that is, higher variance). If I'm in a
culture in which the sex ratio is scewed towards males, but only a few
polygynous males get to reproduce, then I'd be better off producing (or
at least not killing) daughters, reproductively speaking.

Now, I'm not at all convinced that humans are so fitness-striving as
that, or that evolution works quickly enough for the above to be relevant
for the Yanomamo. But, just as a hypothetical situation, imagine that we
were fitness-strivers per se, and the above is true.

How does the group or village keep me from putting my reproductive effort
into daughters? If the group is defeated and my daughters are kidnapped
and raped, I'm still better off (fitness wise) than those who invested in
sons, who are killed.

>Paternity-reliability is a major issue, but largely internal to the
>society, as opposed to the external factor of war and conquest.

I'd bet that yanomamo kick the shit out of mates who are disloyal,
though. And their village rivals, too. :)

I've heard (like 3rd hand) that Ache males present women with necklaces of
the testes of previous suitors when asking for marriage, for instance.
No worries about old lovers in that culture. (If the story's true.)

It occurs to me that limited resources, held by a few men, puts women in
a tight spot (Smuts talks about this). Are polygynous cultures also more
warlike? More coercive of women?

>In times of violence, men step up and women fade into the background.
>In times of peace, women become more prominent. It might be interesting
>to look for cycles of patriarchy and egalitarianism related to
>conditions of turmoil/violence/resource scarcity and stability/peace/

Indeed. Has anybody?