Who Produces the Food? – Part One

February 10th, 2009 by Pelle Billing

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed my conviction that male and female gender roles have become what they are today since at one point in time they were a functional fit to the circumstances at hand. Gender roles have never been static, even though we can see some trends that have persisted through the ages, and the roles of men and women have fluidly adapted to whatever was needed for humankind to survive and thrive at a certain point in time. Some aspects of the gender roles that women and men have had to endure have been constrictive, oppressive or even downright traumatizing – but a certain gender role has never arisen with the intent to hurt anybody.

In fact, whether a gender role is hurtful or not to the individual hasn’t even been a factor when establishing gender roles: it’s been far to important to secure human survival to pay attention to individual needs or desires. Men and women have been willing to make tremendous sacrifices to ensure the survival of their offspring, even if that has meant limited freedom and constricted gender roles. So while we may nowadays view the gender roles of the past as oppressive, chances are that the people who were alive back then felt that the roles made perfect sense.

We need to remember that human beings who lived in more primitive eras, likely did not analyze the role they had, nor the role of the opposite sex. Being conscious enough to reflect on your own daily situation was something that arose when human culture became more civilized and imminent starvation wasn’t a threat. Human culture and consciousness have never stopped evolving, and it’s unlikely that human beings 10,000 or even 1,000 years ago were able to analyze themselves to the extent that we can do nowadays. Throughout the bulk of history, gender roles simply crystallized into being, based on what was needed to secure survival and prosperity for the coming generation, without any thoughts about what was fair or desirable for individuals.

I’ve already written about how competition between different cultures helped created the male and female gender roles that we recognize today. Another important factor that affects how gender roles come about, and how gender roles change over time, is whether men or women produce most of the food in a certain era. For example, there seems to be a clear connection between who produces the most food, and what gender gains influence in the public sphere.

The interesting thing about food production is that it seems to be an almost forgotten aspect of how gender roles came about, and how gender roles have changed over time. In my next post, I will outline how food production and the establishment gender roles were intimately connected during the Stone Age, the Horticultural Era and the Agrarian Era – as well as speculate what will happen now that we live in industrial and informational societies. I will also define what horticultural and agrarian means, if you’re not familiar with those terms (they’re not as fancy as they sound ;) ).


3 Responses to “Who Produces the Food? – Part One”

  1. Mark Davenport Says:

    Hey Pelle,

    Don’t be discouraged by the lack of comments. We’re out here reading and, when you don’t say it all, you’ll hear from us.

    It’s hard not to throw in some Integralese but I’ll resist.


  2. Pelle Billing Says:

    Hey Mark,

    Great to know that you’re reading :)

    I think the more lively discussions are taking place in some of the previous posts. I guess some pieces are more provocative and inspire discussion, while other may be more introspective.

    I’m looking forward to hearing from you when I don’t say it all ;)


  3. Who Produces the Food? - Part Two Says:

    [...] Pelle Billing . com Gender Liberation Beyond Feminism « Who Produces the Food? – Part One [...]