Stereotypes and Grains of Truth?

I gather that in hunter-gatherer societies from diverse places around the globe, work frequently is "gendered". Men work together in groups to hunt, and may also fight against neighboring tribes to defend their patch. Women work together in groups to look after young children, to gather fruits, nuts, roots, bulbs etc. and (often) to prepare these items for eating. They often develop some separate cultural rituals for men and women.

I wonder whether some stereotypes about men might have some kind of genetic or cultural origin from hunter-gatherer societies? The stereotypes that men are good at navigation (traversing long distances) problem solving (creating weapons and tactics for the hunt and for war) aggressive (courage in a hunt would be an advantage) and less verbal than women (I imagine yabbering away might scare off your prey)... all of these might be helpful if your community role involved hunting and fighting.

I wonder whether some stereotypes about women may have some kind of genetic or cultural origin from hunter-gatherer societies too. That women have an eye for detail, good fine motor skills, that they are natural communicators (talking about the yams is likely to help find others to find more, not scare the yams away!) that they are nurturing... all of these things would be helpful if your role is caring for children and gathering and preparing the edible parts of plants.

Of course, it also needs to be noted that what humans have in common is far more important than any distinctions they have, that people are all have unique combinations of qualities that may make some women's strengths align more with a male stereotype, and some men's strengths align more with a female stereotype.

Nonetheless, it IS possible to detect some patterns in men and women's behaviour. We still have quite a "gendered" workforce in Australia.  No doubt a significant part of this is to do with socialisation of the genders, but I wonder whether other factors are at play. (eg women dominating in the caring professions not only because of sexism, but because of their aptitude as carers?)

I have been wondering when I watch discussions (online and real) whether there is still a tendency for modern man to wield words like some kind of club, defending his patch with passion and sometimes that which approaches aggression. The worst "internet jerks" I have had the displeasure to encounter have all been men. (What's that about?) Admittedly, that may be because I've only encountered a relatively small number of seriously abusive people in cyber-land, so my impression might be entirely to do with a limited sample size.

Even in organisations, there is sometimes a subtle kind of "war" that goes on as men seek to defend their patch... or in less mature men, defend their egos. It is a war of words and behaviours.

I am talking in stereotypes of course... there are many wonderful, mature men out there. But I wonder whether hierarchical, top-down organisations were a natural consequence of patriarchal systems. They are competitive systems, and they may in some ways reflect the hierarchies developed to engage in war.

I wonder too whether the move toward management styles that are cooperative, trust-based, win-win, that involve working in small teams (etc.) have been in some way influenced by increasing number of women in organisations, particularly in areas like Human Resources departments.

I am beginning to do a bit of reading around the issue of whether there are distinctive leadership styles for women... in my limited reading to date, the results are mixed.

So what do you think of nature vs nurture? Do you think there are distinctively masculine or feminine leadership styles?


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